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Dealing with the herpes stigma

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Hello all,


I was diagnosed with herpes about three years ago. At first it was devastating. I lived in denial with it for about a year, and then I slowly began to accept that I had this diagnosis. At first it was hard for me to believe that anyone would ever be willing to have a relationship with me because of herpes. However, herpes has allowed me to do a lot of inner work on myself and I have learned to love and accept myself even with herpes. If anything this experience has been a blessing because it has caused me to take a break from romantic relationships and work on the most important relationship of all; the one with myself. I have learned to accept herpes for what it is. An annoying skin condition that flares up from time to time and causes a lot of inconvenience in my life! Having herpes does not define me in any way. I am still a brilliant, smart, compassionate, good person. This doesn't change anything about who I am as a person. However, I am struggling with the stigma associated with having it. I feel that other people's perceptions of herpes is so false. I feel that society rejects people with herpes and it is making me lose confidence in myself. I have been dating a guy for a few months and I feel that the time is coming to share with him that I have herpes. I am just so afraid of how he will react when I tell him. We have a very safe and communicative relationship, but I am just so afraid that he will reject me when I tell him.

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Hi KatieAnne, well it sounds like you are well on your way to accepting yourself. I hear you on the whole fact that society rejects people with herpes and it is making you lose confidence in the same way. But at the same time, society rejects almost anything, acne, non-whites, poor people, short people, non-educated people, disabled people, people with hepatitis and HIV, drug addicts, alcoholics, parents with too many children, eastern Europeans, people who wear burkas, etc etc etc. Not that your feelings are not valid of course, because I feel the same way and it really hurts. But what I mean to say is that no matter who we are "society" will find a way to make us not accepted. For example, even before I had herpes, I was not confident in myself. I am mixed-race, short, and am skinny with a small pot-belly. I wore glasses and braces at the same time and wasn't cool. Then I became a drug-addicted alcoholic sleeping rough. Contracting this herpes thing didn't really help. I never told anyone for the first 6 years and kept it all to myself pretending it didn't exist and killing the pain with drugs and alcohol. Needless to say I am far from being recovered from all this. BUT... but. I could have gotten Hepatitis or HIV. Things that actually really impact my health. I'm lucky to be alive, let alone only having this in terms of a health problem that affects my sexual and relationship life. I'm not saying that you are the same at all, I'm just sharing my story in case you get something out of it by chance. I'm just saying that according to "societal standards" nothing is good enough anyway, so those are not a healthy way of judging yourself.


I understand your fear of rejection. I fear rejection all the time. If I was in your position, of course I'd be really scared too. But... remember that if he really loves you he can look past this. I know people who have HIV who are in happy relationships. If he wants you, he should be willing to look past this. If not, remember that you have it in you to be able to make it with or without him, even though it might suck at first. You said it all yourself: "Having herpes does not define me in any way. I am still a brilliant, smart, compassionate, good person." You have all the knowledge within you to beat this judgmental and self-depricating voice of lies! I can tell that you have it all within you because of the way you've been talking about yourself at the beginning of this post. But I know exactly how you feel. If you want you can message me, or maybe we could even Skype! I'm up to talk and to support you, because that's what this community is for :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi ellemmell,

Thanks for your support! You are right I guess "society" does reject a lot of things in general and not just herpes. I just have to figure out how to love myself despite this label and what other people think. I think anyone could find one thing about themselves that they could be rejected for. I too did not have a lot of confidence before the diagnosis. Contracting herpes was just another challenge that I needed to overcome on my journey. In a way, having herpes has been a blessing because it has caused me to slow down a bit in my romantic relationships, and really decide if I see a long term future with a guy before I disclose my status.

I did end up telling him I have herpes, and he was okay with it. At first, I was so confused because I had built up all of this stress and anxiety over telling him. For a week straight that is all I could think about. Everyday I analyzed every scenario that could have happened after I told him. Once I told him he was not shocked or scared or anything. I told him that I have a sexually transmitted skin condition that is known as herpes. I said that it is very common, that 1 in 4 people have it, but most do not know. He said that he was aware of that and knows how common it is. He said that his ex-girlfriend has HPV and he understands how common STD's are. I told him that there is a risk of contracting it, that the risk is really low. He was completely okay with it and said that it doesn't change anything about our relationship. I told him to feel free to ask me any questions about it and that he is more than welcome to come to the doctor's with me to ask any further questions. We haven't had sex yet because I really want to be sure that the relationship is serious before I become that intimate with someone. However, for the time being it is nice to have someone else know my secret and be totally okay with it.

On a side note I am so happy for you and all that you have overcome in your life. You are a really positive person and I am so grateful for that!


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