If you haven’t already, please go back and read this first… as this is the sequel of my “unpacking” on this journey…
I left the clinic and walked slowly to my next class. There I was standing in the middle of University of Florida’s campus, surrounded by 52,000 students… yet, I felt so alone. I called my boyfriend and told him what the doctor had said, he denied having herpes, and said I must have gotten it from someone else. I was furious. I could have reached through that phone and strangled him. How could he turn around and accuse me? Where was his sympathy? There was no doubt in my mind that he infected me, AGAIN — he was the first and only person I had slept with in my entire life. So, to all those judging me, I wasn’t some harlot on the corner of 59th street. I was like many young girls, I trusted and loved (so, at the time I thought it was love) my boyfriend.
I went to see him that weekend, so I could show him what the disease was doing to me. He shook his head and said that he’s never had anything like that show up on his own genitals, and couldn’t possibly have been the one to give it to me. Is it possible that he didn’t know he was infected? Why didn’t he want to accept this obvious truth that was staring us both in the face. Neither of us could deny these ‘pimple-type-blister-like-canker-sores” taking over my most intimate space.
The moment of truth came just as we pulled into the Greyhound bus station that Sunday and my phone rang.
It was my doctor, “Your results came back positive,” she said.
I didn’t respond. I handed him the phone. My head began to spin, everything and everyone around me became a blur. As if someone had just laid a bag of bricks on my back, I stumbled to the side of the Greyhound bus station wailing. My legs gave in beneath me, I fell on the curb and I wept.
Needless to say, I didn’t get on the bus that day. We went to a park and talked. We comforted ourselves with the thought, “Well, at least it’s not HIV and it’s not fatal.” It still didn’t take the pain away. “I guess we have to get married,” I said, “I can’t be with anyone else now.” He nodded.
Let me share a few of the painful memories I’ve lived through with this disease:
Memory 1: My roommate and her friend were watching a show on television and during commercials, an ad for Herpes came on << They laughed and made fun of the people in the commercial. Making remarks such as, “Why are they smiling? Who could possibly be happy with herpes?” They looked at me to join in on the joke with them… and I did. I laughed with them. I had moved into an apartment by this time. I turned and walked into my room and cried.
Memory 2: I had gone to visit my friend in her new apartment and the night before she had some friends over, one of them stayed the night. She was doing laundry at the time and said to me, “Girl, I have to wash my sheets… ‘Anna’ spent the night, and I think she has herpes.” I responded… “Yeah girl, you can never be too careful.” Another punch in the gut.
Memory 3: I was walking to class and set up alongside of one of our popular plazas was a mobile “blood donor” station. There was a guy standing outside the bus trying to recruit those passing by. He looked at me and said, “Hey! Why don’t you help us out today?” I responded, “I can’t.” He pleaded and said it would only take a few minutes. I looked at him with tears in my eyes, “Sir, really, I can’t. My blood is infected.”
Memory 4: Taking my medicine in secret. I didn’t want anyone asking me why I was popping pills. Hiding my medicine bottles. I didn’t want anyone googling the names of my medicine and discovering what my condition was. I learned to live this double life, the Mac who had it all together in public and the Mac who was crying her self to sleep at night.
I won’t pinch your heart with anymore of my painful memories. I just want to challenge you to be ‘careful’ with your words. I faced this silent struggle alone, I never told my best friends or my family. Why? Because I didn’t want people to treat me differently, talk about me, be afraid to touch me or start ‘acting weird’ around me. I just wanted to be normal. I’m reminded of my pain everyday, and I don’t need those around me “helping me remember it.”
I became an expert on Genital Herpes. I couldn’t understand, how he had infected me because we ALWAYS used a condom. The doctor explained to me, condoms don’t cover a man’s balls –excuse my colorful tone- and when we had sex, his balls touched the lower part of my vagina.
Herpes is spread through SKIN to SKIN contact. That is it. No penetration. No exchange of bodily fluids or saliva. Just SKIN to SKIN contact. Did y’all hear me? Just SKIN to SKIN contact (of the genitals).
I didn’t need to let him “hit it raw” to get it. Genital Herpes is a viral disease, like HIV, it’s in your blood. You won’t always have an outbreak, like I did, but once you get it, you have it for life. You can even go 10 years without ever seeing any physical signs of the disease. So, please… if you’ve ever played “just the tip” or have ever had sex with someone … do yourself a favor and go find out where you stand. Especially if you’re a woman and you want children, doctors will need to handle you with special care during the delivery of your child. 1 out of 6 people are infected. So, yes… by the time you count your mom your dad, your brother, your sister, your cousin, and your friend — ONE of them is infected.
So, what do you even say if someone would ever trust you enough to invite you into this space?
Tell them, “I Love You.” — Hug Them.
And then ask them, “How can I be a friend to you through this?”
I don’t need any sympathy. What I do need from you, is for you to share this “page in my book” with six of your loved ones… Just six of them. Not people you “think” might have it, just six people in your circle. I’ve put this out on the internet and I want people to know they’re not alone. So help me to do that please… Go ahead and share, reblog.. however it is you do what you do. Thank You Vulnerabites. I Love You.
PS. Be patient with me please as I unpack this… My story isn’t over. I’m trying to keep these entries “bite-size-able”… Look for my next entry in a few days or subscribe so you’ll know the moment it’s released.
The Naked Writer