‘A Letter To My Future Self’
Written by Marian Nicholson with comments by Daisy
I know exactly how you’re feeling. You’re 26, (34) and you’ve just found out from the doctor that you have herpes. You’ve just burst out crying in front of the awkward-looking trainee GP.
(You’ve broken down in tears in your bedroom. The world feels like its ending. No one will ever want to have with sex with you again. Touch you even. You are infected. Dirty. Disgusting.)
You feel like your whole world is over, you’re damaged goods and no-one will ever want to have sex with you again.
(Yes, this is totally me now. It feels like the world has ended. I’m angry at them (yes – I was an idiot twice) and mostly at myself because at the end of the day it was my body and I could have stopped this. Could have prevented this. I will never forgive myself for this.)
You’re going to spend the next week in the flat, crying, downing wine and despairing at the terrible injustice – you only had sex with him one time! And you didn’t even really like him!
(I am not going to spend the week crying, because in my life so far, let’s be honest more shitty life altering crap has happened to you. But you are undoubtedly rocked to the core. And let’s be honest, if Mr Unavailable cared so little about your body to protect you from getting pregnant and catching anything then yes, you do need to think carefully about how he fits into your life.)
Well, I’m pleased to say that ten years’ later, you’re doing great!
(Of course, you are. Great! And amazingly! You don’t know this yet, but you are extraordinary. )
Yes, at the beginning it was difficult, and maybe you did avoid some romantic encounters because you felt insecure about having to tell someone you had herpes. But then, about a year later, you met _____ – such a great guy. You waited until you’d been out a few times, and you were about to get near to having sex, and then sort of blurted it out. And he was absolutely fine about it! You ended up dating for almost a year, and then after that, you went on to have three more really happy relationships. No tears, no rejection – everyone you told basically shrugged their shoulders and never mentioned it again.
(This is hard to believe now, but I do have faith. I do have hope. The more I read about this, the more common it seems to be and the more people seem to have it.)
Then you met the person that you would end up marrying. You were really nervous because you knew he was someone special. You spent the whole meal trying to eat your dinner and follow the conversation, with heart pumping at deafening volume. Well, that was an anti-climax – again -just a shoulder shrug and ‘Oh, I don’t know much about it but I’m not bothered at all.’ Cut to 5 years later, and we’re still going strong.
(I do believe this will happen, I haven’t given up hope. One should never give up hope. Because at the end of the day, hope is what keeps us going.)
So, what I’d love to be able to do for you (and everyone who might be going through something similar) gives you a giant hug and tell you that IT WILL BE OK!
(I needed to read this here, but also hear it from one of my closest friends. She and her partner have it, and have had it for years, and look at where she is now and what she is doing. It’s not life ending don’t give up hope. This is a blip. It really is.)
You are the person who will be the most worried about things – not your future partners. They will choose you because they fancy you and love you – as you would for others, because why on earth would you not go out with someone because of a skin condition? How ridiculous! And if you do come across someone who judges you on the basis of that skin condition, do you want to waste your time with someone like that? There are so many good ones out there.
(That is what really strikes me, it’s a skin condition. It’s not killing me. It’s really important that you keep reminding yourself about this.)
Honestly, the hardest thing you’ll have to get over is your own feelings of shame and embarrassment – and you’re still working on it (that’s why I’m using a pseudonym here). But there are people like Marian and Nigel trying to break down that stigma, and in time maybe you’ll work up the courage to be 100% open.
(The more people who talk about this, and show it’s not a life-ending life-shattering diagnosis the more that stigma will be reduced about herpes. Daisy, suddenly realises that this sort of thing happens to people like her because things need to change. People need to talk about this, and a difference needs to be made to end the stigma.)
But in the meantime, dry your tears, and try not to worry too much about the future, because it’s a really really happy one.
Lots of love, you +10
Thank you to https://herpes.org.uk for their informative and helpful website. If you have a moment please consider having a look and educating yourself of this misunderstood disease.
This is what other sites don’t tell you:
- Genital herpes is caused by a herpes simplex virus (type 1 or type 2) – nearly everyone (70%) will catch at least one type, sooner or later.
- Most don’t know they have it: 1 in 3 will have symptoms and get diagnosed. The others have mild symptoms and so they are unlikely to be diagnosed – or they have no symptoms at all.
- The word ‘incurable’ is used to make it seem important when it isn’t.
- Some people get recurrences and we can advise on how these can be reduced and stopped.
- Many other infections stay with us – chickenpox, glandular fever are two. Other infections also hide in the body. Nobody makes a fuss about them.