Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
People with STDs are often characterized as villains – individuals that should be avoided, because they’re bad people or they will only intentionally infect someone else. What’s silly about that portrayal is everyone with an STD was once someone without an STD. Rarely, does the other side of the story get explained or does a perspective get shared that sheds light on the psychological process someone undergoes after being diagnosed.
The quality of one’s character has nothing at all to do with they infection they have, rather, it is best represented by the way in which they learn from some of the choices they’ve made and are, sometimes, not always proud of.
This interview beautifully depicts the development one encounters after a herpes diagnosis – or any STD diagnosis, for that matter – how the choices someone makes after an infection can evolve, along with the tenacity that is required to learn and grow from those experiences.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
I am currently working on my MBA full time.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
I was 19 and had a 23-year-old boyfriend. I thought he was just the coolest, most handsome person and slept with him way too soon. A week before my 20th birthday, my entire extended family was staying at a lake house, but my genitals were just so uncomfortable for days that I don’t think I ever put a bathing suit on. I made up an excuse to make the 1.5 hour drive home, went straight to my gyno, and was informed that I was most likely on the tail end of my first herpes outbreak. They took some samples and said I’d get a call once the lab confirmed it.
The boyfriend and I were already on the rocks due to his heavy drinking habit. When I confronted him (in a grocery store parking lot, because he had just gotten evicted from his apartment) about it, he commented that he noticed a red bump a while back but didn’t think much of it. The worst part of it all was that I ended up consoling him after, essentially, informing him that he had herpes. I then got back in my car, drove back up to the lake, and finished out the family vacation, as if nothing had happened.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
I never dated much to begin with, but I can’t figure out if that trend has continued on or been amplified because of my diagnosis.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
No. I have been very selective in the friends and family I’ve told, though.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD/STI? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I’ve only had a couple outbreaks, and Valtrex cleared them both up relatively quickly. If I’m engaging in regular sexual activity with someone, I take 500 mg daily.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
Yes and no. I have never been rejected sexually from disclosing my diagnosis. In fact, sex has been the least difficult part of having herpes. From one-night-stands to boyfriends, saying the word herpes never scared a man away.
It has hindered relationships, though. On two different occasions, men that I had been casually dating and having sex with said that my herpes was the reason they did not want to commit to me.
I am glad that this helped to weed those people out of my bed and life sooner, but I thought, if my having herpes bothered you that much, you shouldn’t have had sex with me for weeks before telling me so…
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
No. These experiences have certainly impacted my ability to trust.
I have sabotaged relationships before they can even get started, because I fear being rejected so much more now.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
I hate admitting it, but yes – even after swearing up and down to myself that I would be upfront with all future partners, because it was a decency I wish I had been offered.
Once, because I was drunk, sad, and hadn’t dealt with it emotionally…at all. I knew I wasn’t having an outbreak and made sure he used a condom.
The second time happened only because I noticed a bottle of acyclovir on the counter in his bathroom, though. I figured we were in the situation together, so I went for it. When I told him the next day, I was incredibly mistaken to think that he wouldn’t think it was a big deal. Understandably, he said he felt he couldn’t trust me. Again, herpes was not the issue. Trust was.
How I rationalized either of these situations in my head, at that moment, I don’t know. After the second incident, I vowed to never put myself in that kind of situation.
I have not dated or been intimate with anyone since and am in the process of sorting out my feelings regarding it all. I know I was wrong, but I still did it. I think I’ll be holding on to that shame much longer than the initial shame I felt after my diagnosis.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
I don’t judge anyone’s sexual past.
I can count all my partners on my fingers, but herpes still happened to find me.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Because I need to deal with my reality. I want to reconcile my diagnosis and fears in order to approach future relationships in a responsible manner.
I’ve considered telling everyone I know, so that I have no choice but to be accountable; however, I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet.
Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!