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Home Personal Perspectives Personal Perspectives “I unwittingly believed no one my age, and that I knew, could have an STI.”

“I unwittingly believed no one my age, and that I knew, could have an STI.”

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Recently, I found out I have genital herpes and I’m experiencing my first outbreak. I’m 53 years old, female and a newlywed—married for 6 months.
The outbreak has been the most excruciating experience of my life. Two weeks ago, after sex, I went to the doctor thinking I had a yeast infection. I tried treating it on my own, but it persisted. I finally gave in and went to the doctor, and was so clueless that you could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me of her suspicions (subsequently confirmed by lab tests). I suppose I didn’t know squat about herpes.

As for who gave it to me, I’m also clueless; maybe I acquired herpes prior to marriage or from my new husband. He doesn’t want to talk about it, so it’s unlikely I’ll get much information from him.

The ironic part of all this is that when I got married a few months ago, I exhaled a big sigh of relief, because I’d found a man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with (my last husband passed away in his early 40s). And in all my years of “misbehaviour” over the last 30 years, I escaped sexually transmitted infections. I could now settle down and live in peace and happiness with my new husband. But, that only lasted a few months.

I am so embarrassed and blame myself because of all those years of unprotected sex. I was a very trusting soul, and unwittingly believed no one my age, and that I knew, could have an STI. How silly is that?

I live in a small town, and I certainly don’t want anyone to know I have herpes. Though I love my husband, this has completely changed my attitude about sex. I don’t want to transmit herpes to him nor do I want to have sex with him anytime soon. While I’ve yet to tell him this, I know this will not make him very happy. Having herpes makes me feel dirty and sad at the same time. Right now, I’m not feeling very good about myself and don’t desire sex. My feelings for my husband are very confusing, because maybe he did transmit it to me, and he just won’t admit it. I’d like to know, but realize that I never will.

Editorial Note: Thank you for sharing your story with us. The stigma associated with herpes can make those with herpes feel they are alone. But you are not alone! You are not alone in having herpes, and not alone in feeling isolated. Take a look in this issue at our interview with Pamela Wisniewski, founder of a herpes support group in Charlotte, NC. When asked about coping with having herpes she cites two important steps: not becoming isolated and acknowledging your feelings. Perhaps your first step in combating isolation is to start at home by talking to your husband. Encourage him to test as a way to open the door to a conversation about herpes. Our website has a wealth of information about talking to a partner that you may find helpful. Also, recognize and acknowledge that the feelings you have about having herpes are perfectly normal. It’s okay to initially feel anger, embarrassment, or sadness about your diagnosis. In a recent issue, Terri Warren, RN, ANP, acknowledges that initially, negative feelings may occur, but by changing your thinking you can transform those negative feelings into more positive ones. For example, she cautions against overgeneralizing—allowing your self worth to be measured by having herpes. Instead of thinking you’re worth less because you now have herpes, consider the constructive alternative—that your worth is not contingent upon having herpes. Instead, know that you’re a person with many characteristics, and herpes is only one of them. Lastly, you are not alone in having the first outbreak be the worst. In fact, this is quite common. You may want to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider to help you manage recurrences. Again, I point you to our website where you can find information on dealing with the first outbreak and living with herpes. Most importantly, thank you again for sharing your story with us.

 

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