Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
Having been imprisoned in my own shame and fear for years as well as being very brazen about my experiences now, I’ve seen both sides of the herpes closet… It wasn’t until I stepped out that I realized how severely I had been entrenched in my own stigma. It’s amazing how coming out about your past can shed an entirely different light on those events.
The STD interviews are one way (of many) to work through your diagnosis toward living a fearless life. However, it’s important to remember that everyone works through a diagnosis differently, and the solution is not necessarily having to tell people directly, but owning who you are and the circumstances that have helped build your character, as this interviewee has done.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
3. What STI/STD do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STI/STD?
5. Do you know how you contracted this STI/STD?
My ex-boyfriend was really drunk one night and date-rapped me. A few days later, I started feeling pain, went to the doctor, and discovered I had herpes. When I told my boyfriend, he responded, ‘It probably was that one night; I am sure I ripped you.’
He told me that no one would want to date me after that, so I stayed with him until he became physically abusive (sometimes, I wonder if he intentionally gave it to me).
I just have to say, people WILL want you. Do not make herpes the reason you stay with a person that makes you feel less than stellar.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
Herpes is not really a life-changing condition. The stigma is horrible, but it will only make you stronger, because you can lead a fearless life.
You have to find your self-worth from inside and not from what other people think or say about you. The truth is, despite having herpes, you are still YOU, and you are not alone.
A year ago, my friend had a canoeing accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. THAT is a life-changing experience. When I am depressed about herpes, I try to put things in perspective.
Life happens, and the people who are happy are those who bend with life’s changes.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
I talk to all of my friends about it. I feel that talking about it is the only way to end the stigma. Some of the people I tell come out to me about having it as well (talking about it more openly helps you see how common it is as well).
When I contracted herpes, I was really young (20). So, when I first started telling people, their reactions were not as supportive as I would have liked. Trust me, that will get better! Now that I am in my 30s, people usually take it in stride, because either they or someone they know has been affected.
Most of my friends are really supportive (and since I talk about it so freely, when some of my friends contract the virus, they know they can come to me for support).
Herpes does not affect my personality, so no one would have a reason to treat me differently!
If a friend makes a joke about herpes or a comment that someone is ‘nasty’ because they have herpes, I come out of the herpes closet. It’s all about education!
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STI/STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I don’t really need it. I have had HSV1 for 11 years and have not had an outbreak in 6 years.
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
Yes it has. Some guys are not comfortable with it. But that is life. Even if I did not have herpes there probably would be some other ‘deal-breaker’ that would make some people (who are not right for me) not want to date me.
When I meet a guy who totally accepts me, I feel like our relationship is deeper, because he takes me as a whole human being (imperfections and all).
If someone rejects you, it is less about you than about them.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
I just broke up with someone. When I told him I had herpes, he said, ‘Oh, my ex-girlfriend had that too.’
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
Once I considered it with a one night stand, but I couldn’t do it. When I told him I had herpes, he responded, ‘I don’t care,’ and we ended up having an amazing fling!
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
Yes, I am more open and empathetic.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I want to help people with STDs by sharing my story. I feel the only way we can get through any problem is sharing our experiences with others.
Thank you so much, Jenelle, for putting together this community! [You’re so very welcome!]
Herpes does not mean that we are ‘dirty’, it just means we were exposed to a virus. The stigma is the worst part of this virus, and sites like this are instrumental in dismantling that stigma.
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!