I'm a 19 year old female and I was diagnosed with genital HSV-1 about 5 months ago. It's been an emotional roller coaster, but I think my biggest problem is that I haven't told a single friend and I feel really alone. I'm glad to have found this website and I want to share my story, my fears, and my hopes.
I was a freshman in college and I had just gotten through a lengthy, emotional breakup with my high school boyfriend. I was in a bad place emotionally and ended up drunkenly hooking up with a guy I had recently met. I was drunk, but sober enough to decide not to have sexual intercourse with him. He was okay with that and said he wouldn't want me to do something I'd regret in the morning. That's the part of this memory that always sticks out to me because of the irony-- the one guy who actually said the words "I don't want you to do something you'll regret" is the one guy I got herpes from. He performed oral sex on me-- only for a few seconds, but those few seconds were enough. I guess he had a cold sore in his mouth that I didn't see or was contagious without symtoms that night, because a few days later I started to feel something was not right down there. It got tingly and itchy and I just knew. I went to my school's health services and got tested. The nurse told me it was HSV-1. I felt broken. Luckily, my nurse was absolutely wonderful and helped me realize that herpes is an incredibly common, harmless skin condition, and that it's a caution sign, not a stop sign for sex.
Talking to the nurse was incredibly helpful, and she made me feel a lot better. I now know myself that herpes isn't such a big deal, but I still have to deal with the fact that so many people are so poorly educated on what herpes is. When I told the guy who gave it to me what happened, he was shocked. He had no idea that the cold sores he got as a child were from HERPES. He said, "So you're telling me I've had herpes since I was seven?!" He had no idea that I could get genital herpes from him. He felt bad that he gave it to me, but I hadn't really processed the information, and I played it down a lot, making it seem like it was no big deal. Now part of me wishes I had gotten mad and yelled at him or something, because I still have a lot of pent up anger towards him, and I feel like he doesn't really "get it." See, we continued to hook up and see each other a little bit for a little while. I tried really hard to like him because I felt like now that I had herpes, he was my only option left. I knew deep down I really didn't like him all that much, and if it weren't for the herpes, I would not have stayed talking to him for that long. But then we stopped seeing each other, and he started seeing another girl. I just lost it. That's when I had my first total sobbing breakdown about my herpes. It wasn't because I wanted to be with him or was jealous, it was just so unfair that he could just go off and date someone new that easily, like nothing had happened, because no one cares about "cold sores," while I felt like I was stuck in my own horrible world of fear that I would never be able to get close to anyone ever again.
Herpes is affecting me very strangely. I've started to become a perfectionist because I'm so scared of rejection that I feel like I have to be perfect in every other way in order for anyone to ever love me despite my herpes. My self-esteem has never been great-- that's part of the reason why I was hooking up with random guys this year: I'd always be so surprised and flattered when anyone was interested in me or thought I was attractive that I would just go with it and hook up with them. I can't even imagine someone being so into me that they'd accept me despite my herpes. I have this growing, desperate need to become better than what I am now, to become the Perfect Version of Myself. I think it's a good thing to want to improve oneself, but I worry that I'll never be good enough. I know I need to love myself before anyone else can love me, and what if I can't do that?
Most days, I can be pretty clear-headed, even optimistic, about my situation. Since HSV-1 doesn't favor the genitals, I don't have many outbreaks. I just have to deal with the stress and fear of other people's reactions. I have come up with so many ways in my head to tell a significant other that I have herpes. I haven't met anyone special yet that I would have to tell, but I'm terrified for when that day comes. I know that herpes will force me to raise my standards to partners who are mature, respectful, loving, and intelligent, and that's not a bad thing, but I often fear that I won't be able to trust anyone. Another thing that scares me is the fact that I go to such a tiny school, and if I made the mistake of telling the wrong person, everyone could find out.
I'm sure I'm forgetting things that I wanted to say, but I feel a lot better having typed that all out. I guess I'm just emotional tonight because I think I'm having an OB. It's only my second one ever, since genital HSV-1 doesn't show up as much as HSV-2, but the fact that it's there again after 5 months is this reminder that it's REAL and it's STILL THERE and it will always be there.