*Hint – IT SUCKS.
I always thought I would never forget how hard it was being diagnosed with herpes at twenty mostly because I never thought it was going to get any better or change in any way. I thought, “it’s herpes, I have it forever, what could possibly change later from what is happening now”?
The day I was diagnosed with herpes I was in shock. So much so, that I don’t remember it being a particularly bad day. I pushed the thought out of my head, which is impressive considering I overthink everything. I can’t remember the day after either, or the day after that. What I do remember is somewhere during the first week of knowing I had herpes, my entire world collapsed. Just fell in all around me. All the thoughts I’d ignored came flooding in worse than ever. I didn’t think, I knew, I was going to be alone forever. (Which seriously guys, is crazy. Nobody knows that. No one. Unless they have some magic crystal ball showing them their future, in which case, please. share). I couldn’t handle how different dating sounded. I was unsure how little or much you tell your friends or family. Or do you? Does anyone need to know? It was too much to handle with nowhere to turn. I had no answers to any of my questions and I felt truly alone.
I felt angry. Very, very angry. I wanted to feel like a victim, I wanted someone to blame, because I was so devastated that a person had the ability to change the rest of my life without any consequence. That part was especially painful. I spent too much time wishing the person that gave this to me would have a consequence for their actions. I heard too many times growing up that there are consequences for our actions, always. There are most of the time, but the world is unjust and there are never going to be perfect situations where people take responsibility for every wrong they’ve committed. It just isn’t real life. Once I realized blaming another person did nothing to help me cope, I gave up on some of the angry thoughts but still remained pretty pissed.
I was in denial. Shortly after being diagnosed, I was fully convinced this was a mistake. Sure, they took a culture test, and it’s highly unlikely the results were inaccurate, but clearly this was a mix-up. They must’ve accidentally swapped my results with another patients and missed their mistake. They were going to realize they screwed up and call me and reassure me everything is fine; that I indeed do not have herpes. This was all going to be a short-lived nightmare and then I could go back to “normal”.
Once I came back from la-la-land and realized that is insanely impossible (at least because of the test I had done) I amazingly was STILL in denial. A new kind of denial. I accepted I had herpes and that it was now a part of my life, but I was now in denial that my life was going to be any different than my pre-herpes life. Convinced I could still date anyone I wanted, I tried to. It made being rejected over having herpes that much more difficult to swallow. It hurt badly. After a date would turn me down once finding out, I seemed to go right back to the beginning of the cycle of emotions I had and had to start all over. It was exhausting.
When I finally understood I could still date anyone I wanted and that this wasn’t the big deal everyone was making it out to be, I had to ask myself why I wanted to date the men I was attracted to. I mean, I was twenty/twenty-one around this time. I don’t think many of us knew exactly what we wanted or needed from a relationship and being diagnosed with herpes helped me begin to ask myself the questions I didn’t need to ask before. Which was a huge positive outcome. I began putting the long thinking into what I needed now, what kind of a person I’d like to open up to, the kind of lifestyle I’d like them to have. I also began thinking about the kind of person I wanted to be, how to accept myself with herpes now, and how to learn to talk about it properly with new relationships. It didn’t happen overnight, but I began the conscious process of understanding my dating life didn’t have to necessarily change entirely, but maybe it did have to mature a little.