Has anyone else been gifted this great, massive paranoia since they’ve had herpes? I mean, sometimes I’m chatting with people that don’t know I have it and the topic turns to herpes in crazy ways where I start wondering why we’re talking about it. An example: I’m out at an ice cream shop with a friend the other night (perfect place to talk about STD’s, right?), and we’re talking about perfectly normal things. We discussed our work, social lives, recent trips, etc. Then, we had gotten into a discussion about different kinds of cancer (very serious ice cream hangout here) and I had said, “Cancer would change your life a great deal, it’s pretty scary” and my friend replies, “it is pretty serious, unlike herpes”. Uh, hang on, what? Where did that come from? Here’s where the paranoia I’ve mentioned sets in.

Before contracting herpes, I would’ve heard what my friend said and shrugged it off, maybe even argued with him that herpes is a huge deal and just as life changing as cancer (that’s my childish, immature mind speaking, these days I would never think that). I’d also put no thought into why the conversation went in that direction. Now that I have herpes, however, my mind immediately starts thinking all these wacky things. I’m sitting here, staring blankly at my friend in an ice cream shop surrounded by children, as he’s waiting for me to respond like a normal human being to his herpes statement, and all I can think is:

–  did he just say that because he knows I have herpes and he’s subtly hinting it’s not a big deal?

–  he totally knows doesn’t he,

–  he’s probably just saying it because it popped into his head, it means nothing…

–  does he have herpes and he’s trying to gauge my reaction?

In real life, I simply nodded and replied truthfully, stating I didn’t think genital herpes was a big deal and that many people overreact to what is generally the same thing as a cold sore on someone’s face. We ended up having a pretty wonderful conversation about it and I still have absolutely no idea why he brought it up. In any event, what really gets me laughing is how silly my brain processes the word herpes now. It’s suddenly a conversation that can have endless reasons for occurring. I can also immediately get defensive thinking I’m about to be judged. I have however come into conversations where, unlike my friend mentioned above, the conversation goes in the direction of people thinking herpes is a big deal and “so gross”. It’s perfectly fine to me to discuss herpes with people that think it’s a “big deal” as long as it’s a respectful conversation. Those conversations where people simply say things like “herpes is gross” make me cringe, but they’re just as important to have, if not more important to have, because those are the people that are typically uneducated on the reality of having genital herpes. They’re quick to judge without taking the time to think about what they’re actually saying. I also don’t trust many people to tell me what herpes is like if they’ve never even had it themselves because how much could they really know about living with it?

Genital herpes has really gotten me into all kinds of situations since I contracted it almost six years ago. Most of the time if the word comes up I’ll catch myself thinking a little irrationally, or being more sensitive to the situation than I would have been previously. I do my best to laugh these moments off though, because there really isn’t anything I can do about having herpes and there’s definitely nothing I can do about what other people will say or do. What’s important is controlling my emotions and staying in a healthy mindset. Laughing at oneself often usually makes this easier to accomplish.