After being diagnosed with herpes 14 years ago, guest blogger Jenelle Marie didn't let an STD hinder her life. Here are the top 5 ways herpes has influence her life positively:
#1 New perspective, new me.
Living with herpes has forced me to put aside my closed-mindedness—no longer am I able to parade around stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas.
Naïve, ignorant, and closed-minded, I once thought herpes—or any other STD—wouldn’t happen to me. It’s what got me into this (beautiful) mess to begin with; I was 100% certain STDs only happened to specific kinds of people, and I knew wasn’t one of ‘”those people.”
Having proven my narrow-minded-self wrong, herpes forces me to be open-minded. Experiencing something so tremendously eye-opening implores me to remain continuously open-minded toward new ideas and most importantly, toward new people (with and without STDs).
#2 One-night stands need not apply.
Herpes, above all things, has taught me patience and how to develop relationships with men before sharing my bed with them.
To my benefit, living with an STD has necessitated the weeding out of suitors just interested in some “boom boom” from those who can foresee the relationship becoming something more. Since telling someone I have an STD has never been easy, I have almost always chosen to disclose my STD status after establishing a bond with the person in question. Consequently, I have been very lucky in the outcome—herpes has never ended a relationship.
While I’ve been told my approach is the ultimate “bait and switch” of dating, my argument to that is simple: No one tells a new person all of their deepest darkest secrets upon first meeting; why should herpes (or any STD) be different?
Moreover, herpes has forced me to get to know an individual before haphazardly sharing my bed, to establish trust, and has afforded much more rewarding relationships.
#3 From hydrotherapy colon cleansing to vegetarianism, STDs have made me healthier.
No one wants an STD, right?! But, once you have an STD, there’s not much you can do about it aside from making sure your body is running as optimally as possible. So, I chose to get healthy—well, to try and get healthy—this is something I have to work at continually. The healthier I am, the better my immune system responds and the less herpes break-outs I have, which is about as close as I can come to not having an STD.
I’ve tried everything from The Master Cleanser—ack! it was horrible—to hydrotherapy colon cleansing – not much more enjoyable. Presently, I run 3 to 5 times a week and eat lots and lots of vegetables. For whatever reason, fruit is harder for me to incorporate into my diet.
All in all, one thing’s certain: when I’m healthier, I have less break-outs—and while that doesn’t make herpes break-outs any less annoying, it certainly does help for my overall confidence and longevity. To me, it’s a win.
#4 Funky body problems!?!? I’m your go-to-gal!
Living with an STD and—even more—sharing my experience living with herpes has made me a vessel for my friends and their personal issues. Early on, I shared my story with people and found, although not everyone has an STD, everyone has some sort of embarrassing physical issue they have trouble dealing with or talking about.
In being open about my own experiences, people have come to me seeking help for any number of things. Even though I am not a medical professional, my experience alone has helped others overcome their insecurities. It’s a strength in numbers kind of thing.
Most people just want to know they are not alone. They are not the only ones dealing with an embarrassing health issue which isn’t easy to disclose or even easy to handle privately on an ongoing basis.
#5 Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells Barnett, or Alice Paul, anyone?
Living with an STD has made me an activist. Since being forced to become more open-minded and having learned of the various other kinds of physical issues people face, I’ve become passionate about helping others. The stigma associated with contracting an STD, having a weird physical trait, suffering from an illness or any number of other things afflicting people is often much harder to deal with than the issue itself.
It’s for that reason, I continue to share my story, I continue to break down communication barriers, I encourage education, and most importantly, I encourage compassion. When my own pre-conceived notions came crashing down, a wealth of information poured in and I was able to find a purpose—a cause I wanted to stand for. Herpes has given me a voice and has since empowered me to become an activist for all others who have contracted an STD.
Jenelle Marie is the administrator of The STD Project, an independent initiative geared toward removing the stigma associated with contracting an STD and living with an STD by encouraging education through story-telling and resource recommendations. Jenelle has been living with genital herpes for 14 years.