Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
Submitted anonymously via the contact form, this interview does an excellent job of touching on the self-analysis one undergoes after getting diagnosed with an STD. It’s never easy sharing an honest perspective like the one below, as it requires an interviewee to courageously ‘look their situation in the face’ in hopes of healing and not letting it entirely usurp them.
Unfortunately, it’s somewhat common for people to experience stigma similar to that which is described below from those in the medical sector – doctors, nurses, clinicians – people who are often the only ones someone confides in, and stigma that generally pushes patients further into depression or self-loathing. This is why these interviews are so important: so men and women have a non-judgmental outlet to turn to as they begin the emotional healing process.
This interviewee’s feelings are shared by so many, and knowing you’re not alone is one of the first and most important steps in being able to move forward.
1. How old are you?
I am 21 years old, almost 22.
2. What do you do for a living?
I am a writer and student.
3. What STD do you have/have you had?
Presently (and forever), I have HSV2 – genital herpes. I was diagnosed by a random doctor whom I have never again spoken to.
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD?
I was diagnosed at 19 years old. The doctor told me I was pretty young compared to most people he had seen who contracted this life-long virus. The fact that he said that has stuck with me since. He made me feel alienated – even from the population that had herpes – like, somehow, I failed even harder since I was so young.
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD?
Partaking in sexual intercourse with an infected person whom I did not know had the virus. (I would hope they didn’t know either, but hey, what can I do?)
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD?
Aside from the intense amount of self-hatred I experienced in the beginning, followed by months of depression that are still triggered frequently, my life is the same. My world didn’t end as I dramatically suspected it would, and I go about day-to-day life sometimes even forgetting, momentarily, that I have it.
I’m naturally a very ‘stressed’ person; so, I have intense, painful outbreaks monthly. Sometimes, I get lucky and they go away in a matter of days, but, often, that is not the case. Frequent outbreaks seem like a normal occurrence at this point. I’m always high strung; so, I’m always having an outbreak, which causes me to be high strung, which causes an outbreak. It’s a vicious cycle I have yet to escape, 2 years after being diagnosed.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
My ex-boyfriend who I had been seeing since I was 14 (he also has HSV2 – we don’t know who gave it to whom and we’ve never talked about it) and I are closer due to the virus. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, though. It has brought us together, but, I think, we may feel ‘stuck’ with each other like we’ll never find other partners who could possibly ‘accept’ us.
My (now ex-) boyfriend who I was dating when I found out I had HSV2 still treats me like gold. We attempted to date and have protected intercourse despite my ‘affliction’, but, ultimately, things didn’t work out, because I was too insecure and worried about transmitting the virus to him.
Even though I couldn’t accept his love then, he and I are still very close and talk on a daily basis. He still tells me he loves me when we talk, even though we’ve gone our separate ways. He gives me hope.
8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.
I have no health insurance; so, I don’t go to the doctor, and I am not on any prescription medication to control my outbreaks or shorten their length. When I was originally diagnosed two years ago, I was given a prescription pill by my doctor, but it didn’t seem to help, and after I used up the prescription, I never had it filled.
I haven’t tried any other approaches but would be willing if I knew of any. A long, hot shower works wonders for the body and soul sometimes, though.
9. Has having an STD hindered past relationships?
Having an STD has hindered past relationships and still does to this day – not because I’ve ever had anyone choose not to be with me because of my herpes, but because of my own emotional baggage that I bring to the table because of it. It’s been 2 years, but I’m hoping I make a lot more progress emotionally soon.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD affected your partner?
Ex-significant others whom I both had sexual intercourse with. One remains HSV-free (we used protection, and I told him when I was diagnosed) while the other also lives with the STD like me. I told him when I was diagnosed immediately, since we were no longer dating, and he got tested and had it too. Like I said, we don’t know who had it first, and I don’t even dwell on that. I would actually prefer if he was the one who gave it to me, because I would feel really crappy if I gave it to anyone.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD whom you did not tell you had an STD?
Unfortunately, I also must answer yes to this question like many others. I felt too scared or embarrassed and ultimately was too selfish and immature. I feel like a truly horrible person because of it. Luckily, no one has been harmed as a result, but it easily could have been the opposite, and, for that, I am truly regretful over the situation.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD?
Honestly, my self-worth has depreciated, and I still don’t know if it’s ever coming back.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with The STI Project?
I guess I don’t know. I’ve never really gotten to talk to anyone about it or even put any thought into a lot of these questions; so, its helped put things into perspective a bit. I wish I could become more optimistic like other people and self-accepting, so that others can accept me too. I want to be less-ashamed of existing.
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!