You have been told you're infected with a virus for which there is no cure, and one that affects a very sensitive area. That's crummy news but don't get too down about it.
Above all, realize that genital herpes is very common. Chances are one of your friends, family members, or co-workers has it, too. If you have read about genital herpes, you know the statistic: About one in five people in the U.S. is infected. But you may not realize that some diseases we consider quite common are less so than genital herpes, asthma and diabetes, for instance.
One in five Americans has genital herpes -- but many don't know it because the symptoms can be mild or even absent. Genital herpes is usually spread by sexual contact and caused by the type 2 herpes virus (HSV-2). However, the type 1 herpes virus (HSV-1), which more commonly causes cold sores, can also infect the genitals -- usually through oral sex.
There's no cure for genital herpes. Once infected, you're infected for life.
Herpes is most often spread from active sores. But you don't have to...
If you've done your herpes homework, you also know it won't kill you, and it probably will not cause serious health problems later. Still, no one should underestimate the havoc the diagnosis can play with emotions. You may feel "dirty" or sexually undesirable. You may get depressed thinking about a lifetime of symptoms and taking drugs to control them. You may be angry with the person who infected you. These are valid feelings, but you must learn to overcome them and get back to normal, or else risk "becoming" the condition. You are not herpes: You have herpes.
Challenge Your Feelings About Genital Herpes
The way to get over these feelings is to challenge the assumptions on which they are based. Does genital herpes make you less attractive? No, not really. Sores may appear on your genitals from time to time but the rest of you is not affected. People are attracted to many things about you besides sex appeal. You're just as cute and funny as you always were; your eyes are still as alluring, or whatever is special about you.
When you have symptoms, you shouldn't have sex, and probably won't want to. But then you don't feel sexy when you have a cold, either. After a few days, you get over your cold and feel better. Think back to a time when you were sick with a cold. Your partner may have leaned in to kiss you, and you said something like, "No, I don't want to give you this bug I have." But did he or she kiss you anyway? If someone wants you, your infection won't necessarily deter desire.
Coping With Genital Herpes Day to Day
If you've just been diagnosed with genital herpes, you may have to make some changes in your daily life, which will feel strange at first. But will life change dramatically? Probably not. You can keep moving ahead in your career, have children, and have fun.
You may need to take medication, but pills are a reality of modern life. Millions of people take pills every day to treat health problems, and many more take vitamins and supplements every day because they want to. As much as you value a carefree lifestyle, you have always done some necessary chores every day, like brushing your teeth. Taking your medicine will become as routine as that.
You may not even have to take daily medication. You may need it only when you have a flare-up, and that's like taking antibiotics for a bout of bronchitis. Also, remember that symptoms tend to calm down in time. Your first outbreak may be the worst you'll ever have.