Today, I tested positive for chlamydia.
I woke up, ate breakfast, had a one-way conversation with my dog, and then… this bombshell was thrown into my Tuesday.
I sat in the sterile bulk billing Medical Centre in the doctor’s small office, and recoiled at his words as if he’d just leaned over and slapped me.
I looked back at the doctor, horrified. No, surely not. STIs are something ‘gross’ people get, right? Please don’t think I’m gross. What’s worse — having chlamydia, or being genuinely concerned whether or not a doctor is judging me for having chlamydia? Right now, they’re both pretty bad predicaments.
The doctor, Doctor Whatever — God, I had never even seen this man before, and now he knows my deepest darkest secret? — folded his hands together and rested them on his desk. I could feel my face growing red. I tried to swallow my panic, and what was left of my pride. He looked at me patiently.
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“Does this affect my fertility? I remember reading that somewhere,” I said rapidly, trying hard not to completely freak and lose my mind.
Dr Whatever shook his head slowly. “We won’t be able to tell, but the chances are very slim. You caught this early,” he said, offering me a fatherly smile, which seemed more than generous.
I just stared back, blinking madly while trying to comprehend this. I didn’t want children yet, but one day? Yeah, for sure. Had I totally screwed that up? Would this derail my life completely? What the hell had I done?
I bustled out of the Medical Centre, feeling the eyes of the receptionist burning into the back of my head. By some miracle, I managed to wait until I was in the safety of my car before I let the tears come. I felt not just dirty, but revolting.
How had I let this happen? A few months back, a boy I hardly knew thought I was pretty, and that means I could justify not mentioning anything about protection? What a pushover.
How had I let this happen? (Image: iStock)
I had been out for lunch with my grandmother, gone on a date with a boy I actually liked, and sat through countless dull work meetings, the whole time remaining blissfully unaware that chlamydia was partying in my bloodstream.
After an awkward encounter at the chemist I drove directly to my friend’s house, who opened the door and was greeted with my tear-stained face.
"I have chlamydia. Chlamydia." I blurted. She put down her uni textbook and bundled me into her arms while I sobbed into her shoulder. Was she repulsed by me? Was I infecting her house with my germs? Did she want me to leave?
She sat me on her couch and handed me a cup of coffee. I stared down at it, wondering if she’d sanitise the mug after I left, or just cut her losses and throw it out.
I thought of all the STIs I knew of, which to be fair, were limited. At least this wasn’t HIV, which would linger around forever. Right? I mean, this is a common one. Like the common cold. But this isn’t a virus people talk about – a mug of soup and bed rest won’t help me out. (Post continues after gallery.)
I thanked her and fled, convinced I had left chlamydia imprinted into her couch.
Knowing what you have to do, and actually doing it, are two separate things. Sitting in my parked car, I lost my nerve three times before I finally managed to dial the number of the boy who had generously shared this with me. The real culprit.
Would he even remember me? Or pick up the phone? Or worse, would he blame me?
After a nerve-racking few rings, and an awkward ‘Hi, sorry, remember me?’ introduction, I blurted it out. "You, uh, just letting you know – you gave me chlamydia. Yeah."
I let out a humourless laugh, and dug my fingernails into my palm. He cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable. "Oh. Um, wow. Sorry about that. I had no idea."
"I lost my nerve three times before I finally managed to dial the number." (iStock)
I looked out the window, biting my lip. "Yeah," I said, "Just, you know, make sure you get something to treat it. And you should probably call some other girls, to let them know to get tested too. It’s nasty, you know?"
I forced a laugh.
"I’m not mad, for the record. These things happen. And for God’s sake, start wearing condoms."
I hung up feeling incredibly noble for 1. Taking the high road, 2. Coming across very Hakuna Matata-esque, and 3. Not audibly crying.
Rummaging in my handbag, I pulled out the brown paper bag from the chemist containing the almighty antidote. I popped the two antibiotics into my palm and unceremoniously swallowed them, choked a little bit, then wiggled around in the car seat in a feeble attempt to push them further down my body into the areas needing help.
It would be okay. I was on the mend.
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There is a huge associated stigma with STIs, and I was just as stupidly naïve as the next person. The ‘It won’t happen to me, only gross, trashy people get Chlamydia’ oblivion can only last for so long. And, stop the press — as it turns out, that’s not the case.
Anyone can get chlamydia, including people with good jobs, fantastic friends, supportive families, and a brief, regrettable lapse of drunken judgement with a boy who probably won’t text back.
My biggest take home message is this – an STI doesn’t make you a bad person.
Don’t be ashamed, don’t hate yourself, but do make sure you deal with it sooner rather than later – you know what to do.
Have you ever contracted an STI? How did you feel about it?