It burned when I urinated. It itched a bit. I remember the fever and flu I had around the same time, but I didn’t put two and two together. I was 20 and I had only just started having sex. This was my second time…
I went into the clinic and they told me something, but to be honest, I don’t really remember what they said. I think I got a prescription. I think there was something around the importance of using condoms…I honestly don’t remember.
He said he had been checked for everything and didn’t have any infections. I was on birth control…
We broke up.
Then, a year or so later, I had my third boyfriend.
We had been together for quite a while and started talking about the possibility of having sex. We both felt ready and so, the monogamous relationship took the next step. It was lovely.
We had sex every day.
I thought maybe I had a UTI or a yeast infection and went into the clinic.
They told me I had herpes.
Wait, what?! Like that thing that is not treatable?! The one that is sexually transmitted and I’ll have forever?!
Boy, did I go marching strait to my loving boyfriend of mine and give him a piece of my mind.
Was there something he hadn’t told me? Was he loyal?
He swore it was not from him and that he was loyal. So, he got screened, through blood, and low and behold he did not have herpes. It did not make sense.
Yes, we stayed together for another couple years.
I learned to pay attention to my body and generally only had outbreaks around my menstrual cycle, starting right before I started bleeding. I would feel nerve pain in my sitz bones before an outbreak came on and we would be super super safe during that time, meaning no sex and no oral sex. We did not use condoms in our relationship, but I was on contraception.
He never got herpes. He still loved me.
Then we broke up.
I had to navigate telling men I dated that I had genital herpes. In some scenarios I made the mistake of saying nothing, afraid of abandonment and feeling dirty. In other scenarios I was honest and men left me, afraid they would get it too. Sometimes I told them right away and in other times I waited.
Over time, the outbreaks became less frequent.
If I worked too hard, set boundaries poorly, and slept too little… those painful blisters would come back. For that, I was grateful. If nothing else would slow me down, that damn nerve pain and pain with urinating, and vaginal itching would.
I've been married for decades now, and I have not passed on my herpes.
I told my husband right away and it didn't faze him. He has accepted me for who I am, perfection and imperfection from the beginning.
I have had babies, all vaginal births, with no trouble. I did take the prophylactic acyclovir at the end of all of my pregnancies.
I have learned to take good care of myself, to feel when an outbreak is coming on and communicate openly with my husband.
Sometimes it feels like a hemorrhoid, sometimes it feels like a yeast infection. If I take a peek at my labia in the mirror, it never looks like the photos when I’ve Googled it. Usually, it's just one, maybe two, small white lines; I guess they are blisters, but they look so small. It’s amazing something so small can cause so much discomfort and anguish.
I’m careful with sharing towels when I have an outbreak, but I have no idea if that makes any difference. None of my children have it. My husband does not have it. No lover I've ever had got it from me that I know of.
So, why do I share?
You can maintain healthy sexual relationships, with open communication and not pass it to another person. You can see it as a blessing that kind of forces you to take better care of yourself.
For women who do not have herpes, this is a reminder to use a condom and know that most people do not get screened for it.
Screening requires a blood test. Even the blood test doesn’t give us all the information because someone can test positive for type 1 or 2 and that simply might mean they had a mouth cold sore at one point in their past.
If you fall in love with someone who shares with you lovingly that they have herpes, whether oral or genital, that does not mean you too will get it. I have been told 60% of the population will test positive in their blood. So, it spreads easily. Communicate openly and be ok saying “not now” to oral sex, kissing, or genital sex.
It’s not the end of the world. I wish I didn’t have it.
We’ve created Dinah as a pen name for all of us.
For every woman who is desperate to tell her real story, but, for whatever reason, “can’t” under her own name.
In Dinah’s name, we’re about to get very real, and tell the truth, some of us for the very first time.
“Dinah” is a safe space for all women to be universally women and to explore all of the stories we carry and people that we are underneath the layers that we share with the world.
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