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Dealing with stigma

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I've known I have the HSV-2 virus for about 3.5 years. I contracted it from my first sexual partner; he showed symptoms, which prompted me to get a blood test. He had been tested before we had sex, but now I know that herpes is not included in a regular STI screening. I already knew I had type 1 because I've had cold sores since I was a child. I've never showed any symptoms, so the blood test is the only reason I know I carry the virus. Anyway, that relationship ended in September 2015. Although it was a bit scary to get out there again, I disclosed to someone in November and he responded very positively. However, for other reasons I ended the relationship because we were not a good fit in a number of ways. I met someone in mid-December and we started talking almost everyday. I wasn't even sure I wanted a relationship with him, although I liked a lot of things about him. Last week I started to have feelings for him, and we kissed this previous weekend. Then, I invited him over for dinner during the week and I planned to tell him then, as it would have been our fourth date. It seemed like we were great for each other. We could talk on the phone each night and it was fun. We both like the outdoors and for our third date, went XC skiing. I felt comfortable with him and he expressed that I was amazing. He even told his mom that there was something special about me.


Fast forward to after dinner. We had had a great time. Laughing, talking, listening to music. We were standing in the kitchen making out, but nothing too crazy. I stopped and said, let's go to my bedroom. As he sat down on my bed, I said to him: "there's something I need to tell you and it involves my sexual history. I contracted herpes from my ex, and he was the first person I was with. I know lots of information about it so if you have any questions, I can answer them." I didn't cry, I didn't get hysterical. Obviously I sounded serious, but I told him that I don't show symptoms, that it's a low risk, that it's fairly preventable with condoms. As I talked though, I could sense him pulling away emotionally. It was almost like internally he went "Ohhhh." He said to me, "I didn't even know you had it." Being the sort of sarcastic person I am, I said, "well, it's not like I have it stamped on my forehead." I think his reaction sort of spoke to the idea out there that you can tell by looking at someone if they have an STI. I said to him, "You could even have it, as it's not included in a regular screening." He said, "No, I don't have it. I've specifically asked for that on my STI test." You know what? Good for him for knowing that. But it was kind of said in a way that was a bit self-righteous. He started saying, "you're a really great girl" and patting me on the knee, even though a minute before he was all over me. He said he needed to think about it and that he's not great at responding to shocking news like this.


I said he could have some time to think about it and I was trying to be understanding, but inside, I don't think I was understanding. I wanted the same reaction from him that I got from the first guy. Anyways, when he got home, I started sending him all these resources and he said he had read them and it put his mind at ease, but he still had to think about it. And he basically stopped communicating with me in the way that he had the past few weeks. I went to bed feeling sick about it; I called a few of my friends and they were shocked by his reaction, based on how common they know it is in the population. They told me that it was about him and that he had these prejudices about herpes that he was not willing to challenge. I woke up throughout the night constructing what I would say if he told me he wasn't comfortable dating me anymore. And I started to think, "Why does he get all the power in this situation? Maybe it's a deal breaker for me that he responded so poorly." I started to feel unattracted to him as I thought about the look he had as he sat across from me when I told him. I think it's because that's the first time I had felt shame when telling someone. I had told about 12 people, including family members, friends, and partners, and none of them had me feeling this kind of effect.


The next day, I decided to send him a message first. I was pretty straight forward, telling him that I was looking for someone who was mature enough to handle this kind of information and who thinks I'm so amazing that the small risk is worth it. I told him that I am looking for someone who challenges their biases and assumptions, and who is confident enough in themselves that they're okay with risking the possibility of contracting herpes. He responded saying that he's sorry it's a "stipulation" for him and that he's sorry he caused me grief about it. So, a fairly diplomatic response, but I still cried after I read it. I think I would have let him think about it if he had responded by saying, "I don't know much about it and I want to read more and think about it-you're definitely worth looking into it more. But let's cuddle or continue to make-out and I want to continue talking to you." But he physically and emotionally withdrew from me, and that's not okay-it showed he was afraid. I had vowed to stop dating guys who make me feel that shitty early on in dating.


I know I'm "supposed" to be understanding when people aren't comfortable with it, but I'm not. I think it's wrong that people are discriminated based on this; this is the first time I've had to be openly discriminated against and face prejudice. I know I'm a white, middle-class woman, so I don't have to face daily, blatant discrimination, but my first experience with it has been horrible. I feel this sense of injustice and I'm really angry about it. I want to change his mind. I guess this is probably how people feel when others are racist and they're treated badly because of it--they want to change other people's minds and make them less racist. Because to someone like me, who works to be accepting of people and non-judgmental, it's very difficult for me to understand how he could meet someone like me and connect so well on so many levels, and then give it all up because of this minor thing. Based on my current level of 0% outbreaks, the only thing we would have to do is use condoms! It's not like we would even have to take breaks from sex because I am having an outbreak. It's just extremely frustrating and although I spent yesterday and today reading articles on STI stigma and people's experiences with disclosing (mostly positive), I still have moments where I want to burst into tears. This one girl who has a video on Upworthy (it's amazing, by the way) called herpes her "douchebag detector." And while I totally agree with this, it's still hard to accept that he's probably going to be a great boyfriend to someone else, and I just get to miss out on that because I happened to contract herpes?


This makes me want to be a greater advocate against stigma, to be more open about it with people and educate them, so others don't have to experience the small-mindedness of potential partners.


I guess I'm just looking for people who've got my back in this situation and who can see where I'm coming from.

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"I woke up throughout the night constructing what I would say if he told me he wasn't comfortable dating me anymore. And I started to think, "Why does he get all the power in this situation? Maybe it's a deal breaker for me that he responded so poorly." I started to feel unattracted to him as I thought about the look he had as he sat across from me when I told him. I think it's because that's the first time I had felt shame when telling someone"



YOU GET IT! YOU GET IT! WELL DONE! Honey, it is a completely normal reaction to cry after ANY rejection! If it wasn't a rejection from H, you'd cried from a rejection of something else from him! You owned this shit out of what you thought and how you handled it and I bow down to you w that! Very perceptive and empowering that was of you!


As @wcsdancer2010 will tell you, men who are just worried about getting INTO you and aren't really INTO YOU, will react this way. Trust me, you are so better off than wasting your time w him. #DontWasteMyTime2016 ! New hashtag!


There is a difference between ignorance and judgement. He encapsulates both. Trust me, you are so much better off for it. I had a guy have an issue w my hypothyroidism, because of health issues it can result in and WEIGHT GAIN!!!! Mind you, I hadn't even told him how I have endometriosis, Sjogrens and H for that matter. He couldn't even handle hypothyroidism for the love of God! It told me so much more about him and not in a pleasant light, so I kicked his ass to the curb. People will reject you for all sorts of reasons! People reject us all the time for traits they don't like in us, but we seem to take H rejection much more personally, which actually says nothing about our character. Say Bye Fillipe! (Male version of Felicia). Is your rejection of H any different than my rejection of hypothyroidism? Hypothyroidism doesn't even have a stigma!!???.. Well, I guess it does, which is equating to getting fat. So I was rejected for the potential of being fat. Does that help put things into perspective for you?


Lemme explain something, when we are rejected for anything, we always want to try to prove people wrong, it's no different w H . we have to stop categorizing H, like it's any worse than being rejected for my thyroid disease, which isn't a communicable disease! People just suck! Fuck him and FUCK the high horse he rode in on. Own your shit girl, like you did in the first half of your post.


You state "he's probably going to be a great bf to someone else";... please recognize for your own sanity, that you are romanticising this man for someone he is not. Girl, he is going to put someone else through a whole host of other bullshit you don't want. He'd never be a good bf. Trust. Light that fantasy on fire.... No . blow it up, because it's a figment of your imagination. Our imaginations are the most dangerous and threatening to our well-being, than any rejection or failure we will experience in life; recognise that, disarm it and then keep on trucking on.


We got your back 100% gf! I think you would be an amazing advocate and we could always use more of you! Hugs! You got this girl!

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@2Legit2Quit: Thanks so much for your encouraging words! I've been remembering them throughout the day today whenever I started to feel down. I especially like these lines, "Fuck him and FUCK the high horse he rode in on" and "Girl, he is going to put someone else through a whole host of other bullshit you don't want." I just have to keep repeating this stuff in my head! I know this intellectually, but of course, I miss the things about him that I liked. Your response helped me feel like I did make the right decision at not giving him more time to think about it (and do the "rejecting"). I am learning to trust my gut and my gut was saying, this isn't okay, and you don't deserve to have someone make you feel this way.


I'm just scared now about being rejected every time I tell someone! Please tell me this isn't going to happen! That would be kind of devastating and might make me lose some faith in humanity. And I don't want to have to "settle" for someone just because I have H. And I won't. I'd rather be single than be unhappy with someone I don't really love and respect.

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Honey, I've disclosed twice and wasn't rejected. I had 7gfs w H, before I got it and 5 are married now, 6 w kids, 1 has been married 2xs now and only one has ever been rejected for it, when she was in her early 20s. That guy was still willing to sleep w her though, so it was just an excuse. I can't promise you won't be rejected again, just like I'm sure I'll get rejected at some point, but you gotta remember, that it's no different being rejected over some trait you have, that a guy finds annoying. H isn't defining you and if a guy allows H to define you, he never defined you by your worth and character from the get go and instead was defining you by what's between your legs. He Likely was not in it for the long haul to start. I had a friend who was rejected, her and the guy stayed friends (this was her first rejection ever in the 9yrs she had it); 3 months later he told her he didn't care, wanted to be w her and felt she was worth the risk. So she has him go get tested and low and behold, he comes out positive for HSV 2! Can you believe it!? Herpes was a deal breaker for him and he f'ing had it all along!


I know easier said than done, but don't focus on worrying about being rejected again and I say that, because I did the same thing when I was dating. Usually by week 3 after stressing over it or rather obsessing about it, I'd find by week 3 or 4, he wasn't a good fit for me and it made me realize how much I wasted my time stressing. Remember, it's not all about soneone accepting you, you're interviewing them too essentially and making sure they are deserving of you. Every time you start obsessing, stop yourself and worry about that for when you actually get to the day if disclosure. It's such a waste of energy worrying about something you have no control over.

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This Huffington Post essay published yesterday, "You Never Know Who You Are Talking To: Making Stigmatizing Assumptions About Health," seems like a relevant contribution to this thread: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chelsea-jack/stigmatizing-assumptions-about-health_b_9044440.html. In full disclosure, I wrote it about my own experiences feeling stigmatized by other people because of a medical condition that I have. I am grateful for people contributing journalism and writing that helps stop producing the corrosive, vicious, destructive effects of shame -- and that helps others recover from those effects.


More specific to herpes, this essay was published on NPR yesterday, "A Common Secret: Struggling with the Stigma of Herpes": http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/22/463845334/a-common-secret-struggling-with-the-stigma-of-herpes.

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@caj2aa thank you for sharing the articles, they were both well written.

I have trouble with disclosure, the stigma, related to my disease. If I didn't have it, and I didn't love the other person, would I continue on with them(if they had hsv2)? In all fairness my honest answer would be no. I'm new to my hsv2 diagnosis (6 months), so hopefully my thoughts will change more towards the positive....but I agree, the emotional stigma associated with this can be awful.

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@ LB12 I completely understand where tour coming from. So far I've had the samething happen to me twice. It's really taxing on me emotionally and mentally. I first found out about it a week after i got marriedand my ex wife said that she was ok with it and that she loves me and we'll work through it but over the last 2 years of the ending of our marriage i could see the look in her eyes were different. There was no desire for me all, i tried so hard to bring the romance back and her hart belonged to someone else now I've been single for a while I've tried to get back out there and it just sucks. I've meet 2 women that i really liked and wanted to be with and ad soon as i told them it was a complete 360. It was both at the same time or anything lol they were both months apart. But it just hurt so bad. I was told the same thing you were told that i was a good guy and i was amazing, but i guess that's not worth anything anymore. I mean i understand where they're coming from but it does suck for people like us who are constantly rejected. I'm having a really hard time dealing with it cause. When my ex left she left 2 states away and took the kids. Now i live in Baltimore and i dont know anyone. So I've had ti deal with my divorce, my separation from mt kids, the lose of my family, doression, loneliness, the list goes on, I've had to do it all by myself. I think thats the worsed part of it all. Im also just looking for support, a friends, something so that i can feel normal again. That's the reason i joined this forum, so far i haven't really interacted with anyone yet, but the information is good and the stories. But i still get depressed.

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@al: I'm sorry to hear that all of this has happened at once for you. Again, all I can say about the rejection is that it takes a lot of courage to even disclose and says a lot about who you are as a person. Additionally, those women obviously either weren't into you enough (which sucks to hear, but do you really want to be with someone who's not into you 100%?) or it's a limitation in them. And I honestly believe that. Because I think that anyone who does the research and thinks about the impacts of H and still chooses to reject a great person is afraid of the stigma, not the actual virus itself. Stigma makes me so angry! But we want to be with open-minded people, not those who will run at the smallest sign of illness-what else are they not going to be there for in life if they can't accept something this small? I would recommend looking up Ella Dawson, who has written prolifically about H. She also has an hour long interview with Adrial, which I really enjoyed and the last fifteen minutes were incredibly inspiring and hopeful. Additionally, a book that I have read and implemented in my life is titled "Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff. I recommend it to almost everyone I know-it's really helped me not beat up on myself and has increased my self-confidence and self-worth. And if you really need to talk to someone and don't have anyone in your life that you can trust, you can always see a counsellor-make sure to see someone who does not stigmatize H because that would just make it worse. Not all counsellors/therapists are good, so it's important to find a compassionate, open-minded one. Keep reaching out for support on here!!

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How you disclose and when you disclosed, can be key. When someone is attached to you and has feelings for you, they won't reject you. I was very ocd and anxious about everything when in my 20s and I dated a guy for 3 months, had us geta tested before sex and he had genital warts. Before caring for him, I'd said no to someone and always thought I wouldwouldn't be someone who had an STD, but once your feelings are there, it changes things complettly and I married him. I also never got it. He did leave me less than a yr later for someone else though.


If you're struggling @al the way you are w the current state of your life, you may be letting off a vibe that they pick up on. It is in my personal opinion, it is only Best to date when w H, when you feel you have nothing to lose when it comes to rejection... That you're kinda just like meh,... Oh well.. Another one bites the dust. If you go into dating obsessing about the rejection, it comes out in subconscious behaviors we do and sends off bad vibes to them, because thenthemepting you, is really coming from a place of validation, which equals needy and codependency... Huge turn offs for people. . Sure, rejection is scary, but I think because I'm in a place and learned not to care and obsess over finding someone, it makes it a lot easier for me. I suggest working on yourself and making a fulfilling life for yourself first, before you worry about dating. I always explain to people how I was rejected a yr ago, over having hypothyroidism. I didn't even tell him about my other autoimmune diseases, let alone H... But I was rejected over the possible health implications of it and potential for getting FAT... That's right. Rejected over the potential of getting FAT from a disease I cannot spread. Do you think that's any different than being rejected over H? I thought this guy was the biggest douche canoe after that one. I didn't beat myself up, view myself as damnaged goods, etc because of my hypothyroidism, yet people act that way when rejected over H. Rejection is rejection, as soon as you stop applying the stigma of H to rejection by your own doing, the sooner you'll be able to realize that it's not different than be rejected over something else. Don't make the assumption that the person ONLY rejected you cause of H. The reality of it was, it forced them to evaluate how much they liked you and if they coukd see you long term and it showed them, they don't see you that way. That's it .. It just made them address it faster, rather than drag things OUT, just for the sake of wanting to date someone.

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@ 2Legit2Quit

I agree with you. I'm just gonna take it easy and focus on what needs to get done with me. I actually have a few fights coming up anyhow so i don't really have time to date anyone anyhow. But when i feel ready to date again maybe giving girls with H isn't a bad idea. But i wouldn't even know how to go about that. It's not like it's writen on our foreheads lol. Something i would like to do is meet with people with the same condition just to hang out. I libe in Baltimore now and my days are work and boxing, its pretty much all work no play with me. I obviously don't know where your at but if people get together from this site in the Baltimore area countme in. Thanks for the advice.

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There are meetup support groups for herpes, you should try looking into it. Also, positive singles and other STD dating sites are out there. Remember, the numbers are actually in your corner, because you date women. 1 in 4 women have ghsv 2, that's not including those w ghsv 1. You can almost say 1 in 3 have genital herpes at that point.

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H2O Dc had a Web site and check the events section. I like the BBQ they have in the spring and fall.37 year vet here and divorced 6 years ago. It just amazes me the H effects us all the same no matter what the age. Just the longer you have had to deal with this the more you become a duck and let this stuff roll off of your back. There are all ages at these function not just old timers. Riggs

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"This makes me want to be a greater advocate against stigma, to be more open about it with people and educate them, so others don't have to experience the small-mindedness of potential partners."


This is how I've been. Since I found out back in June/July I've been extremely open about it with my friend group, a LOT of ex-partners (did about 6 months worth for "hey you should get tested..." but then went and told quite a few others). I've met a few girls with it who have kept it private from everyone, including their best friends. I've gotten a few to become more open about it themselves, that by hiding it we increase the stigma instead of showing people just how common it is and how even them (or people in their group), can get it quite easily.

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I've gotten a few to become more open about it themselves, that by hiding it we increase the stigma instead of showing people just how common it is and how even them (or people in their group), can get it quite easily.




Not saying that everyone MUST "come out", but the more people who do, the faster the stigma dies. As Brene Brown says:


If you put shame in a petri dish it needs 3 things to grow exponentially - secrecy, silence, and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame into a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive.


So - a couple thoughts on this thread from a 35+ year carrier.


1) If you can look at those who buy into the stigma as ignorant, you can feel more empathy for them, AND you can then let go of their reaction to your disclosure. Odds are they have "A Little Learnin" ....Alexander Pope's Poem describes that as "A dangerous thing" ... they don't know what they are REALLY turning down. It's their loss, and YOU are the one who comes out ahead because if that person ditches for something like Herpes, imagine what will happen if something else happens to you?


2) Herpes is but one of many, MANY things people can reject you for.... so why take it so personally? I "reject" potential suitors all the time who have young kids, who smoke, and honestly, who don't fit into the body type that I'm attracted to. It's nothing personal about them. In fact, I've been really disappointed to learn that one of my deal breakers came up. But it's my right, and my choice. As @2legit2quit mentioned, she's been "rejected" for having hypothyroidism fer-Christ's-sakes! So you can blame Herpes for all your future "rejections", or see it as a Wingman, a filter, to help you to find the RIGHT person for you :)

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