When I first noticed the two little bumps on my vagina, back in January 2015, I thought they were anything but Herpes.
I remember sitting in my bathtub, mirror in one hand and my phone in the other, rapidly comparing the bumps to every picture on Google. They didn’t look like anything I saw online. I thought I had Genital Warts, or Trichomoniasis.
But it took my doctor a grand total of five minutes during our appointment a day later to diagnose my STD—
I had Type One Genital Herpes.
After the appointment, I sat in my car and sobbed for twenty minutes. I took off work for the remainder of the day and stayed in my bed.
Within the next week, I had contacted my sexual partners and told them the diagnosis. I remember sitting on the phone, explaining what my STD was, explaining that everything would be okay, comforting them.
I had spent so much time trying to prevent an STD, I never thought I could live with it. But now, a year and nine months later, I can think of more good things about having Herpes than bad. Prevention will always be important. But surviving after the fact can be beautiful too. So today, here I am going to celebrate it with this list of the things I love about my STD.
1. I am more aware of my body than I ever would have been.
On season two of "Orange is the New Black," Sophia Burset (played by Laverne Cox) gives a kick-ass lesson on the woman’s vagina. Not only did she point out where the pee hole is (otherwise known as the Urethra), she explained how to find the clitoris and defined every other part of the vagina.
Personally, I agree with Burset. There is nothing more important than knowing your own body. As someone with a genital STD, I have to know the difference between scar tissue, a pimple, and a herpes sore.
I also have to be aware if there’s a slight tingle or itch that could signal an outbreak. And since I have to do regular mirror checks, I am also aware if there’s anything else going on with my body.
In a way, this process is empowering. I feel in control of my health. And this is something I encourage everyone to do, STI positive or not. So in the words on Sophia Burset, “I want each and every one of you to go back to your bunks tonight and get to know your own chachas, okay.”
2. I can tell when a partner will be worth my time, and when they won’t.
Foremost, there is nothing wrong with choosing not to have sex with someone who is STD positive. However, if both partners are using condoms and being on the proper medications, there is also nothing wrong with choosing to have sex with someone who does have a sexually transmitted infection.
This is not only a personal choice but also a choice for the couple to make together.
I have chosen to be with people who don’t want to have a sexual relationship. But I have found more often than not, most people don’t mind. We use protection and talk about it, but we still have a meaningful sex life.
However, there are also the people who find me disgusting. Tinder can be a beautiful place, but with my status on my profile, I have received multiple messages telling me I shouldn’t be dating, that I’m nasty, or multiple offers for anal sex because obviously, that is still safe (for the record, it’s not). Oh, the Internet.
And no matter what, I know that the people who choose to be with me want to be with me. And it makes my relationships a little more meaningful.
3. My friends know who to turn to when they have a scary sexual experience.
It amazes me how many people are STI positive and never tell anyone except their partners. I have had numerous coworkers and friends come up to me and talk about their illness. And still, one of the most important things I’ve ever been told was one of my best friends telling me they probably wouldn’t have handled getting herpes if they hadn’t met me.
It always makes me sad to learn one of my friends has to go through an STI, just as I would be sad if someone got any other serious illness. But I love knowing that my friends can talk to me about STIs and safe sex in general. People don’t want to talk about sex. And I make it a point to talk about it whenever I can get away with it. It’s time we start communicating with each other.
Having Herpes will never be easy. I still get upset when I think I’m about to have an outbreak coming on. I still meet people I really like who blow me off because of Herpes. And there will always be people who will view me as a "slut" because of my disease.
But it is not the nightmare that every herpes joke wants you to believe. There are many things I love about my disease, just as there are many things I hate. It is an everyday process of self-acceptance. But I am happy. And I know that I am loved.