There are differing opinions of who we should be sharing our STD status with. I began with not telling a soul, then slowly out of fear of staying depressed and dwelling for the rest of my life, I began opening up to a select few people for help and advice. This isn’t an easy thing to cope with alone, so I highly recommend finding at least one person you can confide in.
I didn’t always get help and advice, though.
I told my mother over the phone. She bled her ignorance to me over the phone. It was a long conversation full of comments from her I’ll never forget. Here’s a little highlight reel:
-Who is going to want you now?
-You are NOT allowed to use the toilet seat when you come to visit me anymore. I don’t want to risk catching your dirty diseases.
-Maybe if you weren’t such a slut this wouldn’t have happened to you.
-Will it kill you?
-Don’t tell anyone, they’ll never be able to understand.
-This is why I’m scared to date, you ALL have diseases these days.
I had morphed into what felt like a leper and she was now banishing me from her life. It definitely wasn’t how, hopefully, most mothers will react to this news. But it definitely wasn’t out of the ordinary for her to say the things that she did to me. We’ve never had a very close relationship, and she’s never been a very understanding individual.
I think that was helpful, in retrospect. It kept me in the understanding that not everyone, even your ‘loved’ ones, are going to pat you on the back and say, “this is nothing, you’ll be fine.” Most will scoff, or dismiss the conversation. Others will grimace and immediately think differently of you. In my opinion, there are much larger issues we should be so emotionally worked up about, but this is how it goes at times.
After that comforting experience, I had intended to refrain from disclosing to my friends that I had herpes, because you really never know who is going to be in your life for long. Or who is going to react even worse than my mother did. It didn’t feel necessary to tell anyone. But, sometimes our plans aren’t always what become reality.
I had a roommate at the time that I contracted herpes; a roommate that was a pharmacist. I had initially been recommended medication to manage my outbreaks. I didn’t decide whether or not that was something I wanted to do right away, but I got the medication in the meantime and put it into the medicine cabinet without much thought. Granted with the internet these days it doesn’t take a pharmacist to know what you’re taking pills for, but it definitely helped that he had that background because it wasn’t long before it was brought up. I realized I shouldn’t have put the medication into our shared bathroom’s medicine cabinet in retrospect, but I hadn’t thought he’d put it all together. Or mention it. I was also extremely new to this whole thing and was so caught up with the present, I wasn’t thinking far ahead.
Now, he never really said much about it. I wasn’t lead to believe that he had been sharing this information with anyone behind my back. But I did wonder if he had, and I was a little less concerned about sharing with our close mutual friends because of this. I figured as far as our ‘close’ friends were concerned, that if I didn’t bring it up to them eventually someone would for me.
I told a woman that my roommate and I had been quite close with at the time and she shrugged it off. She didn’t seem to think much of it one way or another. That is, until the worst thing that can happen to two women happened to us: we got in a fight.
Now if you’re wondering if your friend might be an asshole, and if you shouldn’t tell said friend that you have an STD, you probably shouldn’t. I thought that might’ve been the case with us, but I was a trusting person to a fault in those days and didn’t really worry too much about what would happen if she did tell other people.
Well, she told other people. Around New Years Eve after weeks of us giving each other the silent treatment and not speaking, I got an email that I should check Facebook. And Twitter. And my real life mailbox (Just kidding, but I wouldn’t put it past her.) When I had gotten onto Facebook I quickly saw a post from her plainly stating my name and the sentence “I may be immature, but I’ll grow up faster than you can get rid of herpes”.
That sucked. That hurt. It killed. It was how I began my new year. It was how I ruined a dear friend of mines’ new year, by having him sit with me all day while I cried and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my apartment ever again. Which did take a while and did happen slowly. And when I say slowly, I mean unfathomably slowly. Every minute I was convinced someone was ridiculing me behind my back. And sometimes they were. After almost a year, I realized you either stay in that mindset or stop giving other people that kind of power over how you feel.
These days I can’t even imagine what I went through because it feels like another lifetime.
Some of the people you tell are going to be comforting and kind, and other people you tell are going to take the opportunity to make you feel beneath them. Then there are the people that are going to make fun of you behind your back or try to ruin potential dates for you by sharing your STD status for you, not on your own terms. These are usually in your control if you keep this fairly private, which is your choice. I chose after what my friend did to me to do the opposite of what I was feeling and to become MORE open about my situation. Her ignorance only showed me how far people have to come with herpes. That definitely didn’t happen overnight, and I made some unacceptable/awful mistakes along the way that we’ll get into later, but you can only cry yourself to sleep so many times in a row.
Hopefully none of you will have to find out if your friend is an asshole the way I did.
And I hope those of you that have mothers in your lives, have less crummy ones if this is something you’re going or have gone through. It helps, I’m sure.