Infected: May 2004
Type: HSV II
OBs per year: 6-8 (now)
Symptoms: Just a couple painful bumps and mild irriation (now).
Method of Control: Valtrex, 500 mg suppressive, 1g during OB
I had no idea that someone could catch herpes when using condoms in a
monogamous relationship with someone with no history of the disease. I
thought everyone got recognizable OBs within two weeks. That's what doctors
had told me when I asked at annual pap checks. My first OB was a complete
shock. I couldn't believe I had an STD, much less countless blisters and
open sores that spread from my labia to cervix and anus (wiping front to
back to prevent bladder infections :(... ha). I had a high fever, and I
was in consistent pain. It hurt too much to pee, too much to walk, too much
to do much of anything except obsess about how much my life now sucked and
hate all the people who carelessly spread HSV without ever knowing it. In
the process, I did learn a few things that helped--changing panties after
blisters burst to prevent painful stickage, pouring a glass of water over
right after peeing (BIG help, highly recommended for instant relief!).
After 2 weeks, my first OB was gone, and a few days later my second OB was
there. I had between 3 and 5 a month, that would last between 4 and 7 days,
in spite of suppressive therapy. Often new blisters would form under scabs.
During the most severe OBs, it hurt to walk. This went on for about six
months before, in a fit of depression, I attempted suicide.
Okay, an extreme reaction in every way, but after that life did get better.
Anti-depressants and a higher dose of Valtrex really helped. It also
helped to get perspective. I decided self-pity was the worst form of
self-indulgence. Support group was full of depressing people. I stopped
going. I stopped reading about HSV. I actively resisted thinking about
herpes, and if I did, I limited myself to only the most positive thoughts,
like the low transmittion rates for people with established infections.
Honestly, even when I'm having outbreaks they are only a small nuisance now.
In spite of such severe symptoms, I barely notice it most of the time...
like millions of other Americans ;).
My first experiences were at a student health clinic, where they knew
instantly what I had, and were quite understanding, although taking the
culture sample was extremely painful. It was really hard not to kick the
nurse practitioner just reflexively. She assured me that most cases were
caused by people like my boyfriend, who had no signs of infection.
A few days later, they gave me Lidocaine. Other pain killers only worked to
the extent that they could knock me out. Lidocaine was beautiful, and I
would strongly recommend it. (Just don't overuse or you can develop an
Still, when I had a more repeat OBs than they had ever seen, student health
insisted that 1 gram of Valtrex a day was the highest suppressive dose.
Later, in the emergency room after the suicide attempt, I convinced an
internist that 2 grams a day was reasonable. Previously, I suspected that I
was anti-viral resistant (though unheard of in HIV neg. patients like me),
but 2 grams a day did the trick. I went from 3-5 OBs a month to 1. (I've
since gone back down as OBs decreased.)
Telling: I have told close friends and family, as well as my boyfriend.
Telling was an amazing relief, as they all were very understanding and I no
longer felt like I was keeping a dirty secret from the people I cared about.
Post-Script: I refuse to be ashamed. SB