“The gift that keeps on giving.” Isn’t that what people jokingly say? If you only knew how stinging those words are. In fact, I hear more jokes about this horrible virus than any others I can think of. Strangers’ random conversations, young people teasing others, televisions shows, movies and even friends.
Well, it is not a gift. Instead, it is an entirely depressing, incurable virus holding any potential relationships in a set of vice grips. Not only wreaking havoc on your romantic life, but also on your entire being. Every time you feel someone staring at you after each doctor visit or with each prescription filled. It destroys you. Or at least any confidence you may have had while leaving your heart writhing in pain as each joke dribbles from the mouths of those unaffected. With each post in yet another ranting style font clearly matching the writer’s lack of knowledge of the matter. Sometimes even in ALL CAPS because, of course, their public comments failed in achieving their desired response. It often seems to me that many really have no idea about the issue itself and only spouts anything out of ignorance with quick and uncalculated responses to others’ postings hoping to garner that all too sought after re-posting. Hoping for it to ultimately result in the even more sought after accumulation of yet another “Like.” There is no care or concern for anyone suffering from it, and it is often assumed that it is 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 by the irony as a friend from years earlier had confided that her boyfriend had given it to her and while I sympathized with and supported her, I was also entirely judgmental in believing it would never happen to me. Then it did.
Flashing back to 2012, it had been several months since I had left my husband and I began seeing someone that I had known for years. This was someone I had known and trusted on a certain level. Not someone I had just met but a relationship. Although, in the greater scheme of things it really makes no difference even if it had been a one night stand. I am simply attempting to dispel the general belief that this only happens to those who are being unsafe by sharing how easily it happened to me and how easily it can happen to anyone.
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 of his own. Guy becomes a shoulder the Girl can lean on, then Guy and Girl take it to the next level. So cliche, but it happens. In my experience, it is the most cliche of things that do. 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…because I do not have one I naturally believed him. Then a week or so later I was not feeling all that well 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 at convincing me that there was no need for me to see my doctor. So I, of course, took their first available appointment they were able to offer. I must give credit where credit is due though, my doctor certainly had a way with words. He was able to make you laugh even during the darkest of moments when you thought it to be entirely impossible.
Upon arriving at the doctor’s office I walked into the exam room, stripped down, put on the gown and waited. Of course, he finally entered the room and as soon as he began the exam he could not help but say “Oh you poor dear, your vagina is so angry.” Uhhhhhhhh, seriously. This is a direct quote from my doctor who then stated that we would have to wait for the blood results for final confirmation but that he was fairly certain it was herpes. In spite of having anticipated hearing those exact words, it did nothing to ease my heart from the piercing pain I was experiencing as they sank in. With no other options, I went home and waited for the results.
Flashing forward several days, I had taken a half day to enjoy spending time with my boyfriend as 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 we met up for sushi. As we sat down at the table my phone rang. Of course, it was my doctor. I sat with one ear listening as he told me that it was in fact herpes, while the other was being deafened by the increasingly unbearable sound of my boyfriend’s laughter. When I hung up I laid the phone down and turned to him saying “That was my doctor, he said it was herpes that I contracted it within the last 1-2 weeks.” He continued laughing and did not miss a beat in responding “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. As we returned to the apartment I told him that he needed to get in his car, drive away and never contact me again. He repeatedly argued yelling we both had it now, so it only made sense for us to stay together. Suddenly, it dawned on me that he had purposely given me this incurable monster in an attempt to force me to stay with him. I snapped. I literally lost it. With everything I had lived through, my childhood, my nonexistent family, my divorce and every failed relationship. I had always gathered every bit of strength to make it through each day until I was no longer fighting. I mean, I was certainly nowhere close to “living,” but I was also no longer living my neverending “daily” battles. Instead, it was almost as though I were living on autopilot. Yet somehow, in that one single moment, he managed to destroy my autopilot button. When we reached the apartment he thankfully got in his car and left as I did the same.
I drove to the local C.V.S. and Walgreen’s where I purchased several bottles of Unisom. I then stopped at the liquor store and purchased a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Upon returning home I cracked each bottle and consumed their contents. I literally chased each and every pill with that Sauvignon Blanc down to its very last drop. The last moment I recall is being in my kitchen when my legs began to give out. I remember the excruciating pain as my head slammed into the counter and I crumpled to the floor. The emotional pain I felt while laying there was so intense, the only thought I had was that I only needed to close my eyes and let go. That if I just simply let go it would finally be over and I would be free.
Of course, several days later I woke from a coma to everyone’s questions and self-blaming. What had happened? Why had I taken such drastic measures? How had they not notice? Plainly put…I could no longer handle the pain. I was born into a world of pain. I was raised in houses of pain. My life was a continuous storyline of pain and I could no longer handle living in the knowledge of such cruelty. 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 inhuman. I could no longer handle hearing his laughter and jokes as though it were nothing. As though my life were of no importance. As though I were nothing. Everything leading me up to that day had finally reached a point where it was too much for me to process. It was too much for me to accept. Too much for anything really.
While I have referred to this incident in prior postings, I have never taken the time to openly discuss it. A few close friends know of it because they were thankfully there supporting me through it all. Still, I would have done anything to avoid speaking of it at all because even to this day the pain is almost unbearable. But something happened this week that changed everything. Today actually. See, last week I began feeling sick (i.e. extremely fatigued, achy, etc.) and I thought nothing of it. Friday rolled around and I began having an outbreak so I, of course, hopped on my supply of readily available antibiotics. Sunday showed up and I noticed soreness in my right pelvic (inguinal) lymph gland, but it was not all that bad so I again thought nothing of it. This morning I woke up, as usual, prepared for work as usual, and started driving to the office when I noticed the pain was increasing. Still, I arrived at work while attempting to ignore it thinking it would go away, but that did not happen. By 10 o’clock the pain had become excruciating. It was difficult to sit at my desk and 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, my emotions began taking over with the fear that this was yet another added lifetime “pleasure” of his wonderful “gift.” I became so emotional that it was difficult for me to discuss it over the phone with my doctor. I was definitely on the verge of tears. Just as I have been while writing this. It saddens me to have to pause my writing while attempting to also pause my tears.
Thankfully they were able to squeeze me in so I later went to the appointment only to be told exactly what I had feared. It was a result of the outbreak and though he could not be certain, it would most likely occur during future ones. Lucky me!
Afterwards, I planned on returning to work followed by curling up on the couch with the furball in a state of depression as I was once again forced to relive the emotions of that day. Somehow I was instead overcome with an anger that I had never before felt. I was supposed to be spending every evening training for an upcoming race. Yet he had managed to also take that 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 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 take my only form of peace. Unfortunately, the pain I am currently in is working overtime in preventing me from doing just that. Does that mean he wins? No. I am instead writing this piece to ensure he never wins.
Strangely enough, I have become accepting of the virus itself. Yet I find difficulty in accepting the overall pain. With every outbreak, I am immediately transported to that horrifying day that it all came crashing down. His laughter continuously rings in my ears as I see his sickeningly twisted smile on the faces of each passerby. My entire being is enveloped by remembering that suffocating pressure of the desire 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 as they feel the life being sucked out of them? How many times have they also forced themselves to laugh at those same jokes to avoid any possibility of someone finding out? How many others have endured that all-consuming, yet entirely unnecessary, feeling of shame?
I know the jokes will never end. I know the assumptions will continue. I am aware of the fact that people may never look at me the same. How could they when I could not even look at myself the same? There are days when I do not even think of it. Not many but they do exist. 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. It creates this stigma when feeling attracted to someone leads me to panic rather than creating an excitement deep within my soul. I am left in a state of fear. I am left avoiding relationships altogether as it is not worth risking the pain of seeing yet 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 that same sun setting. I have accepted 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 those socially accepted and entirely unnecessary jokes. I have hope that others will read this knowing they are not alone. I also have hope that even more will read it and realize how easily it can happen to anyone. Mostly though, I have hope that someone might read this and that it may someday prevent the same thing from happening to them. Most importantly, this can happen to anyone, there is nothing to be ashamed about, and life does go on. See, this is my payback to him. If my story helps even one person living through their own horror story or prevents another from experiencing the same, then I have won. This is my win. Our win.