3 Pieces Of Advice I Wish I Had When I Was Diagnosed With Herpes
I was diagnosed with herpes seven years ago. It took years for me to find my way and do all of the below, so I’m putting this out there for anyone who is struggling with a herpes diagnosis.
Everyone has their own journey, but here are three steps you can take, especially if you fee lost.
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Shameless plugs here for the herpes activist network, HANDS – Herpes Activists Networking to Dismantle Stigma, a community of individuals and organizations making their platforms a safe space for people to see humans living with herpes and doing their own thing. Collectively, this organization I’m proud to be a part of also serves as a resource of consistent, up-to-date information on herpes from sexuality experts and sexual health professionals!
It’s important that we utilize resources credible not only by reputation, but also based on ethics, transparency, experience and resources. I had general knowledge after my diagnosis and that did nothing for me other than make me feel like a statistic. Now I’m just a 1 in 4 that’s unwanted, unloveable, and what crossed my mind when the dust settled, unfuckable.
It’s taken me years to find any consistency in information and I can confidently say being part of this organization makes me feel safe in presenting numbers thanks to the reputation of its members and the resources we are connected to. The ethics of the community and its members add confidence to my speaking to groups I don’t necessarily identify with, but have the language to create space for inclusive conversations around sexual health.
I think Herpes Education is a magnificent starting point for anyone who needs it, and you can also learn more about HANDS on there as well.
2. ACCEPT YOURSELF
“Who’s gonna wanna have sex with me now that I have herpes?” is commonly something I hear or see from people who post or write to me. It’s also a thought I had early on. Many people disassociate from their genitals after an STI diagnosis. I on the other hand, disassociated from others people’s genitals now that I think about it. I just knew I wasn’t going to have sex for a while so I masturbated more than a teenager who discovered their parents’ porn with a half day of school and no siblings! It was an angry masturbation, a numb masturbation, a sad masturbation, and a shameful masturbation because I’d immediately have to wash my hands after because I didn’t want to put herpes on another part of my body.
One shameful masturbation later, I think I said fuck it and just passed out. Woke up in the middle of the night and rubbed my eyes and then literally thought I’d go blind. Seven years later, nothing happened!
3. DISCLOSE TO YOURSELF
I stopped being ashamed of myself (long before the 7 years lol) and I credit it to the day I walked into the bathroom and looked myself in the eyes and said, “I have herpes.” I have herpes. I have herpes. I said it a few times. My eyes watered. I laughed at how ridiculous this was, and I think I cried. (I cried). These tears were the release of the ridiculousness of how I began to see myself so differently after a couple of days.
It was a reminder that nothing fundamental about me changed. Now I had herpes. That’s it.
I began to touch my body more, treat it better, masturbate for pleasure rather than to force myself not to get so horny I’m reminded no one will want to touch this. The tears were a release of what was inside. That only came when I was able to face myself and accept myself. Eckhart Tolle says in a situation, we can do one of three things when we don’t like it: remove ourselves, change it or accept it. Well, two of my options were gone since herpes is incurable so accepting it was my only choice. After that, more choices became readily available to me. How could I expect acceptance from someone else if I wasn’t willing to give it to myself? Saying “I have herpes” to myself set the stage for future disclosures.
I had already dealt with the emotions I felt because I began to recognize them. I knew how I’d react when disclosing. The person I would disclose to would have no clue what to do if I broke down crying in front of them and that’s okay. But my emotions are my responsibility. I can’t deal with anything when I’m unaware of its presence. The masturbation was a distraction. The intention behind it was negative. When the intention changed to being about pleasure, I experienced more of it. I experienced it from others because disclosing did become easier with experience. When you can face your reflection and sit in your fear, you experience your power. A power to have confidence to put yourself out there to receive what you felt was taken from you with your diagnosis. Only it doesn’t look the same. You don’t experience it the same. It’s not just different, it’s better! But we have to become educated, accepting of ourselves, and be willing to disclose to ourselves.