“The gift that keeps on giving…” isn’t that what people often say in jest? If you only knew how stinging those words actually are. In fact, I hear more jokes derived from this one virus than any others that I am able to think of.
Well, it is not a gift. Instead, it is an entirely depressing, incurable disease that holds any potential relationships in a set of vice grips that not only wreaks havoc on your romantic life, but also on your entire being. It destroys any confidence you may have had while leaving your heart writhing in pain with each joke spewing from the mouth’s of those unaffected, or posted in yet another ranting font clearly matching the writer’s knowledge of the matter. Sometimes even in ALL CAPS because of course the act of saying anything about it at all did not achieve the desired response. It often seems to me that many really have no idea about the issue itself and only post things out of ignorance following others’ postings of similarity that have garnered that all too sought after re-posting, resulting in the even more sought after “Like.” There is no care or concern for the people suffering with it, and it is often assumed that it is strictly reserved for those who are “promiscuous,” “loose,” “sluts,” or just plain dirty. Well, here is the truth…
I have it.
In fact, I am struck at the irony as a friend from years earlier had confided in me that she had contracted it from a boyfriend and while I sympathized with and supported her, I was also entirely judgmental in believing it would never happen to me…and then it did.
Flashback to 2012…
It had been several months since I left my husband and I naively began seeing someone that I had known for over ten years. I feel the need to stress that this was someone I had known and trusted on a certain level, not someone I had just met, it was a relationship. So I am sure you know how the story goes: Girl is going through a divorce and is friends with a Guy who also recently went through one. Guy becomes a shoulder for Girl to lean on, then Guy and Girl take it to the next level. So cliche, but it happens. Anyway, as I am sure you can imagine things quickly turned sour.
Long story short…okay, okay, a mildly shortened long story…we were in the bedroom as we often were, when he whipped out his penis as he often did. Unfortunately, this time was a little different in that it looked a little different. There was a spot. Of course he used any excuse he could by saying it had chaffed throughout the day and…well…I do not have one so naturally I believed him. Then a week or so later I was not feeling all that great and began noticing something…you know…”down there.” He told me it was nothing. He told me I had probably chaffed too. He even went as far as to tell me it was most likely from shaving. News flash, I have shaved for almost 20 years and never had something such as this. He continued his attempts in convincing me that I did not need to see a doctor, so of course I ran to see my doctor who I must give credit where credit is due for he certainly has a way with words, always finding humor in the worst of situations even when most might not.
Doctor’s office: I walk into the exam room, strip down, put on the gown and waited. Of course he finally came in and began the exam by saying “oh you poor dear, your vagina is so angry.” Uhhhhhhhh, seriously…this is not a joke, but a direct quote from my doctor who then informed me that he had to wait for the blood results but was fairly certain it was herpes. Even though my mind had anticipated hearing those exact words, it did nothing for protecting my heart from the piercing pain I felt as they were sinking in.
I went home and waited for the results.
Flash forward a few days…
I had taken a half day to enjoy spending time with my boyfriend, yes I was still with him at this point. I left work heading to the Secretary of State’s office to file a document and then met up with him for sushi. We sat down at the table just as my phone rang. Of course it was my doctor, so I sat there with one ear listening as he told me that it was in fact herpes, while the other was being deafened by the sound of my boyfriend’s laughter which had become unbearable. Then I laid the phone down, turned to him and said “that was my doctor, he said it was herpes and that I contracted it within the last 1-2 weeks.”
He looked at me while continuing to laugh and said “well, it is the gift that keeps on giving.” (Seriously.)
It was at that point that I had made up my mind. I asked the waiter for the check, which I paid and as we returned to the apartment I told him that he needed to get in his car and never contact me again. He repeatedly yelled and argued that it only made sense for us to stay together since we both now had it, which is when it dawned on me that he had purposely given me this incurable monster in an attempt to force me to stay with him. So I snapped. I literally lost it. With everything I had been through in life, my childhood, my lack of a family, my divorce and every failed relationship, I had gathered every bit of strength I could to make it through day by day until I was no longer fighting. I mean, I was certainly nowhere close to “living,” but I was also no longer struggling. Almost as though I were on autopilot, yet autopilot became impossible in that moment.
So he got in his car and left as I did the same.
I drove to C.V.S. and Walgreen’s where I purchased bottles of Unisom, followed by the liquor store where I purchased a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and returned home where I consumed everything.
I ended up in a coma for several days and everyone was left wondering what had happened. What had caused me to take such drastic measures? Simply put…I could no longer handle the pain. I could no longer handle living in a world where such cruelty is so prevalent. I no longer wanted to be a part of a world where a human being, especially one that I had known for so long, could be so entirely inhumane to another human being. I could no longer handle his laughter and jokes as though it were nothing. As though my life were of no importance. The pain of knowing someone could do that to another was too much for me to process. It was too much for me to accept. Too much to anything…
While I have made references to this in prior postings, I have never taken the time to openly discuss it. There are a few close friends who know because they were thankfully there supporting me through it all. Still, I would have done anything to avoid speaking of it because even to this day the pain is almost unbearable. However, something happened this week that changed that. Actually, today. Last week I began feeling sick (i.e. extremely fatigued, achy, etc.) and thought nothing of it. Friday I began having an outbreak so I of course hopped on my supply of readily available antibiotics. Sunday rolled around and I noticed soreness in my right inguinal lymph gland, but it was not all that bad so I again thought nothing of it. This morning I woke up as usual, got ready for work as usual, and began driving in when I noticed the pain was increasing. Still, I went into work attempting to ignore it thinking it would go away, but that did not happen. By 10 o’clock it was excruciatingly sore. I thought it might be related to my outbreak, but this had never happened before so I was a little worried that it could be something more. At the same time I became so emotional in that this was yet another added “pleasure” that I would have to deal with for the rest of my life…so emotional that it was even difficult for me to talk to the doctor’s office on the phone. I was definitely on the verge of tears…in fact, I am at this very moment while writing this. It is sad when you have to pause your writing in an attempt to pause your tears.
So I went to the appointment only to be told exactly what I had feared, that it was a result of the outbreak. While it could not be foreseen, it would most likely happen during future ones. Lucky me!
My plan was to return to work followed by a night of curling up on the couch with the furball in a state of depression, but somehow I was instead overcome with an anger that I had never before felt. I was supposed to be spending this evening training for an upcoming race and he had somehow managed to take that away from me, along with the ability to ever have a normal relationship. In fact, there was a lot he took from me that makes me so angry. I wanted nothing more than to go running anyway just to spite him. Just to show that I was not going to allow him to also take my only form of peace. Unfortunately, the pain I am currently in is working overtime in preventing me from doing just that…so does that mean he wins?
Strangely enough, I have become accepting of the virus itself, but am unable to accept the pain of that moment. Every outbreak immediately transports me to that horrifying day it all came crashing down. His laughter rings in my ear as his sickeningly twisted smile begins appearing on everyone’s face. I am swallowed by the suffocating pressure of making the decision to end it all, which left me wondering how many others have had this same type of experience. How many others are repeatedly forced to cringe through those jokes that suck the life right out of you?
I know the jokes will never end. I know the assumptions will continue. I am aware of the fact that people will never look at me the same. How could they when I cannot even look at myself the same. There are days when I do not even think of it, but not many. There are times when I consider entering into a relationship, but then fear that dreaded conversation. I might be crazy in saying this, but telling someone you have herpes is not sexy and does nothing for setting the mood. I am no longer living in the days where attraction to someone creates an excitement deep within me, but rather live in the days where I am left in a state of fear…ultimately deciding it is not worth risking the pain of seeing another person walk away. I want to though. I want nothing more than to find someone to spend my mornings watching sunrises, while curling up with hot tea as we watch the same sun setting. I have just accepted the fact that it may never happen, but also remain open to the possibility that it might.
I do have hope though. I have hope that others will read this and think twice before making the socially acceptable, but entirely unnecessary joke. I have hope that still others will read it and know they are not alone. I have hope that even more will read it and be aware that it can happen to anyone. Mostly though, I have hope that someone might read this and gain knowledge that will someday prevent the same thing from happening to them.
You know, recently I posted a picture of myself that created a lot of positive feedback. Everyone (including men) told me how “stunning” and “beautiful” I am…I wonder if those opinions will change after reading this.