Do most of us even know where our negative feelings towards herpes originated? Do many of us actually think we instinctively know herpes is a big deal or that it’s “dirty”? Or is it possible that maybe what’s actually happened is we’ve been taught herpes is bad when it’s not really that big of a deal in reality? I wonder how many of my feelings towards having herpes are my original thoughts and how many are actually the thoughts of others echoing in my head. How did I know immediately when I got herpes that it was something “bad”?
Many of our thoughts on things around us or happening to us are a collection of our experiences and knowledge so far in our lives. What I knew about herpes before I actually had it was that it was “gross”. Did I know it was gross because I’d seen a herpes outbreak before? No. Did I know it was gross because I’d known someone who had herpes and they told me it was? No. I knew it was gross because people that didn’t even have herpes were telling me it was gross. I knew it was bad because of commercials I had seen insisting people with herpes take medication to get their outbreaks under control. The attitude towards herpes was and continues to be so incredibly negative and a complete and utter overreaction. The majority of the people that are so disgusted with herpes don’t even have it. Many of us who do have herpes live with this idea that there is something wrong with us at first. I say “at first” because I see many people come to terms with having herpes as they live with it longer and longer.
Why do many of us realize after having herpes for a few months or years that it’s not a big deal? We start to see how little it hurts us or truly affects our quality of life. As many of us get older, people around us or even ourselves will go through very difficult times in life. These times may include the loss of loved ones, sickness, or many other various individual experiences that overwhelm us. But herpes will not kill us. It won’t change into something worse for us down the road. What our experience is with our outbreaks is mostly what it will always be (obviously some things can change, but more or less.) We shouldn’t let other peoples opinions of an STD they don’t even have determine how we feel about our bodies and ourselves.
We don’t stop in public and point our fingers at people with cold sores on their mouths and call them sluts for a good reason. Cold sores are not a big deal and many of us would never consider judging someone that had one. I surely wouldn’t break up with someone if they had a cold sore on their mouth. So when the cold sore moves from our mouths to our genitals that automatically gives people around us the ability to judge us? It seems so silly because it is silly. Herpes can make many of us feel ashamed or less worthy of a healthy relationship or sex life. It’s a stigma that is unnecessary and that kind of concern could really be reserved for more serious diseases in my opinion.
So why do people make herpes such a big deal? It could stem from a lot of things. The way they were raised to view it, the way their peers view it, the way society views it. But a decent amount of our understanding of herpes and what it’s “like” didn’t originate from our personal experience until we contracted it and we need to acknowledge that. Those of us that have herpes should be the ones deciding how gross or not gross it actually is. We should be deciding what it says about us, if it says anything. What herpes says about me is that I trusted someone that misused my trust. I made a mistake in who I dated. A mistake anyone could’ve made. Herpes doesn’t represent that I’m a slut, or disgusting, or immoral or that I sleep around or any other thing you may be able to come up with. It says something unfortunate happened to me and I’m not going to let it negatively affect my life just because someone else says it should and neither should any of you, because speaking from experience, it really isn’t that big of a deal even if it feels like it is sometimes.