Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a world that seemed far more perfect than the one I currently inhabit, there was me. A far more uninhibited and trusting me, as ignorant as the next person about just how quickly life can change.
I was 30 years old, and had just started an intimate relationship with a man I had been friends with for over a year. It was fabulous. I was never as happy, before or since. Then, two months later, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. Oops. Still, we were good friends who were now at another level and it was all going swimmingly so there was every reason to begin a family. Even if it was a bit of a shock!
I was four weeks into my pregnancy when I had my first outbreak. I had this amazingly painful “thing”, about the size of a 5 cent piece on the inside of my thigh, high enough that my underpants chafed on it every time I moved a leg. I couldn’t believe the pain and had no idea what it was. By the time I had another doctors appointment the following week, it had cleared up so I didn’t mention it.
Sure enough, a couple weeks later and back it came, as painful as the first and this time I went straight to the doctors. “Looks like a coldsore”, he said as he reached for a swab. I was confused. I have family members who have coldsores on their lips, so I had half a clue as to what he was saying, but I couldn’t comprehend it. A few days later I was back in his surgery and he confirmed to me that I had HSV type 2.
Genital Herpes. Oh my God. What have I done? What am I going to do? How do I tell my new partner? Did I get it from him – of course I must have! Then the doctor gave the worst bit, he said that while I may have contracted it from my new partner, I may well have had it in my body for years with no symptoms. “As the body’s immune system is compromised during pregnancy”, he told me, “it has given the virus a chance to make itself known.” So there was no way of knowing from whom I had caught the dreaded lurgy, or how long I had had it. The doctor then sent me on my way. No further discussion or information. No pamphlets or suggestions on what to do next.
I was due to go out for dinner that night with my boyfriend, he knew I was very upset about something and yet I couldn’t bring myself to say it. To verbalise that I had herpes would be the worst shame, to acknowledge that I was dirty, unclean. And so I broke down on the way to dinner in the car, bawling my eyes out as I told him the truth. Pregnant women have the best timing! He just gave me a big hug, wiped my tears, and off we went to dinner. We stayed together for three years, and he still has never had a symptom.
For that three years, however, I was in complete denial. I didn’t have any information given to me by the GP originally, other to say that as I was pregnant I couldn’t have any medication. My Obstetrician wasn’t much more helpful. I expected him to be, as he deals with that part of the anatomy for a job. He only seemed interested in whether I was having an OB around my due date. So still no information came my way.
I just got on with life and ignored the fact that I had herpes. I had regular outbreaks, every month at the END of my cycle. The OB’s lasted nearly a week, so that meant two weeks out of the month, I was out of action for sex, a situation with did not sit well with my boyfriend. Throw in an extra OB if I was particularly stressed as well.
When my relationship ended I went into the darkest phase of my life. I was depressed because so many things had changed in my life, relationship breakdown, fear of rejection in future relationships and also, as result of being a single parent I had been forced to quit a job I loved in a city I loved to move back to my family in a small country town. Things just couldn’t get any worse!
My sister dutifully started trying to set me up with some local men. She never questioned my absolute resistance. I was terrified that if I liked someone in this small town, I would have to tell him and then the whole town would know. At the same time, there was gorgeous young woman from a neighbouring town who had just started seeing a local lad. On the big night, she told him she had herpes. I know this, because he rejected her and the whole town knew about it by the next afternoon. This really didn’t do much for my confidence in people what-so-ever!
I had moved into my sister’s house and for the first time I had regular access to the internet. One day, while she was at work, I googled “herpes” . I was ashamed to be looking at these sites and closed them down before I even gave myself a chance to look through them properly. I was so paranoid that she would find out! But eventually I got a bit braver and found lots of information as well as support groups. The support groups were the best thing I could ever have found. Who would have known a techno-phobe like me could pick her life up and start smiling again because of the people she met through the internet!!
As a result of my new knowledge, I made a trip to a new doctor and he put me on Valtrex, which has been my miracle drug. I have not had an OB since I started it. I have also gained my confidence back as a person and am planning to travel again. Another benefit of this of this newfound well of confidence is that I have had the courage to actually disclose my “condition” to a few close friends. It was fabulous to talk to some-one face to face about it. I even discovered that at least a couple of my friends have it too, or they have other friends with it!
The future is not bleak any-more. The people who contribute to HSingles/The Hangout have given me back what I needed most: my sense of self.