A False Positive Herpes Diagnosis Leads to Downward Spiral
Shortly after I turned 18, I went to my doctor for a routine checkup, and while I was there she diagnosed me with genital herpes. Being young and, like many young adults, uneducated about STDs, I accepted her diagnosis. Up till this point I had been a fairly grounded A+ student in high school and the first few months of university, and I had only slept with three people. When I found out I had herpes, my self esteem was absolutely shattered. I feel that this is because of the stigma associated with herpes and the fact that many people are so ignorant when it comes to STD awareness. The negative social connotations, especially for a young girl, of having herpes and therefore being 'unclean' are very much overlooked.
When I found out, it took a while to sink in, and then suddenly I felt absolutely worthless. My grades plummeted and I failed out of first semester. I slept with several people who I would have never been involved with before being diagnosed, telling myself that I did not deserve anyone better. Although I had always been open to occasionally smoking weed, I started doing other drugs more frequently. I became, over the next year, extremely depressed, and tried to kill myself once. My parents sent me to a therapist who didn't understand what I was dealing with, who told me that having herpes "wasn't a big deal" and seemed to really trivialize my problem. I'm not stupid, and I am aware that having herpes isn't a big deal. Other people are not so aware. What IS a big deal is the way that other people blow having herpes out of proportion.
A year after I failed out, I went back to university. So far, the only people who knew about me having herpes were my close family and one friend who I had known for a long time. At this point, I began to think that perhaps my doctor had misdiagnosed me. Although I knew that it was highly unlikely, I really wanted to believe that I did not have herpes. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of drunkenly sleeping with someone who was close with my friend who I had confided in, and they told the guy that I had slept with that I had herpes. Although we had used protection, the guy went for a blood test a few days after we had sex, and found out that he had contracted herpes. He told everyone... literally, EVERYONE at my school, that I had given him herpes (but never asked me about it or even spoke to me about it.) I had started seeing another guy that I had not yet slept with, and when he heard that I had herpes, he never spoke to me again.
Many of my 'friends' on campus stopped talking to me. Only two of the people who heard the story ever came to me and asked me for my side of the story. Everybody else avoided me like I was filthy and contaminated. I was scared to come to campus. I stopped coming to class and started doing more drugs, especially coke, almost every day with a group of people who did not go to university with me. On the rare occasion that I went to school, no one talked to me. The campus I go to is extremely small and news spreads very fast. I had absolutely no friends. That time was the lowest point in my life so far. I thought about killing myself a lot.
However, one of the two friends who were still on speaking terms with me told me that they didn't feel that this situation had been handled properly. He told me that, firstly, he was going to research the virus more and find out how it was contracted, and that secondly, the way that the boy who said I
had given him herpes had handled the situation was terrible. He eventually found out that it takes far longer than a few days for the herpes virus to show up in a blood sample. Therefore, it was highly unlikely that I had given him the virus.
And he told me that I was not a bad person in this situation, that the guy I had slept with should have come to me and spoken to me about it rather than telling everyone on campus that I was a filthy, terrible person. I still feel that I made a selfish decision by sleeping with the guy when there was a possibility that I had the virus. I know that a lot of people will say that I am awful and amoral because I did that. But I'm putting it out there anyway because I think that some people may be able to empathize with how I felt at this time.
My friend told me that I should get tested and that it was possible that I didn't even have the virus in the first place. Because I was kind of nervous to get a conclusive answer, and also because at this point, I had done so much research that I no longer felt scared of having herpes anymore, I put it off for two months. The next time I saw my doctor, two years after being diagnosed, I brought up the blood test. She took blood and sent it off, and two weeks later when I went back to her, she told me that she had made a misdiagnosis the first time, and that my blood test had come back as negative for the herpes antibodies.
I spent two whole years of my life thinking that I had herpes, and living with the social stigma and the shame of having this virus. I tried to commit suicide. I severely damaged my academic records. Although I thought I had come to terms with having herpes, I won't lie; that day was one of the best days of my life. I couldn't even be mad at my doctor, because I was so happy.
So a few things. When you are diagnosed with herpes by your doctor, make SURE you get a blood test confirming it. If you think you have got herpes from someone, be aware that there are probably other people that you could have contracted it from, and give them, at the very least, a chance to explain their side of the situation. It's quite possibly they didn't know. Do the research so that you are not ignorant of how the virus can be spread. And if you contract herpes, please, do not feel that you are as utterly worthless as I did. Don't tell yourself every day that you deserve less. There are people like me out there who are educated and aware of what living with herpes is like, and who will not judge you.
I am aware that some people who read this will hate me for sleeping with people when I thought that I had herpes, or judge me for blaming my negative behavior on being misdiagnosed with the virus, or for being stupid and not getting properly tested when I was first diagnosed. I don't mean to give anyone false hope about not having herpes. But I do want more people to be aware of things, to understand what people have gone through. Probably a lot of people who are in these social situations were not lucky enough to have a friend like mine to give them perspective and help them feel less isolated. I just wanted to put my experience out there because I really feel that I am an average girl and that there must be people out there who can relate to this. I hope this helps someone or at least that it makes them feel less alone.