Living with Herpes – HSV2 – STD Interviews

HerpesThanks to our most recent anonymous submission to the STD Interviews, we now have a male’s perspective about what it’s like to live with herpes – HSV2, in particular.

While there are certainly similarities across all STD diagnosis and between sexes, my experience has often found some of the initial feelings and on-going struggles to be quite different.

Inherently, each sex thinks about things in a unique way and communicates discordantly – think about the studies referencing the difference between the number of words women and men say in a day – consequently, I think it only natural some perspectives vary across sexes when talking about STD diagnosis as well. Namely, I’ve seen a striking difference in how alone men feel, due, in part, to their natural tendency not to discuss personal things with male counterparts – testicular cancer vs. breast cancer comes to mind.

That STDs carry a heavy stigma only serves to further alienate those who contract one – male or female.

This is one man’s story about becoming more a little more reclusive after a herpes diagnosis and his efforts to overcome that fight or flight mechanism which resides in all of us.

Thanks so much for sharing your story – this is a great step in the right direction. In time, you’ll get there. It took me 14 years and I really think I’m still healing – heck, I started an entire online community due to how I was affected – if that’s not an indicator, I don’t know what is. :)

1. How old are you?

35 years old

2. What do you do for a living?

I am an IT professional.

3. What STD do you have/have you had?

HSV2

4. How long have you had or known you have an STD?

8 years now

5. Do you know how you contracted this STD?

Yes, heterosexual protected sex

6. How has your life changed since you contracted an STD?

Somewhat uncomfortable to answer, but I see myself a bit differently and sometimes turn myself away from women I’m attracted to.

I am still relatively healthy but more in tune with my body nerves-wise when it re-occurs.

7. Do the people who know you have an STD treat you differently than they treated you before they knew?

Of course.

Some ladies that I did have the disclosure talk with are fine. Others were okay for a moment and then gradually did the passive-aggressive fade away.

I don’t tell many people because the stigma is too great.

8. Are you currently under treatment for your STD? If so, please share whether you have explored prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, or holistic and natural approaches.

I refuse to take a prescription out of my dislike of OTC drugs and privacy issues that arise with prescriptions.

So, I do the natural route: good rest, a good diet and avoiding triggers which I had to learn has helped.

IF I feel I might be prodroming [noticing early symptoms], I immediately take L-lysine: 1000mg daily for maintenance, 3000mg during an OB [outbreak] and I heal a lot quicker.

9. Has having an STD hindered past relationships?

Yes.

10. Do you have a significant other? If so, how has this STD affected your partner?

No.

Relationships aren’t even in my scope as much as they were before. It is probably just my own insecurity, but I really don’t think I’m relationship material at this juncture.

11. Have you been sexually active with someone since contracting an STD whom you did not tell you had an STD?

Yes.

I never do it during prodromal or OBs, and usually that person did not express any interest to stay around long term.

Sounds jacked up, but that’s my world.

12. How have you changed as a result of contracting an STD?

Yes, I pay attention to what I eat and try to keep stress down.

Negative changes includes me becoming a bit more reclusive and distant than what I once was.

13. Why are you choosing to participate in this interview and/or is there anything else you would like to share with The STD Project?

I figured it would be good to put something out there.

I try to help people when I can about it, but it’s mostly uninformed uninfected people.

No one I know admits to having it…even HSV1.

It always gets the ‘ewwww’ face and expression when mentioned. I even heard a famous radio personality answering a letter on air the other day, and she answered the question like, ‘You said the man has herpes….ewww, I mean that isn’t good at all!’

That is the prevalent attitude and also the reason I am not 100% in disclosure.

It would turn into a witch hunt and I would be alienated regardless of what people think of me now.

Can you relate to this interviewee? Did it help you to read someone else’s story? Have you experienced something similar or do you have some feedback to share with this individual? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Comments

  1. Laura H says

    As for your comment about the radio personality’s reaction to herpes – go on and preach it, brother! I hate how people seem to think it’s okay to joke about herpes. People LOVE to joke about herpes. You probably don’t notice it very much until you have it (like I do – I have hsv II, by the way) but in movies, at the office, hanging out with friends – people love to say things like, “I wouldn’t date that slut, she probably has herpes,” or “watch out for the dirty underwear on the sidewalk, you might get herpes.”

    The thing is, what’s the latest statistic, like one in five of us have herpes? So when people make these jokes, chances are they are making someone in the group feel REALLY uncomfortable, isolated, and like a freak.

    You know how it became un-PC to joke about things being ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’? Well I envision a world where that will one day happen for joking about STDs. But the only way that’s going to happen is if people like you and me take a stand and speak up. It’s terrifying, I know, but there are A LOT of us out there. If we stop laughing at herpes jokes and start speaking up about how it’s not actually that gross to have herpes and its actually quite common and maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about and who you’re making feel alienated or what the std status of the next person you want to date is going to be… maybe then radio hosts like that will stop making jokes about herpes and all of us will feel that much more secure about our situation.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Laura H -

      What a fabulous comment! I couldn’t agree more. I really do see a world where mocking people with STDs and talking about them in such a cavalier way is no longer considered PC.

      It’s these type of conversations which begin to break down those barriers and misconceptions – precisely! I think others will join us; some already have. It’s merely a matter of time, really, and we’ll be able to change the way people view people with STDs and contracting an STD in general.

      Sure, no one wants a random infection, but for the most part, that’s all STDs really are: a random infection that is the consequence of sharing our bodies with one another, much like the flu or the cold is a random infection that is the consequence of using public bathrooms, sitting next to someone in class, or not washing one’s hands often enough. Neither are the end of the world, and neither are indicative of someone’s character.

      Bravo, chickadee – excellent point and I whole-heartedly agree!

  2. Keisha C says

    I can definitely relate to his feelings of isolation and feeling the need to shy away from people you are romantically interested in. I was diagnosed at 18 and now at 38 I almost feel there is no hope in sight of my ever marrying and having a family if I do not confront HSV2 head-on. However, I am unsure as to how to do it.

    • Jenelle Marie says

      Hi Keisha C -

      I can understand why you’d feel that way. In fact, it’s quite common for people to revert inward and ward off all potential relationships after a diagnosis because of their fear of rejection. I’ve found that ‘fleeing’ reaction to be directly related to how the diagnosed individual feels about themselves and, especially, their diagnosis. If you feel ashamed, dirty, worthless, trashy, betrayed, angry, damaged, or [insert any number of common negative emotions resulting from an STD diagnosis], why would anyone else feel differently? Right?

      That’s the catch – someone will and can feel differently about you, but the work begins within you before you’ll be able to find someone who sees beyond the misconceptions, myths, and stigma. So, how do you overcome your internal stigmas and negative feelings so that you can confidently approach dating again and as one who knows they are desirable and deserving of a healthy and loving relationship with someone else?

      The good news is, you’re taking the right first steps, actually. Doing your research, reading about others in similar situations and educating yourself is key – if you do nothing else, the more knowledge you acquire about your infection, those who contract the infection and the risk of transmission, the better you’ll feel about living with a (common) skin infection.

      From there, you can reach out to us at The STD Project, support groups, and slowly begin entering the dating pool again! It’s possible, but it will take some work, and, in the meantime, you have to resolve to be patient with yourself. Psychologically, you’ve suffered a trauma, and overcoming the corresponding emotions to get to a place where you can incorporate another individual successfully is, certainly, no easy feat.