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Revisiting My Herpes Story and Looking for Hope Again


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Why? Why is this so hard for me to write about something I've been so open about, yet so troubled by, for over a year now? Herpes. That insidious cellular parasite that crept into the nerve ganglia of my sacral cells. Sacral. Sacrum. Sacred?

 

The quote I remember most from Tom Robbin's "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," was, "I believe in everything. Nothing is sacred. I believe in nothing. Everything is sacred."

 

In the past seven years, I have grown closer and closer to believing in the sacred nature of my vulva, my vagina, my breasts, my womb, my clit. I study myself in the mirror. Breasts beginning to sag, their firm, supple nature a relic of a past body, a body that had yet to mother. They are now reminders of the suckling of two tender infants and toddlers, nourished by their goodness during their formative years. My breasts, heavy on my belly, have served their primary purpose. A job well done.

 

My belly, stretched to its skin's very limits, is defined by pale scars, soft depressions reminiscent of tree roots. It protrudes a soft mound of loosened flesh reminding me of its emptiness, void of the life it once had the divine privilege of manifesting.

 

My vagina, in all its pains and glories, sheds the blood of my womb each month with the moon to remind me of my sacred role as a woman, creator of new life. My vulva, sweet mound I hold so dear, home to the holy bundle of glorious nerve endings, all of which I had no words for until post-pubescence. All of the sweet, mysterious sensations that I felt while secretly pleasuring myself as a young child were accompanied by a predominating sense of guilt and fear. There were years of disdain for my vulva. How it looked (when I was brave enough to examine it,) how it felt, when I was finally overcome by desire enough to touch it, and most importantly, how I thought I was supposed to feel about having one.

 

A little girl learns that the pains of childbirth are akin to torture. It filled me with a fear most morose. Menstruation. . ."the curse." I felt condemned to a life of inconvenience, monthly pains, and a dirtiness I was required to hide to avoid embarrassment. Shame. There was no mention in sex-ed of female masturbation, but plenty of information about erections and "wet dreams." I had no language to describe my own experience. I lived with the guilt and anxiety that I was somehow "hurting myself." I lived in fear of the inevitability of the pain that would accompany my first penetration and the new realization that virgin or whore, there lay the same degradation.

 

And now, seven years into my own personal sexual revolution, having finally freed myself of the guilt I harbored for so long for being so sexually alive and curious from such an early age, I must choose to transform my relationship with my herpes virus.

 

Herpes. Oh, herpes. Why must you attack that which I love and pride so much, so violently? Why do you send little shoots of pain, panic, neurotic, spasmodic, low voltage shocks directly through the path that brings me ecstasy? Why do you birth and multiply in my wetness that I once reserved for myself and my lovers? Why do you rob me of my of energy and insist in keeping me away from the goodness of the sunlight? Why do you make me cry? Again, and again?

 

In this moment, I can feel the lymph nodes in my groin begin to swell, trying to protect me from another attack. In my mind, I imagine the beauty of my lover, sending currents of pleasure rushing to my clitoris. I hesitate to engage it. To quell it. To LOVE it. It seems my vagina is plagued and confused by your all too frequent reappearances and sudden disappearences. Can I not grow to understand you better so that I can once again reclaim the purity and the goodness of my sexuality?

 

Today, you make me so sad. You make me wish I would have never trusted my former lover who passed you on to me. But what good is dwelling on regret? This image, branded somehow into my psyche of a single, suspicious, small wound on the tip of a flacid penis. The lovemaking was over when I noticed you. The damage already done.

 

Ten days later, my genitals had not experienced such burning and misery since the crowning of childbirth. And when the diagnosis was confirmed all I could think of was, "No! No! No! Please, no! Not that! Anything but that! There is no cure! It will never go away!" Such a loss I am feeling. A loss of my sexual health, and my sexual freedom, an essential part of my being.

 

I trust that my body, this body who has birthed and re-birthed itself, will in time learn to better accommodate this virus so that it will lie asleep, contentedly asleep. I want to love again. I want to fuck again. I want to be relieved of any shame that I carry for having contracted this disease. I want to enjoy my own body without the fear of an orgasm disrupting the nerve endings and causing me more grief. I want to be understood and accepted. I want to be humbled by the reality of the vulnerability of the human body without wallowing in self-pity and remorse.

 

If I were to believe in everything, and that nothing is sacred. . .then I am one with all that is good and bountiful and beautiful as well as all that is dark and scarce and subject to pain and suffering. If I were to believe in nothing, and that everything is sacred. . . then I fully embrace the same paradox that is life with the possibility of finding something sacred, something true and something to be grateful for. . .in Everything.

 

 

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For context, this story was written by me and published in Christopher Scipio's "Herpes Nation," a few years ago. I am brand new to this site, seeking new perspectives and healing options. I thought I would introduce myself first and share this piece of writing before I really begin to interact. I have been reading the posts of some on this forum the past few days and feel that this site and the people on it, have a great deal of potential and positivity. My Thanks for reading and I hope that you enjoyed it.

 

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This is beautiful. I love the way you write and the straightforward raw language you use. Thank you for sharing! Glad you're here!

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 …
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I love your writing Dom..

Love the line about H lying contentedly asleep...my thoughts and affirmations every day focus on it sleeping - and after 6 months of it being very awake and intrusive it is sleeping for now, I hope a long time.

Every line I could identify with and I thank you for sharing your words, your thoughts, your emotion.

Lelani x

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Hi Lelani!

 

I appreciate that you can dig it! And I am so happy to hear that you are experiencing relief. Sounds like you and I experience this virus similarly. For the last 4 months or so, I experience frequent prodrome (with or without outbreaks,) and I've been depressed and feeling kinda hopeless about my sex life. I really fear passing this virus on. Anyway, let's talk more about this process of singing herpes a damn lullaby soon!

 

Peace,

 

Jessica

 

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I have had a month of no symptoms except maybe a prodome for a day - still not sure of that though.  It feels amazing to feel ';normal'.  I have had sex in the last month with an ex lover and its beeb great - he knows and is accpeting, is ok about me not going all the way if i feel its not safe (and likes the creativity of not going all the way!) and I make sure he showers afterwards each time (and he asks me to shower with him the love!).  I don't feel quite so hopeless now but when he goes away overseas again...sigh...not sure how I will feel about a new  lover.  Like you I fear passing this on..I have HPV too from my ex husbands unfaithfulness.  It's hard to tell someone you are the two for one girl!  Maybe I need to write a lullaby for that too ;-) 

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