A Stigma

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I have herpes.

Just writing that down is freeing and terrifying at the same time. I’ve shared this information with my dearest friends and I don’t have a problem discussing it in person, (although I do tend to change the tone of my voice when I say it, herpes, like a whisper), but telling the world at large is a bigger deal.

Most days, I really don’t think about it, but as soon as I start dating it’s like a dark cloud that hangs over me. Even though 1 in 4 people have herpes, there is still a stigma attached. Anytime I hear a joke about herpes, I cringe. And, of course, anytime I start dating someone I feel the need to share this information almost immediately. Maybe it’s a test to see how compassionate or honest or brave the person is. Will it change the way they look at me? Will they want to move forward?

The man I fell in love with last year…he asked questions, did his research and we had a very loving, active, safe sex life. But my latest dating experience was different. We met through a friend; he was intriguing so I was interested. Since he lived a bit of a distance from me, we talked quite a bit on the phone and it seemed we could talk about anything. On the third date I told him about the herpes. He had married young and was married for twenty-five years, so he had not had any exposure to any information about herpes. We discussed it further; he did some research and was surprised to find out how prevalent it is. It did not, however, deter his interest in me. When we finally did have sex, he still had some questions, but we used protection, and all was good. Or so I thought. While we were still lying in bed, his fear began to mount. He brought it up, we discussed it again, and I explained that herpes does not define me, it’s something I have and something I have to deal with but if we were careful, he wouldn’t contract it. He still felt afraid and needed to try and wrap his head around it. I said that was fine, to take his time.

It’s been over three weeks now, without any communication at all from him. It is disappointing, but I know I’m in a good place because I am not letting this deter me in any way. Honestly I don’t blame him for his fear. A herpes flare can be very painful but there are ways to minimize them. There are prescription drugs available and I take a Lysine supplement every day that boosts my immune system. I’m also experimenting with essential oils. The oil that has been known to help with flares is the Melissa oil. How funny is that?!

So now you know the most personal thing you could possibly know about me. I’m hoping that this post will resonate with some of you and may help anyone who is dealing with some sort of stigma, whether it’s herpes or something else.

I have been debating discussing this topic for a while now but I was afraid of what other people, including you, would think of me.   But I kept waking up, writing the post in my head. Then recently, I received a random e-mail with the title “An idea for your site” and this opening sentence, “I hope I’ve found the right person to contact. In doing some research for a project in my human sexuality course, I found your page here…my project is based on spreading awareness of important sexual issues in our society. I’ve chosen this comprehensive guide on safe sex as the focus for my project.” I’ve also been working really hard in letting go of worrying about what anyone else thinks (a daily practice, I must add). And this is the ultimate test in not worrying about what anyone else thinks.

For those of you who are single, married, in a committed relationship, whatever your status and are concerned about STD’s, here a link to reference site I was emailed as part of a class project. The only think this student asked was for me to share the link on my site. I’m still not sure what made him choose my site but it was the catalyst to me sharing this information.

If you want to start a dialogue or have questions, I’d be happy to do that too. In the meantime, I am hopeful and confident that there is someone out there for me who will accept ALL of me.

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55 Responses to A Stigma

  1. Blessings to you Melissa, thanks you for sharing this very personal information.

  2. lisa parks says:

    first of all, i love you.

    i’ve wanted to write this kind of meaningful post for a long time and never can pull the courage, so i know what a big deal it is. your willingness to be vulnerable like this makes you the most beautiful woman in the world right now. and i am standing here with pride in the light you are emitting.

    EACH one of us, without exception, carries something that we would write down on the “stigma” list of life. the absolute power of the stigma is the shame and the drive to hide it from others. for some, reading your words (or knowing your truth) may affirm that place of shame and defensiveness. that is where they are right now on their own path. but for many of us, your ability to write these words opens up this space of love and light and acceptance and truth and kindred that happens to be the most beautiful space that exists.

    and you YOU! brought us here. i hope you know the power in this. for you. and me. and us.

    thank you friend.

    • Melissa says:

      I love you Lisa! Thank you so much for this. It was scary publishing these words but I think it was scarier not doing it. You are always so encouraging me…thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you this helps at least one person to come into the light ❤

  3. Annette says:

    I want to honor your courage by leaving a comment , but
    Lisa said what I would say if I had the words. Thank you for shining your light to lead the way for the rest of us. ❤

  4. Grace says:

    round of applause, standing ovation and a whole lot of hoopin’ and a-hollerin’ ! Hello world, meet my big brave beautiful self! Love you huge

  5. Lisa says:

    You are an amazing woman. Big love.

  6. jessica says:

    you my friend are heroic. this piece is so very brave and vulnerable and wrapped in such good intentions. I am very proud of you and thankful for your presence in this world. I know that by sharing this intimate part of your story, you will help others to step out and free themselves. I love you.

  7. Mark says:

    Now there’s two times to not have sex instead of just one. 🙂
    You don’t have a life threatening disease. You have an annoyance at worst. Maybe I don’t have all of the facts about what herpes is or means to a person, but from what I know you just don’t have sex when there’s a flare up. That H with a circle isn’t branded on your forehead. Don’t wear it as a badge of pride, but don’t wear it like an albatross either. You’re normal. Better than normal. We are all normal in our own weird ways. So yes, you’re weird and normal. There I’ve said it. I feel relieved as well. 🙂

    Happy Holidays old friend!

    • Melissa says:

      Walick…thank you for you comment(s)! I know it’s not branded and that’s why I wrote the post. I want to take the stigma out of this and so many other issues that we hide in the closet. Happy Holidays and much love to you, Mel, and C!!

  8. Mark says:

    By the way, I thought it was a three speed with reverse gated shifter or a helipad. Wasn’t sure where this was going…

  9. Mark says:

    Damn it. My first reply, which was very sincere didn’t post due to a typo in my email address!

  10. Karen says:

    My friend..we all carry stuff with us through life, and like you said it does not define us, it’s just part of the package. You are a beautiful, bright soul and I am grateful to have you as a friend. Always here standing with you cheering you on in this crazy thing called life.
    xoxoxo
    Karen aka deldino 😉

  11. Very brave – and look at all the responses already. This is how you lead. Awesome!

  12. mindy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, you brave badass sexy girl!!!! we need more information and communication around sexual health (and all things sex related, for that matter) especially for women. you are a warrior!!! so much love and cheering you on. xoxoxo

  13. Kelly Barton says:

    i love you.
    i love you.
    i love you.
    thanks for being so open, (it is why i adore you so. )

  14. Jen says:

    i love you melissa. thank you for for standing up and being vulnerable and open about yourself. that takes courage and shows how compassionate you are. i echo what others have already posted to you in that H does not define you and am so glad you see that. i am so glad we have connected and that you are in my world and look forward to talking to you soon.

    • Melissa says:

      Oh thank you Jen! I am honestly blown away by the support and messages I’m receiving. Much love to you…and I’m looking forward to talking soon ❤

  15. Amy Tingle says:

    Well, you already know exactly what I think but I do want to publicly say BRAVA. You are, indeed, standing in your light and your power right now, and by doing so, allowing space for each of us to do the same. I am so fricking proud of you (especially for starting with that first line). And I am so fricking honored to call you my friend. That’s Honored – a different “H” with a circle around it.

  16. Kim says:

    Very brave Melissa thank you for sharing it does not define you! I too am one in four, sharing that with Dante was hard for me but also liberating! Hang in there girl!

    Kim

  17. liz says:

    This is me reaching out across the miles and putting a smooch right on your forehead. I adore you for writing this post and sharing in the hopes of helping others feel less alone. You stand in that light honey. Stand in it! ❤

  18. michelle gd says:

    oh, lovey. you did it, you wrote this hard-to-write post! and look at the flow of love here.
    so proud of you for listening to the voice inside begging to sing. you light the way for so many. biggest love to you…
    xo
    i heart you…yet another H with a circle around it.

  19. Dear Melissa. You are a brave fierce light in this world. By sharing the truth of your story you are inspiring them to let go of the shame they are carrying around with them. It is amazing what unfolds when we stand in our light. Thank you for YOU! Know that you are deeply loved and seen. Xoxoxox

  20. Cat says:

    You are far more brave than I am. And I’m guessing this is an abbreviated version of a longer story with more truths, more vulnerability, and more strength. You are an inspiration!

  21. Swirly says:

    I am sitting in my kitchen with twinkle lights in the window and the sound of our dryer churning a bunch of towels. It has been a hectic day – a hectic week – so I am feeling a little tired. But reading this blog post right here, right now, fills my heart with so much love and gratitude – for your light, your friendship, your courage. You are lighting the way for others and opening a door for greater compassion, understanding and respect around this issue and relationships in general.

    I love you, I love you, I love you so much.

    And I love you more.

  22. Mark says:

    Now there’s two times to not have sex instead of just one. 🙂 to be clear, You don’t have a life threatening disease. You have an annoyance at worst. Maybe I don’t have all of the facts about what herpes is or means to a person, but from what I know you just don’t have sex when there’s a flare up. That H with a circle isn’t branded on your forehead. Don’t wear it as a badge of pride, but don’t wear it like an albatross either. You’re normal. Better than normal. We are all normal in our own weird ways. So yes, you’re weird and normal. There I’ve said it. I feel relieved as well. 🙂

    Happy Holidays old friend!

  23. Sharon says:

    You are not alone! Just a lot more courageous than most of the rest of us. Kudos!

  24. annledwards says:

    So, here’s the thing – when you share with people who love you, they love you more. (ann lassiter edwards) xo

  25. laura says:

    Bravo. In a world where people applaud themselves for wearing a brighter shade of lipstick than usual, this is refreshing and this is brave.

  26. Joe says:

    MP. I too am 1 of the 4. Your courage is exemplary and to be praised and admired. There IS someone out there with matching courage, lose not hope. Herpes is a malady, fortunately it is controllable and treatable. It is a stigma only if you let it be. Those who run and hide from you were not meant to be with you. Live and grow you are not afflicted with Cancer, Parkinson’s or other truly debilitating diseases. Be well. Joe

  27. Gail Stoughton says:

    Melissa,
    H for honest and honorable. And sweet as I remember from OBX. The world just got a little bigger for you. You are a spirit warrior!
    Gail

  28. dane says:

    May you continue to find Love all around you in your honesty. That burden is gone now. Live Love and continue life, brave heart.

  29. Thanks for being vulnerable and brave and paving the way for the rest of us to tell our stories!

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