Straight / Female / 28–32 / North America / Single
This post is about a personal story that is no longer personal.
A year-and-a-half ago, on a plane from New York to Los Angeles, I walked out of the halo of shame I had created for myself by publicly sharing I have genital herpes, and that it doesn’t say a single thing about who I am.
Going public about my status was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself, hands down. But prior to that moment, I would have done anything to keep my herpes diagnosis confidential.
I would hide my herpes prescriptions and drugs away from potential visitors’ eyes.
I would joke about STIs with friends, pretending STIs didn’t affect me.
I would doubt new partners’ ability to embrace my STI or keep the information to themselves, and preferred not telling them about it before engaging sexually.
But let’s go back to the beginning, to that Thanksgiving day four years ago where I felt everything but thankful.
Thursday November 28, 2013.
Every Thanksgiving, I make plans to volunteer at a senior home and then spend the evening celebrating with friends.
I wake up that Thursday morning immediately feeling like something is wrong. Not only do I have fever-like symptoms, but there is an abnormal pain in my groin that I can not explain. Peeing is painful, standing up is painful, sitting down is painful and I am so tired that simple movements require what feels like colossal efforts. I resign myself to cancel my volunteering plans, not really sure what to do next.
My gynecologist has taken the long weekend off and I have to wait until the following Monday to get an appointment with her. My main concern is the burning pain when urinating and, having no medical background, I naively assume I am experiencing some sort of pronounced cystitis.
I decide to self-medicate with ice cubes and ibuprofen, which help to de-escalate the burning sensation. But the fever symptoms and general tiredness knock me out for most of those four days, leaving little headspace for major freakouts. I had no clue that what I was experiencing was my first herpes outbreak.
Monday, December 2, 2013
I am sitting on the table of the first gynecologist I was able to schedule an appointment with. I start describing what I've been experiencing but her eye catches the symptoms quicker than my words were able to describe them.
“Oh! It’s herpes,” she said after a few uncaring glances.
“…What?! Are you sure?”