I read about the herpes whitlow on this site and towards the end it asked for someone’s story or symptoms.
I’m now 33 yrs old and I was diagnosed with genital herpes at 19 yrs old. I wish we had had smartphones back then, a better way to research the virus and connect with others who also had it.
Let me express how AWFUL it was leading up to my diagnosis. Being as usually the first few breakouts can be the worst. (Which I didn’t know at the time) My symptoms started out as a urinary tract infection.
Although painful, I knew that some meds would do the trick and I’d be back to normal in a few days. Boy was I wrong. The pain didn’t cease in fact it steadily got worse. I couldn’t make it to work and peeing became a nightmare. My mom picked me up and we went to the ER. Because it such a severe urinary tract infection it was suspected I may have an STD. It’s been so long now I can’t exactly remember what they did, I think they swabbed my genitals and I believe they were testing for chlamydia. The strange part is one of the doctor’s mentioned the possibility of herpes, but obviously didn’t test me for it. Since I didn’t have chlamydia I was sent home in basically the same condition as I had came in.
Days were torture. I finally went to see a doctor. I think since the ER couldn’t or didn’t help me I didn’t think a doctor’s office visit could reap results. It was a female doctor and I sat there telling her my symptoms. My mom was in the room as well. And as the doc was writing down my symptoms I mentioned the ER doctor mentioning herpes and she stopped writing, and looked up at me with a concerned look on her face. A few minutes later, after a quick exam of my genitals, she confirmed I had herpes. A wave of shame and sadness swept over me and I remember my mom looking so sad for me. Even as I’m writing this now and recalling that day I am brought to tears.
The doctor gave me a few free samples of Zovirax. At the time I was uninsured and there wasn’t a generic med on the market for herpes. Within a day of taking the meds I was feeling so much better. Unfortunately the breakouts were frequent. For awhile I was able to get free samples until I moved down to TN. I didn’t have a car to get to the doctor and I didn’t have insurance so when I got a breakout it was HELL. The itching was maddening. I know this is going to sound gross but I want to be painfully honest to thoroughly explain my story. I would wear a thick pad and when the itching would become intolerable, and cold water and soap wasn’t sufficing, I would rub the pad vigorously on my privates which probably only exacerbated the situation, however it did bring some relief. The breakouts were so frequent my mom was kind enough to buy me a prescription of Zovirax (no refills) that cost her about $200. Eventually I was able to get to the pharmacy and buy a few at a time. It was awful. I believe $35 got me like 7 pills.
Besides the physical agony of herpes I was mentally fighting demons everyday. I felt like a leper. Whenever I was out in public I would look at people and know that I was DIFFERENT. I caught herpes from sex, although I never knew which lucky guy passed it on to me.
Promiscuity definitely aided in my illness. How would I ever be able to find someone who was willing to have sex with me again?? If I ever got pregnant would it affect my baby?
For years and years I went without meds. Eventually the breakouts became infrequent, but one time I had a full blown breakout and googled home remedies. There was some ridiculous concoction you were to rub into your genitals. It consisted of the over the counter cold sore medicine Abreeva and night time Tylenol cold medicine, in pill form. You mashed the pill into the Abreeva and rubbed it on your privates. It brought some relief although I suspect it was due more to the Abreeva than the cold medicine.
Even though the genital outbreaks were infrequent, the outbreaks that were frequent appeared on the palm of my right hand or on my right thigh. Jeans and band aids could help shield the thigh outbreaks, but the pain was awful. The palm of my right hand was the worst though. I’m right handed. Before a well formed blister appears a tingling and itching sensation would let me know trouble was on the way. Within a few hours little red bumps would appear, these would turn into the blisters but at first they’re just hard little bumps that hurt and itch. Sometimes I could actually help cease the outbreak by constantly applying rubbing alcohol to the area and of course it would over-dry the area, but again, sometimes it helped.
Through the internet, over the years, I’ve been able to do my own research on the virus. For a long time I was ashamed of myself for the stigma associated with the virus. And of course there are the jokes about herpes, and honestly, at this point in my life I can even get a good giggle out of a herpes joke. And since I’m not out announcing my situation then the jokes aren’t directed AT me. Let me assure you though, years ago when the word herpes came up, or a joke, I would get an awful, depressed feeling. Time helps heal these wounds.
Throughout the years I had close friends confide in me that they had the virus. What few friends I confided in, well they ended up telling a few other friends and I was devastated. These people are still my friends today, after long conversations they convinced me they only told another person because that person had it and felt bad. I found this to be true. The ones who found out I had it had gone through terribly sad days just like me.
I have a daughter now. She’s almost two years old. Early in my pregnancy I had a breakout on my thigh. For precautions I was put on acyclovir twice a day during pregnancy. After discussing it with my doctor I felt completely confident having a vaginal delivery. I was not in a breakout, and hadn’t had one in many months. My delivery went perfect. The baby is fine.
These days I take acyclovir once a day, unless I’m having a breakout. If anyone has done their research then they know a series of things can lead up to a breakout. Stress, heat, your period, even sexual contact when there are no symptoms, or when your immune system is fighting a cold can contribute to a breakout. I have a big exam in a few weeks, I’m a bit stressed over it and I woke up this morning with my palm hot and itchy. The pain has gotten worse over the day so I took my second acyclovir pill a few hours ago. I will take 2 a day for the next 6 days.
I would love to help counsel people who suffer with this virus. I have come to accept my body and it’s imperfections, but that’s only my journey and it took years of depression and physical pain and finally overcoming all that and realizing that I’m not broken. If only I had had some comfort when I was first diagnosed.
People need to know that even though they may have herpes, that does not mean their worth is less. They can still have relationships, and kids, and friends.
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