Yesterday I went to the eye doctor and got to check the box marked ‘herpes’ in my medical history so that felt just GREAT. Like an extra treat- not only do I get to have this shitty virus the rest of my life, I also get to tell people like my dentist and my eye doctor about it now!
At this point, I figure I might as well tell a couple bloggy people about it too.
My thought process is this: the problem I have is embarrassing. It’s a little taboo and a little hard to talk about, and it all inspires a rainbow of feelings. I figure if I’m having this experience, chances are someone else is too.
Whether it’s herpes or some other annoying BS, there’s always someone else going through something similar. There’s no need for any of us to feel isolated, especially over herpes, especially when literally millions of people have it.
And to be honest, when I was first dealing with this I couldn’t find anyone to relate to, so I’d like to be that space for someone else.
Especially in a conservative Christian community, talking about things like this feels very off-putting. It’s not quite kosher, not indicative of a life well-lived, doesn’t point to the the white-washed purity that is the cookie-cutter goal. However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Christianity is not about perfection. It is where our imperfect, messy, human lives come in contact with grace beyond comprehension. These things we hide in the dark, herpes included, are the very things that deserve to be brought to the light for healing. Jesus didn’t come for us and our perfect track record. He came to meet us where we are weak. He specifically met with the rejects of society, and I imagine they didn’t get ignored or shamed when they looked into His eyes. I imagine they were reminded of their beloved-ness and were invited into love.
We cannot fully embrace each other, or even ourselves, if we are allowing ourselves to hide in such shame we can’t see our own goodness.
Of course, I appreciate privacy and protecting yourself from those that will hurt you. I am being open in my experience here, and not everyone is called to do that. That’s okay. Read on and know you are not alone.
In the meantime, I’d also like to call into question the version of Christianity that left me too ashamed to talk about something that happened to me because there are those with uneducated opinions about the way the world works for some of us living messier lives. This content might be too explicit for some communities, but it’s explicit content that I lived, and that doesn’t make my walk towards eternity any less holy.
Some of us are suffering for the poor decision making of others, and some of us have made our own poor decisions. Some of us got herpes. That doesn’t make any of us less worthy of love, less pure, less whole, or less good.
Stepping off my soap box, I’m going to give you a little glimpse into the experience of someone who’s just found out they have herpes. Exciting!
I see it plenty at work- the moment someone finds out that, yes, those bumps aren’t from shaving/bug bites/allergies. There’s usually plenty of tears. Sometimes the loud theatrical type, sometimes more of the soft weepy display. Luckily for me I was the quiet type (my co-workers would be proud!).
Anyway, after all the crying and the milkshakes and the wine came the anger. I was angry for a very long time. Silly me, I had thought I had left my marriage behind. Now, instead, I have a permanent reminder that can pop back up for my enjoyment at any moment! A literal permanent mark in my body reminding me, hey, someone loved enough to treat you like shit. You thought you left it all behind, didn’t you?!
I was angry for the future, too. Angry for whatever marriage I might someday enter into; how unfair to someone else to have to risk sharing this affliction. Sharing pain is a normal burden to carry in marriage, but this just felt unfair. And what a hassle, having to add this to the list of prenatal care worries if I ever got to have kids. I could pass this on, I could require surgery, it could complicate things more than I imagined.
On top of all that was the sense of violation. Something had happened to my body and changed it without my authorization. Without invitation. My boundaries were intruded upon and my DNA altered without permission.
And then there was the shame. Literally, I was dirty. It didn’t help when I saw a forum where girls were discussing whether or not they’d date guys with HPV. I guess that’s their prerogative, whether or not they want to risk contracting viruses- it’s a choice I didn’t get to make. Still, I hope someone is more open minded towards me in the future. I wouldn’t reduce someone else’s potential to what baggage they carry from their past, so I hope I’d be shown the same courtesy. Whether or not that looks like a virus, a heartbreak, a bad habit (or two), we all carry something from where we were before.
It all seems quite unreasonable. I followed the rules as best I could. I tried to love well and work hard, and instead I got this. I’ve always known there were permanent consequences for certain behaviors. It’s just unfortunate I have to pay the price for someone else’s.
So there it is, in one neat little package. I am less than pure. I’ve been marked, I’ve been violated, and I am always going to have this in the back of my mind with the rest of my relationships for the rest of my life.
And at the same time, it doesn’t bother me as much today as it did before. This illness is only a symptom of the primary one: the sickness of a dysfunctional relationship. There are other things that left deeper scars and, hopefully not, but what feels like more permanent damage. This was a byproduct, and really, there is a part of me that just shrugs my shoulders and says, well, of course, this is what I expected, isn’t it? I’m honestly not that shocked.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what rules you did or didn’t follow or who gave who what. It sucks either way. I’ll still be your friend.
And, guess what? Either way, you’re still good. I’m still good. Someday somebody will love me anyway and, really, plenty of people already do.