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The emotions experienced after learning you have herpes can leave you feeling isolated, guilty, and shamed. Not knowing how to navigate your emotions, the condition, let alone your social and sex life can set you up for a world of confusion and various emotions that can take its toll on your happiness, confidence, and self-esteem. Although there is no cure for herpes, knowing how to cope and how to take control of your life with the condition can actually set you up for greater confidence and better self-awareness than you’ve ever had before.
Coping With the Herpes Diagnosis
Anger, violation, and shame are typically the first on-set of feelings that are felt after being told you’re going to have to deal with herpes for the rest of your life. You may also feel like you’re the only one your friends and family will know that have it.
Wait, do you even want them to know? Who gave it to you? How do you even approach living your life with herpes now? These are some of the initial thoughts that’ll probably race through your mind in the same doctor’s office where you just found out a few seconds ago.
Although diagnoses are overwhelming and can be traumatic by nature, there’s also a positive in it. You can take power and control of your life by knowing what’s going on with your body. In fact of the 20 percent of people who have HSV-2, only 10 to 15 percent of them know that they have it. That’s because at least 10 percent of herpes sufferers have mild to no symptoms at all. Herpes can produce quite mild symptoms to where you can mistakenly attribute it to various other problems without even thinking it could be a sexually transmitted disease. This then encourages the unintentional cycle of passing herpes on. With having an official diagnosis, you can…
- take responsibility for your dating and sex life
- take precautions to prevent transmitting to others
- receive medication or explore natural remedies to manage outbreak symptoms
- become less fearful or sensitive to the condition by gathering the facts
- realize it’s a very common disease*
- take steps to correctly educate and inform others that may be ignorant or needing advice also**
* It’s estimated that one in every five to six adults have some form of herpes. It’s very likely that you have a close family member, a dear friend, and even a co-worker that has herpes too. It’s a very common disease that is even more prevalent than asthma and diabetes. Knowing it’s a common condition that many people are living full and rich lives with, can give you hope too that you don’t have to give in to the disease, that you too can continue to live your life the way you want.
** Being diagnosed is the first step in the being able to be properly educated and informed about the disease. Empowering yourself with knowledge can help you be confident around those who are ignorantly critical. It can also help you move you from feeling like the victim to a position of a counselor or guiding and encouraging hand for someone else learning how to live with herpes.
Living With Herpes
Many people living with some sort of disease tend to feel like they’ve been given a life sentence with a condition that negatively affects every aspect of their life. When it comes to herpes, not only do physical and medical factors play huge roles, but many need to acknowledge the emotional and psychological toll it takes on someone. And even if you’re not ready to admit it, this someone could be you, or could be someone very close to you.
Living life with herpes doesn’t mean that you no longer have a life. It also doesn’t mean that your condition makes you who you are. Although there is no cure for it, it cannot kill you, it cannot ‘become’ you, and it cannot take over your life unless you give it the power to do so. Herpes is absolutely not a death sentence. The only times in which it may have a dangerous status is when you’re pregnant (baby can contract during vaginal delivery) and during sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV.
Living with herpes means learning about it to know how to better minimize symptoms of outbreaks, doing away with false misconceptions, and facing life head-on without herpes or any condition holding you back.
Coping With Herpes Emotionally
You may feel like life is suddenly overwhelming and trying to figure out how to cope with herpes is having a major blow on your ego, your self-esteem, or even your desirability. And although you may be entitled to those feelings, they’re false. The media and ignorant culture surrounding herpes has done everything to over-blow and inflate false misconceptions about herpes by making it the butt of many jokes and categorizing those who have it into some sort of ‘immoral club’.
Because it’s not a life-threatening disease, it’s been given a unique stigma that’s unfair and causes many to not seek medical attention or empowerment in taking charge of their body and life. An effective way to combat and challenge the stigmas and misconceptions are to ask yourself the hard questions:
- Has your physical attractiveness been diminished? No.
- Is your sense of humor suddenly dry because you have herpes? No.
- Does your athletic performance suffer? No.
- Did your seductive eye color change? No.
- Did your captivating personality suddenly wane? No.
- Did your long, wavy hair fall out? No.
- Has your worth as a person decreased?* No.
Whatever it is about yourself that you feel like is suffering, address it and ask yourself how herpes is affecting that part about you. Remembering that other than some physical annoyances that are isolated to your genitals during outbreaks, you are not herpes, you don’t have to change who you are, and you can reach out to family and friends to lean on when you’re feeling down.
* You are more than likely going to unfairly beat yourself up over having herpes. You may even feel that your self-worth has taken a dive. An effective self-esteem exercise to remember that no matter how much yourself or others may barrage against you, you are still an amazing individual. Your self-worth is valuable and still counts. An intact, crumpled up, stomped on, vandalized $20 bill is still worth $20. While intact, there’s no amount of beating that can ever diminish its worth.
Coping With Herpes in a Relationship
Many people with herpes suffer a form of depression that prevents them from dating or having any sort of sexual encounter after being diagnosed. In their mind, the unsurities of having herpes and navigating the dating world is too overwhelming to be worth delving into. Again, the undeserved feelings of embarrassment and shame alone may be overpowering enough to keep someone from even talking to a ‘hot guy’ or ‘cute girl’.
An effective way to break out of this self-destructive cycle is to know about yourself, your outbreaks, and what you can do to still have an enjoyable social and sex life.
- Talk about your status to your partner*
- Use condoms to reduce transmission by 30 percent
- Use oral antiviral drugs with a form of suppressive daily therapy to reduce transmission by 50 percent
- Use a protocol aimed at naturally breaking the herpes cycle
- Avoid sexual activity during outbreaks
Many people often find that their sex life is more satisfying and enriched than before diagnosis. This is because when oral sex and genital-to-genital contact is avoided during outbreaks, sexual partners can explore many other ways to still have a fulfilling sexual relationship.
* In a relationship that has mutual respect, you deserve the right to be able to disclose your condition without fear of rejection or any other negative feeling that you may be prone to experiencing. Disclosing that you have herpes can also help filter out any potential sexual partners that you may want to be in the long-run with.
Coping With a Herpes Outbreak
Although we are all entitled to a genital itch here and there, persistent uncomfortableness should always warrant medical assistance. While many may have little to no symptoms, there are still those that can suffer from severe symptoms that can make life during those few to several days very frustrating.
- Tingling sensations
These symptoms are all indicative of an on-coming or full-blown outbreak. When you do have an outbreak coming on you can take measures to improve recovery time and speed up the outbreak process. It’s all about knowing how to cope with genital herpes.
- take prescription antiviral medication
- take daily suppressive therapy
- explore natural and home remedies
- wear cotton panties, loose-fitting clothing
- have sitz baths or hot salt water bath 3 to 4 times a day
- keep lesions dry
- use hair dryer if towel is too painful to dry off
- use ice packs to reduce swelling
- take steps to ease stress
Outbreaks can occur infrequently and for a shorter period of time when you get involved and understand yourself. The biggest trigger for an outbreak is stress. Knowing how to minimize stress in your life can enable herpes to lay dormant for years at a time.
- Eat a balanced diet
- Sleep and get enough of it
- Get some regular exercise
- Relax: Take some time out for you
- Use your support system
You can allow herpes to control your life or you can take control of it. Coping with genital herpes can help you empower different aspects of yourself and your life that you never knew you would or could do. Use it instead to enrich your relationship and sex life, to discover some new self-confidence, strengthen supportive friendships, and be a hopeful voice and example for another.