So, this weekend amongst all the sex talk, I was asked questions about living with herpes. It's amazing how little people know. And I had also been thinking about the regrets I do have in my life, so I figured I'd combine the two and tell about my experience.
What is my regret? That when F had sex with me and didn't tell me until the NEXT time we had sex that he had herpes, that I didn't kick him in the balls and send him packing. He, though, is one of these men that have a radar for women that they can control. At the time I was this o so wonderful combination of a headstrong woman with almost no self esteem. I had been laid off, had been working 10 jobs (almost literally) to make ends meet, and had had a boyfriend dump me because it was the best thing FOR ME. Oh lordy.
He acted like it was no big deal. He said his previous girlfriend had never gotten it (come to find out later that they actually never ever talked about it so he had no friggin idea whether or not she had it). And I believed him. I didn't even do ANY research! OK, so that is another regret - that I went against all my normal instincts and did not do research. I believed he would always know when he was active.
So, anyway, pretty soon after that he literally almost died. He had a box inserted in his chest, and when he came back from the hospital there was a pity fuck. (Oh well, there goes my pg rating). And from that pity fuck I got herpes, because, you see, there can be times when someone might not know they are active and can pass it on. In his instance, who knows, he perhaps knew, but did it anyway as yet another way to bind me to him.
The night I realized I had it, I told him to come over. The fucker didn't want to admit that I had it! I had sores all over my crotch, and I didn't have it!? Then, he says it's no big deal because it has no real impact on people - it's just an inconvenience. (from this relationship I learned how to yell)
The next day I called my doctor and left a message, and received no call back. I sat sobbing on the living room floor because my world had just changed, and I had herpes, and noone seemed to care!
I think I went and did some research, and found out many things. You can not know you are active and pass it on. You can not even know you have it and pass it on. That for women it can be a big deal, because it can mean you will not be able to deliver a child vaginally. And while some people can have very few outbreaks, other have many many more. But indeed it is not life threatening. The initial outbreak is always the worst, to the point that you can lose your ability to urinate.
Mistake reading that. Mind over matter, or just that I have a weak body. It is such a strange feeling to not be able to pee. Just won't come out. When I called my primary care doctor, again I didn't get a response. So, me with little money had to call my gyn to go in and get catheterized. I had to walk around with a catheter for a week I think.
When I took it out I may have been able to pee a few times (standing up, slightly bent over, in the shower), and then I couldn't again. I went to the emergency room because it was a weekend, and of course I was not a life or death emergency, and the waiting room was full, so I sat there. In come two paramedics that I knew (I had volunteered at the local firehouse), and they asked why I was there. I told them and they offered to transport me to an emergency room that they knew was not busy, which was soooo nice. They did it, and I was catheterized again.
I don't remember now the next sequence of events, but of course eventually I could pee again. And of course it turned out that I was one of those people that got outbreaks frequently. In the early times it was because I had so much stress in my life being with him. It took me a long time to leave him, because of my tendency to persevere and also to sometimes not set my standards high enough. But eventually I did.
And then my life with herpes being around OTHERS. :-) I went to one support group early on and it wasn't really helpful for me. I didn't want to think of myself as tainted and thus unable to date 'normal' people. (there are people with herpes who think they can only date other people with herpes). What I did want and did get was educated, and buy the very excellent book that the American Social Health Association puts out on herpes, because when I dated others, I wanted them to be educated. I had relationships with non-herpeed men, and dated one guy who had oral herpes (who got it by going down on a woman who did not tell him she had herpes). I told people that I had it (but did not wear a scarlet letter H), and one friend said she had it too - she got it shortly after marrying her husband, but her husband insisted he did not have herpes, which caused quite a few problems early in their marriage. And she was not unfaithful - it could have laid dormant in her from an early relationship, or he could truly have not known he had it.
Very early on I decided to take drugs daily to suppress the herpes, which work really well. It has the potential to do bad things to your kidneys, so you have to get them checked regularly. I only went off drugs when I knew I wouldn't be having sex for a long time...
So what is it like when I get an outbreak? I rarely, even if off drugs, get a severe outbreak, meaning getting sores. A severe outbreak for me feels more like I have paper cuts in my crotch. Yeah, not pleasant, but not horrible either. A mild outbreak just makes me itchy. Since it's a type of pox, it sits in my nervous system (read about chicken pox and you will see it's the same), so sometimes my leg feels kind of like it's gone to sleep, or just achy.
What does it mean overall for my sex life? Well, condoms rule, though condoms don't protect from every part of me, so therefore there's still a risk. (condoms don't bother me too much since I've not been able to use bc pills since my early 20's, so I relied a lot on them anyway) And well, it's been a lonnnnnnnng time since anyone's gone down on me (though there is the possibility of dental dams or even saran wrap, it hasn't happened). And it means no hanging out cuddling after orgasm (man's) since he has to go wash with soap and water (soap and water do get rid of the virus and it seemed like a good idea to me, and noone I've been with has gotten herpes so maybe it works...). And it means if my husband and I didn't work out, I couldn't go around banging every guy on the street because I have to be honest about it, and it's a big decision if the person does not have it. It's a risk, a calculated, informed risk, but a risk nonetheless since there's a few percentage chance that even though I take drugs I could have asymptomatic shedding.
The thing is, people don't think about herpes. Yet it's out there, and there's no vaccine, and no cure (why should they find a cure when it's such a booming drug business controlling it?). So many people have it. And some don't even know. So anyone who's having sex with multiple partners can get it. Or be passing it on and not know it. Or know it.
So, there you go.