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12-month reflection - H+ was a bump in the road of depression - and things are starting to look up!

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I've had genital herpes almost a year and a half but was only diagnosed about 6 months after contracting, due to a mis-diagnosis at the time I contracted it (I had a bacterial AND fungal reaction to that partner, with whom I had unprotected sex, which is apparently common for some women i.e. to be sensitive to new sperm, but as a result herpes was overlooked). He was morally the worst kind of giver - he was a casual partner, I found out after the fact that he was actually a reality TV star in his country (he told me "actor") who had appeared on shows about sex and dating, and he probably had around 200+ sexual partners. We had had a talk about being 'clean', and he vehemently denied having anything. He was also only my second sexual partner ever, after my first who was a long-term, loving boyfriend. It was a time for me to experiment a little, and I was unlucky.


I spoke to past partners when I was diagnosed, including my first (before I knew it was my second), which was awkward but okay. The biggest disclosure to me was my recent ex at the time, who I dated after the giver, who I had regular unprotected sex with (i.e. only oral contraceptive pill) as we both regularly tested for STDs (not herpes, it's not a standard test even when you do a 'comprehensive' check in any countries I've lived in) and believed to be clean. I felt very bad for him as he was a really good guy and I wouldn't have slept with him without disclosing if I had known. He was the kindest of all, most understanding and reasonable, and we had a couple of long conversations about it over Skype (I had since left the country back to my home country). It probably added to the difficulty I had in getting over him, because he was such an amazing guy about it! To this day it seems he did not contract it, but we have since lost contact so I'm not sure if he's had a proper test for it (he said he wanted to).


Aside from herpes (I'm nearly 24 now), I had already been struggling with depression on and off from age 14. Herpes obviously took a huge hit on my self esteem, given mental health was already a major battle for me. On the depression front, I qualified for some government funded counselling sessions and have been to 2 of my 4 allocated sessions. They've been some of the best therapy sessions I've ever had and I do believe I may be able to manage my depression well once and for all (I previously felt like it defined me and would plague me forever). Now I know that depression, anxiety, stress, anger, grief, are all tied with normal emotions and are a part of a normal life! Therapy is not about 'healing' or 'curing' this, but realising that 1) we are not defined by transient emotions that everyone experiences, and 2) those things are an inevitable part of life, but 3) life is SO much bigger than that one small part, and we focus on filling our lives with all those other things that make it beautiful, even in the simplest of ways.


I've spoken a little to the therapist about the herpes and it has been in the context of my wider mental health management. Which again is kind of helpful because it is just another part of life! Of course I still struggle, but joining this website has given me even more hope after going through this personal journey for the last year.


I've had one disclosure since diagnosis and he took it well, however 1) the sex actually wasn't good in the end for me (kind of funny and ironic because it was almost like I'd lost sight of whether I'd actually enjoy the sex and want to repeat it, as all that mattered in my mind was disclosure), and 2) it felt like he avoided sex on the second occasion, though I can't be sure about that and ultimately it doesn't matter because when we ended things, I was upset for a day then totally fine. For me, with my depression, that speaks volumes, because I had ALWAYS been too invested in relationships before. This showed I was approaching relationships more maturely and valuing myself more, even with herpes!


The last thing for me to come to terms with was forgiving my giver. And I actually don't want you guys to shame him, even though he is pretty much the worst sort of carrier (and verbally abused me etc. when I had the talk with him despite the fact he gave it to me, probably knowingly), because I've realised some things. 1) he has it too. He struggles with it. He's probably been depressed about it and certainly self-loathing. He's done terrible things but he isn't a monster. 2) demonising him also demonised the herpes for me and demonised myself. Thinking he was repugnant made me feel repugnant. He did a morally bad thing but he's still human and herpes should not be a death sentence for anyone! 3) it's not okay for him to continue not to disclose and I hope he no longer does so. I'll never know, there's nothing I can do, and you bet that haunted me for a long, long time. But I have to realise that we are always exposed to risk when we have sex, and that non-disclosing H+ people is sadly a fact of life, but again, the world must keep turning and it is not a death sentence, though for its emotional toll it's not something you'd wish on anyone. 4) All I can do is work on my personal journey, hope to find more open-minded people about H+, and work on my fears about disclosure and realising it's okay for me to date people and that I deserve to be loved, H+ and all.


Much love to all.

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