Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR
This essay was submitted anonymously after the author visited some of our STI Interviews. She chose to write a short story, as opposed to answering the more traditional STD interview questions.
Genital HSV1 and a Torn ACL
I’m 20 years old, and I’m currently a sophomore in college working towards a degree in athletic training. A year ago, when I was a senior in high school, I went to the doctor, because I was in tremendous pain, and was informed I have HSV1 genitally, also known as herpes.
My world fell apart…I had just torn my ACL and meniscus while playing soccer, so being told this news and also losing soccer, I felt like life was pointless. I didn’t want to go to school and honestly felt beyond depressed.
No one was there for me but my boyfriend who I contracted it from, who has HSV1 orally, or herpes of the mouth. My boyfriend didn’t know he could transmit the virus to me through oral when he has a cold sore, but unfortunately that’s how this happened.
No one ever told me what herpes was; I just heard of it being this disgusting thing that everyone joked about. However, I did know that it lasts for your whole life.
So not only did it make me upset, but it helped me understand how others with STDs felt, because not only is this apart of my identity now, but it offends me all of the time when I hear jokes about it.
People really are misinformed about what it is.
Being told I had herpes was a traumatic experience, but it doesn’t define me as a person.
Finding Emotional Balance
My life hasn’t changed much besides the fact that I’m growing up.
But it has changed how I deal with my emotions. If I get too upset and emotional, I could have an outbreak.
This has only happened two other times since I had my first outbreak. The other two outbreaks didn’t hurt much, and I would take medicine prescribed by my doctor to heal it up. But nothing will compare to the pain I experienced emotionally and physically the first time I learned I had herpes.
The pain was indescribable, like my skin was burning and my heart was as well. I took some of my pain medicine from my ACL surgery, just to be able to sleep that week, because of the pain I was going through physically.
I would never wish this pain upon anyone, and it wasn’t fair that I had to go through this without knowing my significant other had this infection and could pass it to me. I would encourage everyone to think twice about getting his or her partner checked and knowing their STD status before doing anything sexual.
How Others View My Status
I have had a few friends who didn’t want anything to do with me after knowing I had herpes. But my family, my boyfriend of 2 years, who gave me the virus, and many of my close friends were there for me in my hurting time and accepted me.
When I told my two best friends, one being a guy, and another a girl, they were so supportive and listened as I informed them of what it was. It really made me feel blessed to have good friends around me, as well as family.
Even people I am close to don’t know I have HSV, but it’s my choice not to tell them because I don’t want to be judged. Part of me wants to be anonymous and never tell anyone, but the other part of me wants to tell everyone and be a person who stands up for others who are too shy to say anything.
To me, I look at this as something God put into my life to tell others and encourage others and give people a different look on it. I’m not glad God put me through this, but I am glad it made me a stronger woman.
If no one stands up around me, and we laugh and make jokes about this, it’s almost like racism or discrimination. Bullying others in secrecy, not knowing that I, or anyone else, has herpes or any other STD is wrong.
I want to stop this bullying. I want to inform students and the younger generation around me to be careful.
How This Affects Relationships
When I cried to my boyfriend on the phone as I left the doctors office (who is also my current boyfriend right now), I thought he was going to leave me. But he did the opposite; he drove right over to my house, and he was so angry with himself.
I was so mad and angry with him for giving me this virus for the rest of my life.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how people would view me, especially my parents. Or if I didn’t end up with my boyfriend, what my future husband would think of me because I have herpes.
My parents were very upset, but I remember that night laying in my bed hysterically crying and my boyfriend holding my hand, my dad sitting by my feet, and my mom praying over me. I’ll never forget that moment, because no matter how awful the situation was, it brought my family together and made us stronger. It made me realize that this can literally happen to anyone.
I just thought people with STDs were strippers, or someone who slept with a lot of people. I know that sounds naive, but I was really uninformed like most people are.
I was a virgin, in the traditional sense, and still got it. That blows my mind.
It’s Still A Struggle Sometimes
It isn’t always positive.
I remember this past summer, when I went in to have my yearly pap smear test, I decided to go to my mom’s doctor, who is a woman. I was new to that office, and I informed the doctor’s nurse that I have HSV1 and was trying to get a refill of my medicine.
She looked at me in awe, and said to me, “you need to keep that under control and not spread it.” I was in shock. I replied, “there’s nothing wrong with what I have,” and she just ignored me.
I cried as she led me to the doctors room and told her I wanted to speak with the doctor. When the doctor came in she saw me crying, and just comforted me and said what the nurse told me was wrong. She made me laugh, and I felt less uncomfortable. But the rest of my day was ruined. I went home and my parents were furious.
Don’t even assume just because someone has an STD that they are “dirty” or not “worth” anything anymore.
I know there will be good days and bad, but I have yet to meet someone my age dealing with the same thing I am. I’ve read testimonials, but I truly want to meet someone who understands my troubles as well. That’s why I wanted to reach out to The STI Project, because either one day I want to be an encouraging speaker on this or even just to give people some type of hope.
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This essay was submitted anonymously after the author visited some of our STI Interviews. She chose to write a short story, as opposed to answering the more traditional STD interview questions. She believes she has a powerful story and testimony as to where she’s come from and now where she’s at. She says herpes is not the end of the world, and it’s not a laughing matter, but she did overcome it.
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How did this story affect you? What do think about the stigma surrounding STDs and those who have them? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!