Thursday, September 23, 2010

I have HSV-1

I neglected writing and for good reason.  Cowardness and fear.

I've been putting this off for almost a week because I was only considering writing when I got my results.  And now that I have them, it's time to be honest and open.

A couple of weeks ago, I started talking to a new guy who messaged me online: "J". He seemed too good to be true- blue-eyed, attractive and witty. He wanted to meet right away but I told him I wanted to see how the week went by first over the phone before setting anything up. Throughout the week, we texted and talked some more, and it was obvious that we were getting along very well. I told him about RHPS and he was sold on the idea, so for our first date, we agreed to go to the Riveroaks Theatre at midnight to catch The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

He came to pick me up at my place near 11:30, after I'd gotten home from my friend's birthday party. Tipsy and jittery from drinking Jägerbombs and Red Bull, I nervously greeted him at his car where he proceeded to hand over leftover brisket he'd made that day for his friend's birthday party.

First meeting and already cooking? This is great.

I'll admit I was extremely nervous, and I'm sure the Red Bull only made it worse, but I didn't exactly feel the instant connection the moment I met him. He looked exactly like his pictures, so I don't know why I wasn't completely sold. However, we got through the night and afterwards went to a 24-hour diner and had something to eat. He took me back home around 3:30am where we shared our first kiss.

I remember not feeling up to meeting him again, but decided to let go of my fears and see him again the following day. I'm glad I did.

The next day, we went to the museum district where there was a mini-Oktober Fest going on. We bared through the extreme heat and sat near the reflecting pool and talked for a while before realizing we were sweating buckets when no breeze was coming through. We later left to go get dinner and headed back to my apartment to watch a movie. We spent the rest of the evening talking and really getting to know each other. And that's when I realized this was different.

Things with Matt and Nate had always been left in the air. "We'll play it by ear" said Nate; "School's very important for me" said Matt. With J, I could feel I was getting validation and that we were both looking for the same thing: a relationship. Although his lack of experience in the relationship department put me on my guard, I felt like I was getting real answers.

J and I hung out again the following week and had a great time. J spent the night and that's when it happened. I felt a little bump on my lower lip, slowly start to grow. This is weird. I wonder what it is. When the bump didn't go away overnight, I checked it in the morning and felt my heart began to race. I told J "I need to talk to you. Have you ever had a cold sore?" J's eyes widened and he stopped dead in his tracks.

"No, why?"
"Because I feel something on my lip, and I don't know what it is." I told him
"Let me see" he asked as I showed him my lower lip.

"That doesn't look like a cold sore. Cold sores are supposed to be clear and with puss. Yours doesn't look anything like that" he reassured me. "Well how do you know if you've never gotten one?" I asked him. "Cause I've seen pictures" he told me.

Out of precaution, I didn't kiss him as we parted ways that morning. He checked up on me a few times later during the day, asking how I was feeling and if my symptoms had changed. On my way out of work, I told him the truth and told him that it had grown more and was starting to form a fluid-like blister underneath, white/clear/yellow in color. I told him I was on my way to the clinic to get tested that evening. He continued reassuring me over and over, and told me not to get stressed as it could bring on more problems.

I was scared. What does this mean? Is this a deal breaker? How did this happen? Who gave it to me? So many questions were flying through my mind, leaving me hopeless and confused. I waited nearly an hour to be seen by the doctor who said "Yep, it most likely is a cold sore. We can get you tested if you want, but it's not necessary, and it's kind of expensive" she said. "That's fine. I'd rather know now for sure. How much?" I asked. "$90" the assistant said. "And that's for both 1 and 2 [HSV]?" I asked. "Yes" she answered.

I had already tested three weeks prior for the full STD pannel when I'd mysteriously gotten sick, except the doctor who checked me saw "no need to test for herpes since there are no symptoms and so many people have it. Will knowing you have it change anything?" she said.  I didn't know she hadn't tested me for HSV-1/2 until I got the results in the mail the following week. When they tell you "everything came back normal" over the phone, it only matters on what they actually tested you for. Apparently in my case, it wasn't EVERYTHING, and I'll never know if I already had it before I met J.

Throughout the waiting period, J kept reassuring me and comforting me that having oral herpes would not be a deal breaker. "I can tell this is bothering you and affecting how you feel because you're not calling as much. It's ok. So many people have it. There's a good chance I have it too, but have never had an outbreak."

We continued seeing each other and hanging out, but not kissing. The blister slowly started receding while I used Abreva for the days after my visit at the clinic. On Tuesday, I called out sick from work after feeling incredibly sore and called the clinic for my results. "The doctor noted on your lab that the test for HSV-1 came back positive." "So it's oral herpes then" I said. "Yes," the assistant said, "but you shouldn't worry too much about it. About 80% of Americans have it."

Upon hearing the news, I immediately called J to share the results. "I tested positive for HSV-1" and broke down in tears. J felt hopeless and tried to comfort me as much as he could over the phone. "I'm sorry. I wish I was there to help you feel better. Please don't be upset. It's going to be ok. It's not so serious."

At the moment, I felt fear, anger, weakness and most of all, shame. "I took care of myself for 25 years. I had a pretty good run" I told him. "It's okay, you just need to take care of yourself now and be more careful with your health. Don't get stressed, keep your immune system in check so you can prevent future breakouts. I really didn't want you to think that this would be a deal breaker because I noticed how quieter you had gotten over the last few days" he said.

After getting off the phone, I felt a great moment of relief. I'd finally let it off my chest, and I slowly started putting the worry away. I talked to Nate about it who immediately freaked out (just as I had) and went to get tested the following day. His results had been negative on his last visit as well, so I'm waiting on him to see if he has it or not; but at this point, the issue is rather moot. I could have caught it from him, Matt, Jordan or any cup I'd sipped from, though unlikely.

I confided in BEG who had also admitted to having the virus to me last year, but never having a cold sore. The more we talked, the more he reassured me and eased my mind and fears. "Welcome to the 80%" he said, "and don't worry about that one guy [Nate.] Fuck him for being ignorant on the matter."

Later that night, I called my mom and told her the news. "Herpes on which lips?" she said, and we both started laughing. "Be careful cause you can get them down there too!" she said. I have to say that I was happy to open up to my mom. She reminded me that she had  herpes, though in her case, it affects her chin, and hadn't had a breakout in almost ten years before she had one this past summer. [Heat triggers her breakout] "It's something you'll have for the rest of your life, but it's not something to get too worked up about" she said.

Though I'm not thrilled by the result, and the stigma that comes from it, I feel better about it today than I did last week or last year. It's not an STD. It's an unfortunate virus I got from sharing spit with someone who probably didn't know they had it at the time either. I'm done trying to put the blame on someone, and I'm hoping people will learn to be open about it and get rid of that ignorance. Chances are your favorite actor has oral herpes cause of all that smooching for the silver screen.

J came to see me yesterday and took me out during my lunch hour. I felt better and happier to know that he was still there. I couldn't help but smile when he said "So when do I get to kiss you again?"


  1. Aww, J sounds nice. You should move to England, It's like, "Hey, I have a cold sore." "Oh, okay." No one really cares, so you wouldn't get the stigma.

    I thought you had AIDS or something life threatening. Glad you're feeling better about it, you'll probably not have another one for ten years.

  2. I agree with Claire, dont beat yourself up about it too much... no one seems to worry about people having coldsores, just avoid kissing them! ...Least its nothing worse. xx

  3. OK. I know you didn't ask, but this really stuck out to me while reading this post, so I'm going to give you some unsolicited advice from someone who's lived and learned a lot of things the hard way:

    DO NOT (I repeat: DO NOT) have a man you met online and have never met in person pick you up at your house for your first date! Drive separately and meet in a public location. And even worse, DO NOT get into a car with someone you don't know after you've been drinking!

    I know when you're young and carefree, you don't think about the bad things that can happen, but they CAN happen. I would kill my daughter if she did something like that.

    As for the cold sore, so many people have them, even from very young ages. I don't think most people give it a second thought. But I'm sure it's not fun to have.

  4. thank you :)

    almost the same thing happened to me 3 years ago. it really has done a number on me spiritually and mentally. I know it's better than a lot of other things out there but I still had 25 years of no blisters showing up at important moments in my life, and it was great. I miss it. Stupid moments of lust. Never again. I have a husband and 1 baby now. I should have known better, I'm a smart person. Live and learn. Every time I get one now I remember how it was like to be ignorant and remember I must teach my child what a cold sore really is!

  5. This blog is actually ridiculous. Such a massive over reaction to a cold sore! Seriously, if that's your biggest worry, count yourself lucky.