Most likely, you'll feel like you just received a death sentence.
But then you realise that, though it's not pleasant, it's not quite that bad. And you will begin to start thinking about the issues involved in living with herpes. These issues come down to 3 main things:
- Preventing and managing herpes breakouts
- Sex with herpes
- How herpes affects your self-esteem
So lets talk about these, one by one.
Preventing and managing herpes breakouts
Most of the articles on this website have to do with different treatments for herpes, including some that hold the possibility of a real cure, or at any rate, lasting freedom from herpes breakouts. You can find a list of those articles on the page for Herpes Treatments.
Sex with herpes
When you have a breakout - and just before - you are at your most infectious. Most likely, when a breakout is active, you won't want to have sex anyway - it would aggravate the ulcers and make them more painful. So this is a time to avoid sex - it's best for you and your partner.
What about when you don't have a breakout?
If you are in a committed relationship, this is something you need to discuss with your partner. If your partner is free of HSV, then using a condom is going to be a minimum precaution - though it won't guarantee that your partner won't be infected, it will help. A lot.
It will also help a lot if you are using some anti-viral treatment, whether a prescribed medication like acyclovir, or one of the effective natural treatments that I talk about elsewhere.
If you are not in a committed relationship, it's also something you need to discuss with your partner - though this is a conversation that you don't want to go through too often. One solution is to join one of the many herpes dating sites that are becoming popular. These are places where you can feel comfortable knowing that you have passed the first hurdle, the one of disclosing that you have HSV and wondering how the other person will react.
How herpes affects your self-esteem
Although it's 100% true that herpes is something better avoided if you can, it's also true that the worst impact may be the damage to your self-esteem. There's no doubt that herpes has a huge stigma attached to it - but how justified is this stigma?
When you remember that the majority of people infected with HSV - a huge number, that can only be estimated - don't actually have any symptoms and so are not aware that they are infected, you might begin to question the stigma, and the ways of thinking that have led to it.
Here are some great blogs and articles that might help you change your thinking about herpes:
This blog has not been updated since January 2009, but it is still very relevant. Here's an excerpt from one post:
…the people who have these viruses, whether they know they have them or not, are not dirty or unclean. They are just like any other living creature with the ability to carry and transmit viruses. We get colds, we get the flu, we get cold sores, we get STDs. We are human. We don't live in cages, separated from one another. And last time i checked, sex was a normal, expected part of the human experience.
If you shower, you are clean.
And if you get checked for STDs and are clear, that only means that you are free of SOME STDs. NOT all of them. There is usually no way to even find out.
And those who are able to find out they have something, because they happened to have symptoms, are no different from so many others out there, who have the same exact virus but just don't know it.
Read more here.
Don't use this as a justification for having sex with telling your partner or using what precautions you can, though. Herpes might be more common than most people realise, but just like doing your best to not spread a cold around, you can take the same approach with herpes. It's still a disease that can cause nasty complications.
Another blog worth reading. Here is her description about the blog:
This is a blog about a single city gal living with herpes. Herpes is not living with me, although it does visit once in awhile.
Although as a goddess, one would think I could come down from Mount Herpetica to giveth and taketh the herpes, but that is not the case. What I can do is clear up any misconceptions about herpes, give some insight into what it's like to say "I have herpes," tell you how NOT to react when someone says these words to you, and basically show you that I'm a normal deity who just happens to have an incurable disease that is all too often a punchline.
Check it out here.
A really great blog, and a support forum too, to help you handle all those issues about how to manage a relationship when you have herpes. From the author's About page:
I tortured myself for years around this whole genital herpes thing. I went through plain denial, I played the victim, I told myself I was worthless, I carried around enough shame to put Donald Trump down. I wasn’t strong enough to have the herpes talk, to tell the truth to everyone I was with, even though I was as safe as possible so they wouldn’t get herpes. The inability to find the strength in myself to do that hurt more than anything.
I realize now that it was ultimately my decision to put myself through all of the pain and regret. It was a subconscious decision at the time, but a decision nonetheless. I had the blatantly wrong belief that having herpes meant that other people would see me differently, in a negative light. I made that my reality.
So now through much self-reflection, I realize that those emotions and beliefs that I used to blame on herpes were already inside me, just deeper down in a place I didn’t regularly get to. Herpes only amplified those feelings of shame and self-doubt and lack of self-love. I have seen over and over again in my life that one’s pain can also be one’s gift. Working on the root of the problem (my own core values and feelings about myself) helps the negative associations with herpes start melting away; and when I think of helping others recognize the same thing, I get shivers down my spine and giddy excitement rushes through my body. We’re on the right path.
So that is why I am writing this today. The reason is twofold … one, I want to remind you that going through your pain is a doorway into deeper self-reflection, and that coming out the other side of that pain can lead to new awareness, self-growth and self-appreciation if you’re open to it … and two, I want to continually remind myself of what I have discovered so that I won’t soon forget.
Read more here.
I strongly recommend that you follow up these resources, at the same time as you explore herpes treatments. Who knows? perhaps it's true that learning to love and accept yourself actually boosts your immune system, and ultimately helps healing, for herpes and for whatever else you may be suffering from.
Please bookmark this page and come back, as we update it with more information about living with herpes from time to time!