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Trying to make sense of a HSV-2 diagnosis + symptoms


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I'm a 38 y/o female recently diagnosed with HSV-2 last month. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to me!
 
I don't know where to begin. Like others, I joined this group to try to make sense of, learn, understand and cope with my diagnosis so that I don't feel so isolated, alone, scared and depressed. 
 
As a little bit of background - my husband died in April of last year from cancer. Prior to him, I had tested negative for HSV-2 via a blood test after my last sexual partner. I never had any issues while we were together so neither of us ever got tested and nothing ever came up during my regular pap smears (I'm also learning now that herpes testing isn't rolled up into the usual STD test check unless you specifically ask for it.) Surely I would have thought something would have surfaced for one of us as he was immunocompromised for a period of time and I was under immense stress as his caretaker. Nothing. 
 
In an effort to cope with my grief + loss and trying to fill this massive void in my life, (and the fact that I hadn't had any sexual activity for a long time), I had sex with a friend for comfort + pleasure - unprotected. We started engaging in unprotected sexual activity at the end of October and this went on weekly. It wasn't until the end of November that I started to feel off. It was right after I had a bikini wax and we had sex not even 24 hours later. 
 
It started with pain and friction - but I chalked it up to my bodysuit and high-waisted jeans and sitting for far too long that night. But the next day I noticed white chunky discharge and pain when I urinated. I self-diagnosed myself with a yeast infection and began treating with monistat at home with no avail - just A LOT of pain and burning. I got my period shortly thereafter and my symptoms seemed to improve. I ended up having sex after my period ended and it was incredibly painful. It felt like sandpaper. I assumed the irritation I felt was strictly from the friction and lack of lubrication and maybe I had gotten a small tear because of it. The next day I started to come down with a really bad sinus infection that lasted for 10 days. Fast-forward to the following week (we're mid-December now) and after sex again, I go to pee and it burns like hell. I knew something wasn't right at this point. I made an appt with my GYN for peace of mind, fully expecting to walk out with a recurrent yeast infection or BV diagnosis, only to be swabbed (I literally screamed it hurt so badly). My GYN brought me in the other room and told me I had genital herpes but the swab would confirm that, and it did. I could not believe this. I was in denial and to some extent, still am. My friend has never had any signs or symptoms of herpes but did test positive via a blood test shortly after I received my diagnosis. I understand it can take the body up to 3 months to build antibodies and if we started having sex at the end of October, and he tested end of December, there is a chance I could have given this to him. 
 
The 2 or 3 lesions were SO tiny right below the delicate folds at the bottom of my labia. I would have never seen them otherwise. I started on Valtrex 2x a day for 10 days and have been on it 1x per day ever since. 
 
Things seemed to get better pretty quickly once I started to take the medication, and I was starting to get relief and feel somewhat normal again, but then they took another turn. Over the last 2 weeks, I've started to feel symptoms of a yeast infection again (redness, irritation, pain with urinating, white chunky cottage cheese discharge) but also a tingling and burning sensation too. I took diflucan, waited a week, tested positive for yeast, so took another dose of diflucan. Now I have my period so it's hard to say if the discharge cleared or not. 
 
But even after both doses of diflucan, I'm still feeling this burning inside when I urinate and this pain and irritation from the bottom of my vulva to my anus - like I'm wearing a tight thong that's way too small for me but I'm not. I don't see any redness or sores anywhere. Just this constant discomfort. And when I went for a walk today (I'm very active) the pain was almost shooting up my backside to the point I had to walk very slowly and practically limp home. Even sitting and standing, I can still feel it kind of throbbing. It kind of feels like the first episode in late November. 
 
I don't understand what's going on and how to tell what is causing what 😞 I thought after the lesions healed and cleared, that the outbreak was over. 
 
1. Could I be experiencing another OB but without the lesions this time? And only 2-3 weeks later? Or could it be the same OB just dragging out? It's just weird it got better and then worse again. Do symptoms usually get better when lesions heal? 
 
2. Does it sound more likely that I got exposed to the virus from this friend and that this isn't recurrent?  When the symptoms started, I wasn't under any stress or experiencing any of the common triggers for an OB.  I can't help but think this is a new virus I just acquired and my body is trying to fight it/make sense of it. Is it possible that I could have all these symptoms with a first OB but I've had the virus for years unknowingly? 
 
3. As if I didn't already struggle with shame and guilt for sleeping with someone else so quickly to ease my pain and distract myself from truly healing - but now I have this  fear and anxiety that no one will ever accept and love me now - widowed AND I have genital herpes. I spend ALL day on these forums and the internet searching, reading, trying to understand, and it's consuming every part of my mind in an unhealthy way. I'm not sure if it's helping or making me more paranoid after reading some of these horror stories that I feel so badly for others for. And now I'm stressing about not stressing so I don't get more OBs! 
 
4. Does anyone have any other remedies or supplements you recommend in combination with Valtrex? I'm currently taking 1000mg a day to suppress symptoms. My GYN said to do this for 3 months and then if no OBs we can decrease to 500mg. I've read some studies on Reishi mushroom spores also supposed to help with outbreaks. 
 
Thank you for letting my share and I really appreciate everyone's help + support. 
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Hey there @here2learnm0re,

I'm really sorry to hear about everything you're going through. Losing your husband and then dealing with a new HSV-2 diagnosis is a lot to handle, and it's totally okay to feel overwhelmed and confused.

Firstly, it's important to know that herpes symptoms can vary a lot from person to person. What you're describing could be a continuation of your initial outbreak, or it might be a new one. Sometimes, symptoms like itching, burning, or even the sensation you're describing can happen without visible sores. Stress, illness, and even menstrual cycles can trigger outbreaks, so it's possible that your body is still adjusting to the virus.

It does sound more like this is a new exposure rather than something you've had for a long time without knowing. It's not uncommon for symptoms to show up weeks or even months after being exposed to the virus.

I get that you're feeling a lot of emotions right now, especially with the fear of being alone and not being accepted because of your diagnosis. But remember, herpes is a common condition and having it doesn't change who you are or your worth as a person. Many people live full, happy lives with herpes, including having loving relationships. It might be helpful to watch the "Inside Coaching" videos here to practice getting into a positive perspective and finding the opportunity in this (as strange as that sounds, I get it!)

As for supplements, it's great that you're taking Valtrex as prescribed by your doctor. Some people find that Lysine supplements, zinc, and vitamin C can help, but it's always best to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements. Every person's body reacts differently, so what works for one might not work for another.

It's really good that you're reaching out and trying to understand more about your condition. But don't let it consume all your time and energy. Maybe consider talking to a counselor or therapist (I also offer one-on-one coaching), especially with everything you're going through. Getting focused support can help you process your emotions and guide you in coping in a healthy way.

You're not alone in this. Many people on this forum and elsewhere understand what you're going through and can offer support and advice. Take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. You got this!

Notes:

  • My mother is now in hospice with end-stage cancer, so I am at her house a lot these days helping where I can until she passes. Thank you in advance for understanding if I am not as quick to respond as I normally would be. This is a precious and bittersweet time …
  • This content is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis. I'm not a medical professional, so please take this as friendly peer support. 

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