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The painful aftermath of disclosure

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I dated a man on and off for 18 months and never disclosed my herpes status. We parted ways because he did not want a committed relationship. After seven months, he returned. We are not going to be together because he still doesn't want a committed relationship. But I care about him very much. So, I disclosed. He said that I should have told him. He is right. He was kind and compassionate. I had to tell him because it hurt too much to keep this a secret from him any longer. It hurt most because I didn't tell him from the beginning.


Still, for me I have lived too long in secret, in silence, in shame, in fear of rejection and judgement, and in denial of this infection. During the relationship, I told myself that as long as I did not have any active outbreaks I would be keeping him safe. My shame and fear was so powerful that it over road my internal moral dictates to disclose. I've reached my threshold and I can no longer live in that painful, secret, shameful, fearful place.


I am worried about him. I am worried that he is worried that he could be infected. I am worried whether he is and doesn't know it. This is all so very painful for me that I have caused him to worry. I sent him this factsheet from the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm and a few videos: one from Kirsty Spraggon, TedTalk, Ella Dawson, TedTalk, and finally one with Dr. Peter Leone, MD answering question with a group from YouTube.


The aftermath is an emotionally and physically painful journey that I’ve just began. My mood is very low. My back and stomach ache. And I had insomnia most of the night after telling him. As much as I’m trying to keep my thoughts positive it is a challenge. I am trying to practice self-compassion and forgiveness but I just need to know that he’s ok. I don't know how else to handle this for him or myself beyond this point. This is a most difficult lesson to learn to ALWAYS practice the values I believe in, no matter how difficult it might be to be vulnerable. Doing the right thing is truly the best practice because it allows love to be an action that presides over, and go before, shame or fear.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I feel your pain! your well expressed letter and words describe exactly how I felt about my h, feel at the moment and what just happened to me. Only in my case after finally disclosing my h, in the same manner you described, to the man I loved and was building a strong relationship with for the last 11 months, he discarded me immediately in anger told me this was a deal breaker in our relationship, that I was selfish and unethical. He walked out and left taking all his things in a hurry. This happened 3 days ago.


I have not wanted to reach out to him with support information and articles since he told me anything I had to say was just more selfish excuses.

I'm sure he went to get tested immediately, and I too want to know that he's ok. but I'm afraid my contacting him will only cause him more anger and pain.

I am beside myself with shame, worry for him and grief!

You are so right about this difficult lesson!!! Well said Anewme.

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Indigoway, I am so HAPPY to hear from you. Thank you for your comments and for sharing your experience of love, your journey and your pain. My understanding and compassion I offer to you.


In my experience, I have found that too often I did not offer myself enough compassion, yet I hoped that if someone offered theirs to me it would help me to see myself as good and valuable. In that regard, I have begun to make a shift in my thinking. I know I am valuable and good even without the compassion and approval of others.


Yet, I am so glad when others bless me with their kindness because it helps to create a beautiful world for us to live in. I understand the fear and shame I had of my herpes infection. I have begun to debunk them, starting with my core beliefs of the infection.


Herpes is a skin rash, a virus, not a negative judgement or evidence of who I am. Neither does it rob me of the beauty and value inherent in me. I gave it that power before. No more. I made mistakes, believing the lies of herpes stigma all these years. I had accepted the stigma for myself. Not anymore. Now I treat myself with compassion, kindness, forgiveness, truth and love. Setting the stage that others might do the same.


Putting things into their correct perspective, here are some wonderful ways I have LIVED despite herpes infection. I have seen the beauties and wonders of the world. I have laughed and been happy. I have made love, had orgasm, and felt joy. I gave birth to 3 healthy, non-infected children who are now 10, 18, and 24. I was married for over 14 years, never used a condom and he was never infected. I have loved and have been loved. I have shown and been shown compassion and kindness, love, goodness and joy. I have completed a bachelor, and two master’s degrees. I have been a social worker and now works as a teacher.


Just think Indigoway of all the beauty and goodness you’ve contributed to the world. Don’t rob yourself of the truth. I withheld my sexual status out of fear but I have corrected that MISTAKE. Show yourself understanding and compassion. I have and it feels good to do so. I have come out of the darkness and into the light. These are the decisions and choices I am making, starting with my thinking followed by action.


More good news. That man I spoke of, after disclosing he has texts me, and called me often. He asked me out. I declined simply because I was too busy and too tired to go out on a school night. He works two jobs on the weekend so our schedules conflicts a lot. He treats me as I am: a person. He behaves as he believes he is: kind, compassionate and loving. I am glad for who he is, which enables a comfortable friendship with him. He is not focused on herpes, just living.


See what can happen when we face our fears. It is what I have chosen to do, and how I have finally chosen to live my life. I believe the truth of who I am, not the shame people have assigned to herpes, and certainly not how someone choose to behave towards me after I disclose. I will no longer, or ever again, believe any negative label (deceitful, unethical) someone might call me. I have liberated myself from my self-imposed prison of fear and shame. This is my journey, my life, my purpose, it is to be comfortable with myself and to be happy. I wish the same for you, always. Beverly


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