Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
This short story was submitted anonymously after the author participated in the STI Interviews. This is part 3 of a 3 part story.
My life continued as normally as I could hope for. I went out with friends as much as my mood would allow, and didn’t let on to anyone including my friends, family, and even my ex-girlfriend (whom I am still friends with now). Inside, I was going through, hell but on the outside, I didn’t look any different, because I was clothed, so, no one could see the scars.
Then it happened. I was over at the ex’s house watching a movie when I went to use the bathroom. Like I do every time, I gave myself a good once over in the mirror to check for new bumps. That’s when I saw two lesions forming underneath my ear. It was my worst fear, that it would spread to my face and now there I was!
From that point on, my life continued to be a roller-coaster. There were many days when I looked completely clear. I could see the bumps; they were just under the skin on my forehead exactly where my hat line would have been. Every so often, a couple of the bumps would come to a head and I would pop and disinfect them. At that point, there were so many that came up so frequently, that every week or so I had to stay inside, because I had red welts all over my face! To someone who didn’t know, they would think it was acne. When you know what it really is, having Molluscum Contagiosum (MC) makes it feel much worse. I felt like a leper and looked like one to boot!
Things went downhill pretty fast at that point. I had a constant visual reminder on my face, and it was something everyone else could see too. I retreated to the confines of my bedroom. I didn’t come out for two weeks. Each morning, I would wake up and inspect myself. Every single day I woke up, I would find a new lesion and remove it. They came up so fast, and I was so paranoid of them that I checked myself in the mirror 20-30 times a day! Was that excessive? Yes, but at that point, my molluscum was the only thing in my life that I thought about. It was a constant reminder. When you end up finding that many new bumps, that many times during the day, it makes it impossible to stop looking for them.
Desperate for anything, I tried taking baths with diluted commercial hydrogen peroxide as well as bleach and apple cider vinegar (ACV) (not at the same time), hoping that something would at least kill the virus and stop the spreading. I didn’t notice any improvement. In fact, I found two on the shaft of my penis, which was somewhere I hadn’t gotten them before. A single guy who can’t have sex or intimate contact with anyone…ya, so I knew where I got those from. The only ‘stress-management’ option I had was flying out of the window.
Thankfully, I was alone in my misery in my apartment, until I got a knock at the door one day. The handy man in the building had come upstairs to ask if I had a leak. There is a grocery store below me, and apparently, there was a leak in my tub. Ironically, my friend, who lived in the same building, was standing in the poultry isle when the bleach water dripped on her head. I made some excuse about having eczema and needing to take the bath once per week. How humiliating. I’m sure at some point in my life, that will be nothing more than a funny story but for now…
I had spent so much time inside avoiding the outside world that I could see my friends were starting to wonder. It was then I decided that I needed to tell a few close friends what was going on. It was weird. I knew they would understand and be supportive, but it was hard to actually come out and say what was going on. Although I just told a couple of friends a few days ago, I do feel better that my close friends know I’m in a bad spot and not to harp on me when I’m being reclusive. I do see a change in how they meet up with me though. No hand-shakes, etc. I know it’s nothing personal, but it still hurts.
During that entire time, I was waiting to see a psychologist regarding my previously mentioned PTSD issues. When I finally got in, I told the doctor what was going on, we discussed and agreed that I was likely suffering from significant depression from all of the issues. I was prescribed an anti-depressant. I can’t say it has had all that much effect on my mood, but it killed my libido, which, helps, because I can’t risk transmitting it to anyone.
It’s really tough to explain to someone who has never had an STD why the virus can be so mentally taxing. Honestly, I have found it to be the most difficult part of the process. Yes, the vanity aspect is certainly front and center. However, for me it is the complete reversal in how you have to live your life day in and day out.
I can no longer have sex or masturbate! I cannot shave! I had to buy an expensive beard trimmer to make me look somewhat presentable. I have had to train myself not to touch any part of my body! Do you know how difficult that is? I was using eye drops for a while, and low and behold, a bump came out exactly where I put my finger on my cheek. To someone not in the same position, it all seems excessive and dramatic, but I literally cannot touch any part of my body without first washing my hands and then washing them again after.
I should have bought stock in Tide; I go through so much laundry! I never re-use pillow cases or towels. I even started blow-drying myself after a shower to avoid towels altogether.
Every single day, I wake up and look in the mirror, and every single day I find a new bump. Today was an especially bad day. I had about 8 that I could deal with on my face. I am hopeful, because they come so quick now and are nowhere near as big. My body may finally be fighting them off. True to form though, every day, I find more. Some in places I never had a problem with, like my arms.
If I could take a pill to be better, or if I had any idea of when it would come to an end, it would be much easier. Being in a position not knowing if it’s going to be a month or 2 years is overwhelming! I’m putting my life on hold in the meantime.
When you read on the internet, people have good and bad things to say about every treatment option. Some people cursed their doctors or dermatologist for a particular treatment, whereas, the next person praised the same thing. If I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten to a dermatologist right away for treatment. I would have left it in the hands of someone more experienced than myself, and then gone from there. Would it have made a difference? Who knows? By the time I recognized I should have talked to a dermatologist, I knew there were too many bumps to treat effectively. Now I am going because there are so many I can’t see on my butt that I have no idea if they are healing or getting worse.
In the end, I know I will be free of this at some point in my life. It’s so hard when you want to be out dating and having fun, and instead you are living a silent nightmare. I choose to try to remain optimistic about my body building my immunity up. I don’t get as freaked out by every new bump now, mainly because if I look like crap, I can just hide at home, and at least someone knows I’m here dealing with it.
I would love to be able to end this on a successful note and tell you that it was a minor blip on life’s radar which I got over and then moved on. Unfortunately, it remains a constant struggle for me. It is something that will affect me for my entire life and will no doubt affect how I choose my sexual partners in the future, which, is a good thing. I know what I would have thought reading this, if I just found out; it would have been hard to keep my head on straight. I don’t intend to scare anyone. There are just as many people who thought it a minor inconvenience and went on their way. If that is you, I am extremely happy and a little jealous. If, though, it doesn’t go that smoothly, I think it’s good to wrap your head around how life altering it can get.
It’s funny, sometimes I still get a surreal feeling that it’s all a dream, for a second.
If there is any interest at all, I do intend to update this at some point in the future, hopefully with good news.
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This short story was submitted anonymously after the author participated in the STI Interviews. This is part 3 of a 3 part story. The author is a 32 year old federal employee who lives in Canada. Even though he’s still fighting the virus, he’s looking forward to the day it becomes a distant memory and he can get back to dating and living his life. He says this is his experience and you will have your own. For those of you that do, he wishes you good luck.
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Did this story affect you? Have you had a similar experience or do you have a message you’d like to send the author? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!