Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Valinda Riggins Nwadike, MD, MPH
Submitted anonymously via the contact form, this interview highlights how an STD diagnosis, namely, HSV1, can be a blessing in disguise. While the stigma associated with contracting an STD is definitely no Saturday morning walk in the park, it seems that, upon diagnosis, an individual almost always finds themselves doing some much needed personal reflection.
While I can think of a number of other ways I would have preferred to build character, once I finally began to address the negative emotions accompanied by my diagnosis, I too found myself on a very long and arduous self-improvement journey.
This interviewee is a perfect example of how an undesired infection can reap some unexpected, but beneficial outcomes.
Thank you, interviewee, for paying it forward!
1. How old are you?
2. What do you do for a living?
I’m an insurance agent.
3. What STD/STI do you have/have you had?
4. How long have you had or known you have an STD/STI?
About five months
5. Do you know how you contracted this STD/STI?
Yes, I contracted it from my boyfriend through oral sex; he has HSV1 in his mouth.
I knew he had ‘cold sores’, but we were both ignorant to the cruel reality that the virus could be passed in that way, even without an outbreak or symptoms.
6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD/STI?
For a while, I felt completely devastated, ashamed, and worthless. I bought into the stigma that only careless, unclean, and promiscuous individuals fall victim to this plight.
After my diagnosis, I was trapped on an emotional roller-coaster and was faced with emotions from the sexual trauma I had endured in my past.
I had a difficult time reconciling the emotions from contracting this disease and being so deeply hurt by someone I loved and trusted. I have ended my relationship with him, not only because of this and the aftermath, but for other unrelated reasons as well. It truly was the best decision for me, and I’m delighted to be on the other side of the storm.
I’m healing inside and out and learning to appreciate each day as it’s given to me – something I never fully understood or took the time to explore. My mind was always somewhere else…the appointment next week, the email I needed to get to, the endless over-analyzing and obsessing. So, out of an innate need for survival, I cut loose my emotional vacuum and propelled myself into figuring out how to cope with the physical and emotional trauma, to harness happiness and remain conscious and mindful.
I’ll admit, it’s been a bit of a learning curve, because I’ve always been an anxious and stressed individual, but I am enjoying the practice of patience, letting go, and being a more positive force in this world. I am now volunteering at a nursing home and organizing a food drive – things I wanted to do before but never fully committed to. I am also meditating and disconnecting more often from TV/phone/internet.
Journaling has brought me peace and so has keeping a ‘Happiness Jar’. At the end of each day, I write down a happy moment from the day and something I’m grateful for and put it in a jar I painted. There’s a lot of science behind these practices and cultivating happiness…its working, so try it!
This reset has awakened a sense of nurturing in my other relationships and facets of life, including my job (which I previously loathed). I’m finding meaning and purpose in all things.
Most importantly, my awakening has impacted my most precious purpose for existing: my children. In the past, my obsessing caused me to be overwhelmed, and it forced me into a whirlpool of negativity and detachment that affected my interactions with them. Now, I am excited to include them in my process of acceptance, forgiveness, love, and mindfulness, and we are discovering new ways to be present together.
These are invaluable tools that I wish I learned in my youth.
I make a conscious vow every day to end the cycle and be the example of who I want them to be, despite all adversity.
7. Do the people who know you have an STD/STI treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?
I have only shared my diagnosis with two people other than the individual who gave it to me and my physicians.
My mother was very warm and understanding. Coincidentally, she too contracted HSV before she had children and in the same fashion as I contracted it. So this made it easy for her to relate to me and reassure me that life will go on.
The friend I shared with was supportive but also a bit uneducated about how it’s passed. At first, she thought I might be able to give it to her, because we share drinks/food sometimes. That made me a little self-conscious, but I’ve educated her, and she has since been very supportive as well.
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 took the generic form of Valtrex during my first outbreak, and it helped.
I ,thankfully, haven’t had an outbreak since, but I am taking daily vitamins and practicing yoga and meditation to keep the stress levels down and to stay healthy.
9. Has having an STD/STI hindered past relationships?
I haven’t had any relationships other than the one I was in when I contracted HSV.
10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD/STI affected your partner?
Not currently, no.
11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD/STI whom you did not tell you had an STD/STI?
No one other than the person who gave it to me.
I’m still unnerved about having to disclose such an intimate and sensitive detail about myself with a future partner, but I believe the work I’m doing on myself will empower me to feel more confident in facing that obstacle when the time comes. I’m not in any hurry to find a new partner; it’s all about finding my center and enjoying life and the people in it right now.
12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD/STI?
See question 6 🙂
13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Two reasons. One, writing and sharing my experience has been a very cathartic release for me and healing. Just getting it out on paper/computer helped jump start my healing process by letting go of the negative and allowing room for positive things to bloom.
I also hope to encourage others, regardless of what they’re suffering from, to seek positive influences and inspiration in their lives as they search for light in whatever darkness they’re going through.
I’ve tried a few other outlets and support groups and, unfortunately, the ones I found didn’t work for me. It was mostly people dumping their negative emotions in a public forum, which might be beneficial to some to know you’re not alone, but, personally, I needed positive inspiration to see how people were getting through to the other side.
This website, and the people who shared their stories were a major catalyst in finding the light in my darkness, so I wanted to pay it forward by sharing my journey. 🙂
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!