Four years ago, I found out that I have herpes.
At the time, I had been struggling with severe anxiety and depression, and hearing this news shook my world.
I had never met anyone else who dealt with it (or at least, they didn’t feel comfortable sharing that with anyone) and felt alone and believed that no one would ever want to be with me again.
This is a familiar story for most people who have dealt with herpes. That first year is tough, not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental and emotional place as well. For me personally, I felt like I was disgusting, and that no man would ever want to touch me again. I know I’m not alone in having felt that way.
“Herpes” is a word that scares people. I think most people hear the word and it automatically conjures up the boogeyman of STDs for them. It is permanent, and that is a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. We’ve heard about it for so long, but unless you are actually dealing with it in some capacity, I think most people assume that it is something way worse than it actually is.
This past year, the man I had been dating for a few months ended up dumping me for another woman and said that the word terrified him so much that he just couldn’t see being with me long-term. He admitted that he was uneducated on the topic, and maybe if I had pushed for him to come with me to a doctor’s appointment or had given him more information, a lot of hurt could’ve been avoided.
Don’t get me wrong, flare-ups can be painful and cause discomfort. You might experience a few days of feeling under the weather. But for most, they are few and far between and don’t affect our lives on a daily basis.
A lot of people with herpes enter into relationships with people who don’t have it and can be with them for years and never spread it. At the end of the day, it’s an infection that you can take medicine for and the flare-up will subside within a couple days, just like any other infection you might get.
Maybe there are some people who don’t want to hear or read about herpes, or who will think I’m being too callous about the subject. I don’t want to make light of it; it is an STD, something that we should try to avoid as much as possible. And I am a big advocate for living the healthiest life possible and doing everything in my power to never give herpes to anyone.
But I wish four years ago that I had known someone who had been through the experience themselves and could’ve said to me, “Don’t give up hope. This does not mean you will be alone forever.”
I feel that people who have herpes are afraid to come forward and say it because they think that other people will look down on them and judge them for it. And some people might. But maybe if more people open up about their experiences, the stigma around the word will start to dissipate. Maybe if we see one person being brave, more people will feel brave enough to share their experiences.
I have herpes, and I’m not unlovable. I am a warrior, compassionate, and open-minded, and I can thank my experience with herpes for making those traits even stronger in me.