Maybe I should wait til I’ve had a little bit more sleep, and a clear head before writing this.
***WARNING*** Extremely personal and graphic content!
My inspiration for writing this little Public Service Announcement is the rather large grouping of 1-inch diameter blistered red splotches that are scattered across my back right now. To my painful and itchy companions: I dedicate this song to you.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on all things STD, or even an expert on Herpes. My purpose is only to share what my experience has been.
I was the girl who had her chastity belt tightly locked. My first real kiss was halfway through my junior year of high school, with my first real boyfriend. I dated a lot, but my affections were very carefully placed.
I had every intention of being the pure virgin bride that my young women leaders spoke of. Really, to lose my virginity before my wedding night never crossed my mind. Mom and I would have lengthy discussions about “what I would do if ____ happened” to prepare me for any eventuality or temptation. And for the most part, it totally worked. It never even occurred to me that my friends weren’t holding themselves to the same goal.
But then. . .
A year after I graduated from high school I moved to Logan to go to USU and live with some of my best friends. Boy! To say that I was in for a rude awakening was a gross understatement.
Fast-forward a few months to my first frat party. Fraternities at Utah schools are such a deception. They are full of returned missionaries and church members so one gets a (very) false sense of security in attending their parties. Did any of you know that there are returned missionaries who drink???
I never drank, and had no intention of drinking. I can have a great time without any assistance, thank you very much. Even with all of the booze, frat parties were still a lot of fun for me. We would go and dance, and flirt, and have fun and then go home. One night I ended up in one guys room, but we just hung out. (really. it can happen.)
So when the next guy at the next party asked me if I wanted to go to his friend’s apartment, I readily accepted. Fun! Maybe we’ll shoot some pool, or watch a movie! (this is the part where you shake your head at my naivete. I’m fully aware of how stupid I was.) I told my friends that this guy would take me home and we left. He was a returned missionary, after all! Everybody knows that you’re completely safe with a returned missionary!!! (!)
What I didn’t realize was that he had already downed a significant amount of booze, and fun and conversation were not on the agenda. We ended up where everyone reading this already knows where we would end up- in some random bedroom with him fumbling with my belt. I had no idea what to do. I wanted acceptance, I wanted a *little* action, and thankfully that was all he wanted too- but his definition of a *little* action was a bit more broad than mine. After a bit more fumbling, and some kissing, he passed out. On top of me.
I got out from under him, and tried to find someone who could drive me home. There was not an even moderately sober person in the bunch that were strewn across the sofa. I walked back up to campus, tears streaming down my face, and eventually found a kind custodian to let me in to a locked building to use the phone. My friends came and got me. They had been worried and when they saw that I was upset, they became frantic. I was embarrassed beyond belief as well as ashamed and disappointed in myself. I went right to my room and didn’t come out til the following afternoon.
My friends assumed the worst, and Lee was about to call the police. I stopped her and very quietly told them that it wasn’t rape- not even close- but that I had let him touch me “down there.”
“Are you kidding me???? You’ve never done that before???”
I was shocked and appalled and even more embarrassed (although for a different reason now) and relieved.
I knew that what I did was wrong, but now that I knew that EVERYONE did it, I didn’t feel QUITE so badly about it. So when I was hanging out with my Arabic friend and his cousin invited me back to his bedroom, I was a bit more prepared for what was coming. I knew exactly where I would draw the line this time. I drew the line, and we had our “fun”. (Let’s take a moment to remind everyone that I am not proud of this behavior. If I could go back and un-do this, I would. I most passionately, earnestly, would. Nothing good came of this. Nothing.)
But it wasn’t fun. I went to the Bishop and confessed. I felt horrible. (those poor college ward Bishops. They’ve got to be so sick and tired of hearing the same pathetic stories day in and day out!)
A few days after my experience with the Arabic guy I started feeling a bit itchy “down there.” I thought it was a standard yeast infection and got some cream to take care of it. But it wouldn’t be taken care of. It got worse. It blistered. I had lesions all over- inside and out. They started out as small, smooth bumps, blistered, and then scabbed over. Over and over and over again. I never knew such misery. The pain was at times unbearable- accompanied by the itch. I couldn’t concentrate in class. I could barely sit. What on earth was happening to me?
No way was I going to a doctor.
Lee, the pragmatic one, went to a health fair on campus and picked up a pamphlet on genital herpes. She laughingly tossed it to me and I laughingly took it and read it. By this time I had found out that a few of my friends had been sexually active for years. The rest had been intimately familiar with several guys, and not a single one of them had contracted anything.
You mean to tell me, that TWO guys touch me and I get an STD?
Fingers. It was passed from one of their hands to me.
That’s all it took.
You’ve heard the stories, the numbers, the scare tactics, and they are all true. For every person you touch, you are touching everyone they have touched too, multiplied by every one you have touched. Two people who have touched four other people each are sharing up to 250 partners with each other.
Let me tell you how it played out:
I suffered through the first month- long outbreak, as well as many monthly week-long outbreaks for several years. When I finally had an established relationship with an OB/GYN I got up the nerve to get some help.
(Expensive help. Valtrex, with my insurance, costs $60 per month. The generic is cheaper, but doesn’t work nearly as well- hardly at all, acutally. It will reduce the symptoms, but not get rid of an outbreak. Plus, I am putting all kinds of chemicals into my body. Lysine doesn’t work either.)
Outbreaks aren’t just limited to the genital area. Once in a while I get them on my back- as indicated at the beginning of this post. They also aren’t limited to blisters. Most of the time, I get paper-cut type lesions that burn constantly. To be honest, I didn’t have an outbreak for a couple of years. Even now, I will go several months without one. But when they come, they last for about two weeks. I will live like this for the rest of my life.
Oh, and did I mention? Husband picked it up right away. A great way to celebrate our wedding! In addition to the common outbreaks, there have been two separate occasions where he has gotten an outbreak on his legs and had to take steroids to get rid of it. The blisters will go all the way up his shins, and he will take scalding hot baths to relieve the itch. (Is it so wrong of me that I secretly hope that he has passed it on to each and every one of the guys he has hooked up with?)
And then: the kids.
Since I have this wonderful gift, I have to be very careful not to share body towels, washcloths or body sponges with the kids. I have to be extra diligent about washing hands. And when I was pregnant, there was the possibility that if I had an outbreak when I went in to labor, I would have to deliver cesarean. A C SECTION because of one stupid night with one stupid guy!
Now- for the moral of the story:
The only way to prevent the spread of this horrific disease is to keep your pants securely fastened and keep your hands to yourself. That simple. God really does know what he is talking about. There just isn’t any good reason to be sexually active outside of a long-term committed relationship.
(sigh. I’m exhausted. And I completely understand if you run the opposite direction when we meet.)
1) A friend of mine works for a pregnancy clinic in our town and teaches “sex ed” classes at the area high schools. I shared this with her, and it is now a part of her presentation. Pretty funny to think that the girls I teach at church will hear this at school and it’s me she is talking about.
2) Since I cut grain and all sugars (other than raw local honey) from my diet the herpes are G.O.N.E. Zero breakouts in three years. I was getting a breakout with every period for 14 years. Amazing. More people should know about this.