Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
This interview speaks to one of the many reasons why we must challenge the stigma associated with contracting an STD.
That someone has an STD does not mean they are a slut, promiscuous, a whore, etc. – whether they have engaged in sexual activities one time, ten times, or a hundred times. One’s sexual proclivity is only a single component to the many facets of risk. Education will help erode that misconception, but the personal experiences – the stories of those who are affected, despite how many times they’ve had sex – helps humanize a sometimes overly clinical approach to STDs and sexual health education.
Thank you, interviewee, for your willingness to share your perspective showing that an STD, and, in this case, HSV2, can affect people regardless of sexual history.
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
Full-time student with a part-time job
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?
The first time I had sex.
Even though we had condoms, the guy began to penetrate without one, and I stopped him and asked him to use a condom.
That brief skin-to-skin contact still haunts me to this day…
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STI/STD?
I went into a deep depression. I’m still trying to forgive myself and figure out who I am. I still feel utterly lost…
At first, I felt so disgusted with myself. I felt so much guilt and shame. I felt like I had let myself down.
I would play scenarios over and over in my head… ‘What if’ never left my thoughts. Those first few days were heartbreaking and unbearable. I would wake up from a wonderful dream only to be pulled back into my new reality. Upon waking, I suddenly felt a sense of doom, anxiety, and fear.
Oh, how I desperately wished I was dreaming. I spiraled into depression as I silently suffered, and I tried to figure this out on my own.
Thankfully, those feeling did subside, to some extent. I still suffer depression symptoms but not as acutely as before.
Now, I feel like I’m mourning the ‘normal’ life I’ll never have. I will never be able to experience unprotected sex without the knowledge and fear that I could pass this along. I wont be able to have the normal HSV risk-free vaginal birth I always dreamed about. And I will forever have this cloud hanging over me when starting a new relationship.
I wish I could say that I have overcome this and I’m a better person for it, but I cant. I still struggle with it. But I hope that someday soon I’ll finally forgive myself and begin to move forward.
7. Do the people who know you have an STI/STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
No, thankfully. The only people who know, besides a close friend, are my sexual partners.
I couldn’t tell my family. I wouldn’t want them view me any differently or pity me.
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.
No. I very rarely get outbreaks. I have found it very hard to get a prescription when I’ve asked. The physician suggested I visit the office if I need it – what B.S!
9. Has having an STI/STD hindered past relationships?
It has only affected 1 out of 3 relationships. The guy became worried about contacting HSV, so he ended the relationship, which was totally acceptable. I would not have wanted him to feel uncomfortable.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STI/STD affected your partner?
Yes. It was never a problem for him. We just always use condoms. I wouldn’t be comfortable having sex without them.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STI/STD whom you did not tell you had an STI/STD?
No. I could never do that to someone. I give a full disclosure if any sexual contact is likely to occur.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STI/STD?
I still have trouble coming to terms with having an STD. I’ve yet to forgive myself. I still carry a lot of guilt and shame. I have become more anxious and depressed because of it.
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
To share my story. But I’m mainly doing this for myself. I have beat myself up for too long over this. I just want to be the carefree and fun-loving person I use to be. I just want to be happy again.
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!
i recently just found out I contracted HSV2 and I feel like my life is over. Embarrassed, ashamed, and feeling of stupidty. Does it ever get better? I will never have a normal life, i feel. how do i talk to future partners about this.
Hi Korey –
It does get better, but it will likely some time. Our posts under STD? What Now? are great places to start – we talk about when to have the talk and how to do it with future partners as well.
You can definitely still have a ‘normal’ life, however, I would argue that ‘normal’ is highly subjective, and an HSV diagnosis will probably change how you approach new relationships.
Thanks for reaching out!
I just found out yesterday I contracted HSV it most likely was “asleep” in my body for sometime & I’m having my first outbreak ever… I’m getting married to a wonderful supportive man in September.
I feel disgusting… Dirty and depressed. How could I have not noticed? I was tested before I met my fiancé ! Thought of him cheating go into my head, but then I think there is no way he is such a good hard working person… I am lost.. I came across this site while trying to find out what next? Now what? I’m 25 years old I have no children. I want children I want a happy life. A happy normal life… Please help me cope… I am so lost & all I can do is cry. My mother & sister are very supportive they say 1 & 6 people have this STI/STD. My fiancé has never had any type of problem.. Neither have I. 2 years of having no symptoms then… One day going to the doctor for a yeast infection I found out…. And it’s shaken my entire world. I woke up this morning and just cried… I don’t know what else to do but cry. My doctor put me on antivirals to help with this outbreak… I feel horrible please anyone … Can anyone help.
Hi Emma –
First, please know you will still be able to have children (baring any unforeseen circumstances not related to HSV) and a happy, normal life. All of that is possible, and your initial reaction is common, but things won’t always feel so hopeless. Your mother and sister and right to be so supportive – HSV1 (orally and genitally) is even more common than 1 in 6, and HSV2 is about 1 in 6, if not a little higher than that. So, you are definitely not alone. That’s a lot of people!
It’s just that no one shares that information because of the immense stigma associated with herpes. And, really, that’s a shame, because if more people were able to talk about it – whether among friends or as nonchalantly as at the dinner table – less people would feel as horribly about their diagnosis.
Anyhow, a lot of what will help you feel less heartbroken and depressed about this is research – loads and loads of research and reading about the virus itself as well as stigma and why people feel the way they do about STDs.
Our post STD? What Now? is also a good place to start. Going forward, our recent posts about transmission risk will help when deciding how to have a happy, healthy sex life with your fiance’ too.
Just know, you are not alone, and you are always welcome here.
I have had HSV2 for five years now. i contracted it when i was 16. he was the second guy i had ever slept with, and our condom broke. i was terrified of pregnancy, but just ended up with the std that haunts me every day. I had a child, and chose to deliver VIA ceserean. my doctor told me that i could have him vaginally as long as i did not have any signs of an outbreak, but i chose not to even take the small chance that he may get it. Its really hard for me to tell peopleabout it. I just recently started seeing this guy, 2 weeks ago, and hes been very patient with the excuses ive made not to engage in sexual activity with him, but i finally told him about my hsv tonight, and im absolutely terrified that hes not going to want to continue getting to know me. He said he needs to research it before he decides, which i totally understand, and offered to tell him everything ive learned of it in the past five years, but im still terrified that once he learns everything, hes going to run away. i hate having this hanging over me. i wish i could just be a normal girl who didnt have anything she had to disclose before beginning a relationship.
Hi Celeste –
I would argue that there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ girl, so you shouldn’t fret about not being one, however, I know that probably doesn’t make you feel a lot better about your current situation…
The talk – should this relationship not pan out – does get a little bit easier over time, and not every partner responds the same way… So, just keep that in mind, no matter what your guy decides to do. Don’t lose hope.
Also, try your best not to beat yourself up too much. What you’re feeling is very common and that helplessness/hopelessness isn’t permanent. You’re still the same beautiful person with so much to offer and bring to a relationship. HSV2 is just a minor aside when looking at the big picture, and the right person will see it that way as well.
And, of course, you’re always welcome here.
Thanks so much for your comments!
I am thankful to come across this supportive and informative site. I was just diagnosed with HSV1 a month ago (I am 24) it has taken doctors nearly a year to figure out what is wrong with me. When I received the confirmation, though in my heart I knew, it absolutely devastated me. And still does, I cannot help but fear that I will not have my dream of marrying a wonderful man and having a family of my own come true due to this. As other readers have mentioned, it is constantly on my mind, depresses me and causes anxiety. I unknowingly gave it to an ex and find it hard to forgive myself for passing it on to him. As well due to a compromised immune system, I have frequent and severe outbreaks. I am generally considered a very positive and a glass half full kind of gal but now living with herpes has ruined my outlook on life. I am hoping that with time and more resources that my perspective on this will change as life is beautiful and there is much joy in it.
Hi Maya –
In time, you’re right, it will get a bit easier, but in the meantime, I know that does very little to make you feel better about all of it. The more you can read and research, the better you’ll feel too – so, it’s good to see that you’re doing some digging and have found our website.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. You’re always welcome here.