On top of navigating our own personal judgments of ourselves which can be tougher than any outside criticism, being newly diagnosed with herpes requires us to now navigate our friends and family a bit differently, too. I think for the younger crowd of people diagnosed with herpes, this is especially difficult. With the internet these days, it makes sharing personal information with anyone you know scarier. It could stick around forever (I know from personal experience).

When I was newly diagnosed my paranoia was in full swing. It was running rampant. I would go to the bar with friends and see everyone treating me normal and think, “What is wrong with you people? Can’t you see I have herpes? Aren’t you horrified?”. I was convinced everyone had to of  known, even though at that point it was impossible because only I and my then ex-boyfriend knew.

I was nervous in a new way to talk to men. I felt like I had this big scarlet letter on my chest but I knew no one could know unless I told them. I tried to act like I would’ve before this happened, but it seemed impossible to ignore. I also spent time wondering how many people in the room also had herpes. Did they even know? Would they ever admit it?

Shit got real confusing, real fast. Talk about a swarm of emotions. I think I felt every humanly possible emotion in the span of five minutes, every five minutes, for every month my first year. I made tons of mistakes along the way. Most of this could be chalked up to me being young at the time and that not making it any easier on me. But I’ve talked to many people, across all age ranges, that have experienced at least some of these emotions on and off since being diagnosed.

There are good days and bad days, as there are with everything. The good days happen more often as the years go on, and the bad days suck less. But I think having herpes is a complex psychological issue always because you constantly run into new people in life, not knowing them well enough to know what they’ll do or say or think of you for having it, and you constantly get curveballs thrown at you because of that.