Below is an experience a reader of the blog shared with me and allowed me to share with all of you. It’s difficult for anyone to open up about living with herpes, and she does so at such a deeply personal level. I applaud her courage to put her experience out there with the hopes of helping other people feel less alone in this. I’d like to continue to show different perspectives of actual people living with herpes and how it’s changed their lives. I hope everyone respects and appreciates her contribution and that it encourages you to join the discussion with us if any of you need someone to talk to. If you have a story or experience you’d like to share, please contact me.
I never thought anything bad would ever happen to me. But then it did and I was like, oh. shit.
I got herpes my senior year of college. I started seeing this guy I actually really liked. I had all those stereotypical happy feels. The first night we had sex we used a condom and I asked him if he had any diseases to which he replied no. I still asked him to get tested just to be sure. He got tested and told me he had no diseases. I had gotten tested before coming back to school so I knew I was disease free. Then about 3 weeks later everything changed. And not to sound melodramatic, but when I say everything, I mean everything in my life changed and I thought it would stay that way forever.
I cried as the doctor told me: “Yes you have herpes. We don’t want to test you right now because it’s Friday and we don’t think the cultures will hold up to be properly tested on Monday. Therefore we don’t know what strain you have HSV1 or HSV2, but we are confident to tell you that you do in fact have herpes.” So to this day I actually still do not know what type I have. According to my doctor (and I am not a doctor so do NOT take my words for medical advice) the only sure fire way to find out exactly what strain you have is to test you when you have an outbreak. I have had one outbreak in 2 and half years- the first one, so I have not had the chance to find out which strain I have.
The rest of the day was spent crying on my phone with my 3 best friends (the only friends who know, still to this day) and laying in my bed crying into my pillow. I also told my parents. I was afraid to tell my family and my best friends but not terrified. I knew that no matter what they would still love me and see me for me, not just some dirty girl with an STD. The thoughts that ran through my head that day were manic: ‘How could this happen to ME?’ ‘Didn’t he say he got tested, I cant believe someone would do that to someone else.’ ‘Did he LIE to me?’ ‘MAYBE it was me…maybe I’m just getting the symptoms now (but I got tested and had nothing)’ ‘I’m damaged goods.’ ‘Ouch I’m in pain.’ ‘No one will love me ever again.’ ‘I’m only 21 and I’ll never have a boyfriend EVER AGAIN.’ ‘FUCK.’
The next step would be to tell the guy who gave it to me. We weren’t officially boyfriend and girlfriend- we were still in the in between stages of ‘we’re hanging out and having sex and we talk a lot but don’t say you’re my boyfriend yet because you’re not’ basically your standard casual college relationship. After much discussion with my 3 best friends, my parents, and my doctor I ultimately decided I would tell him. Just not right away. It’s funny because it was split evenly 3 vs 3- 3 people I confided in told me not to tell him and the other 3 couldn’t believe I would even consider that option. It came down to when was I ready to risk 1. Him leaving me. 2. Him possibly telling everyone. I waited. I stopped being physical with him (for about 1-2 months) and I waited. We had sex again and yet I waited longer. I waited months. I was afraid he would sleep with someone else (since we weren’t “official”) and infect them too but that was just something I lived with at the time-it was a terrible feeling. It wasn’t until I couldn’t live with that feeling anymore that I got the courage to tell him. We began officially dating and he told me he loved me and I couldn’t believe this was all happening while I’m hiding this terrible secret. Two weeks after he told me he loved me I sat him down and said, “I got tested and I’ve tested positive for herpes. I didn’t have it before I met you. You have herpes.” He cried. And then he said, “Can we never talk about this again?” And we never did. For the next year and a half we pretended like nothing was wrong. We acted like he didn’t give me a disease. We acted like he didn’t lie to me- something I’m still not sure of to this day. We stayed together for much longer than we should have. And I’ll tell you right now that part of my inability to leave him was the fear of never having a boyfriend again. Terror in thinking no one would love me again.
But finally I did break up with him, the emotional bullshit, the lying and treating me terribly was finally too much. I would be happier alone, with herpes, than with him. So although I was mortified at first of being alone forever, like crying in the shower for countless days mortified, I finally realized I’m not some unloveable person. I know that I have herpes and that affects my sexual relationships but that’s it. It did not change who I am. And although I cannot and will not fault people for being skeptical abut getting into a relationship with someone who has a permanent STD, I know that those who are willing to try, like my current boyfriend, are amazing people – no seriously, these people do exist so do not think for a second that they don’t. It took me about 2 years after the fact to finally accept what happened to me, not as a victim, just as a person who has herpes now and that’s all it is, it does not define me.