I feel ignorant not knowing about this huge stigma you speak of, Whitney. I only experienced other people’s ignorance one time, and that was back in 1972. Surely things have changed since then?
The first time I found out I had herpes was at the age of twenty-five. What I remember is going to the bathroom and having a terrible burning sensation. It was so bad that the next time I went, I wet a wash cloth and held it up to myself while sitting on the toilet. It didn’t really help that much, so the next time I felt the urge, I got into a bathtub filled with very hot water. That worked!
When the ob/gyn examined me, he wasn’t even sure what it was other than I had hundreds of tiny blisters inside and around my vagina. At the hospital, I was catheterized and put under special lights. I was told I had herpes and was asked a few questions about my sex life.
As it turned out, my boyfriend had a cold sore in the corner of his mouth. I know. Embarrassing. BUT I had nothing to be embarrassed about. I was NOT a slut. I was NOT sleeping around. I was NOT having any sort of thing close to random sex.
Throughout the years, I made sure to tell all five hundred of my sex partners (just kidding) about the fact that I had a few herpes flare ups. I guess I have been one of the luckier ones in that I only broke out about every four to five years. The only times that it interfered with my life was during my two pregnancies when right before I was about to deliver, I discovered one little lesion. Yes, that’s right. One lesion. After the first time in the early seventies, I would only get one lesion. But that one lesion was enough to call for two emergency C-sections. If interested, read: https://medium.com/life-tips/hospital-nightmare-6166e6d8fb85#.vk4zgty5d.
There was only one time that I remember feeling ostracized. It was a few months after my first daughter was born. I was in a mommy and me class, and we were going around the room talking about the circumstances of our babies’ birth. When I mentioned herpes, several women sitting next to me literally got up and walked to the other side of the room. But that was in 1983. Until reading your essay, I believed we had come a long way since then.
Sexually transmitted infections are extremely common; in fact, almost everyone who has had one-and-a-half partners has an STI, so I really don’t understand why you felt “soiled,” “ruined” and “ugly.” Your photo shows you to be a very pretty young lady, so I am really puzzled that something like this would have you reacting this way. Yes, I know you said you were called “a degenerate, a ho and an idiot.” And I read that people on the internet were saying you deserved an STI because you are “a promiscuous whore and a disease-riddled c — -t who deserves a f — — — ing firing squad,” but my question to you is why on earth are you listening to people you don’t even know? Why are you giving these ignorant people the power to hurt you and make you feel so horrible and unattractive? I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand.