and I noticed something that he, apparently, had not.
He sensed my moment of hesitation.
What’s wrong, do I have a spot?
Yep. It’s a little scabby right here. I wondered if you had something going on the other day, remember?
Yeah, it’s worse now, but it didn’t feel like anything. Not even that tingly feeling, that skin sensitivity, you know?
Yeah. But it doesn’t even itch? Mine always itches. That’s crazy.
Well, this is what you have to look forward to, maybe, I guess.
…You know, it’s been a year.
For me. It’s been a year now.
…Thanks for reminding me.
…Wait, me saying that upsets you?
It’s still a sore subject for me.
The conversation fizzled there. A little while later we exchanged goodnights and I love yous and went to sleep.
First thing I took away from this whole conversation was this: Boyfriend has been experiencing outbreak symptoms for at least a few days now, AND HE HAD NO IDEA. This is a guy who is aware of his HSV+ status, who knows what the symptoms look like, and we even noticed a rough texture on a little area of his penis a few days ago, AND HE STILL DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS DEVELOPING AN OUTBREAK. This is the reality of herpes, people. For most people who have it, it’s super mild. This is why it’s so easy to spread it. This is also why the stigma is ridiculous. You’re going to alienate people who have a generally harmless condition that is such a non-event that they’re completely oblivious to it.
I’m also a little bummed that I can’t always talk to him about my own experience without upsetting him. I mean, this is my life now. This is something I’m experiencing, and I share it with him, and it’s really something that only affects me and him in any real, functional way. I can tell him if I have symptoms, no problem, and he can tell me if he has them, and we adjust our activities accordingly. But he beats himself up so much for having spread it to me that I can’t talk about the transmission part of the whole deal without him going to a negative place. I don’t like making him feel that way, but I also don’t like feeling like I can’t talk about it. I have no idea if this will change or improve, or if it’ll always be an emotional taboo.
It makes me doubly thankful for the Tumblr community. I know I can always talk to you guys.
It’s not bad. Three little blisters, all in the same place, no bigger than about the flat surface of a metal thumb tack. They’re on my left outer labia, and it’ll probably suck a bit when they break and start sticking to my underwear.
This morning I was proud of myself because I remembered to request the white bread toasted for breakfast instead of the wheat. (Wheat bread is high in L-Arginine, a natural amino acid that can trigger outbreaks.) Generally I completely forget to consider my food choices during outbreaks, and I certainly can’t be bothered to worry about how herpes-friendly my meals are are between outbreaks. Today, today I remembered.
Of course, then I went out and picked up Halloween candy (because I wanted it), caffeinated soda (because Boyfriend wanted it), and pistachios (because we both like them). Chocolate, caffeine, and nuts? All trigger foods.
New Model For Vaccination Against Genital Herpes
This is not only really great just on the merit of being closer to a genital herpes vaccine, but also because this technology could be used for an HIV vaccine and many other infections.
um, but why? herpes doesn’t hurt you in any real way (except if in the eye), it’s just socially constructed as shameful. great way to commodify on shame. fuck that.
Although I agree that herpes definitely isn’t something to worry about too much because it can’t cause permanent damage and the stigma against it is the main problem with it, it’s still incredibly uncomfortable and can cause pain and problems with your immune system. As someone who already has problems with their immune system, getting genital herpes made that worse and if I could have taken a vaccine to ensure that didn’t happen and that the incredibly painful first outbreak didn’t happen I would have taken that vaccine. That’s why I also caution people to use protection with various types of sex. Yes getting herpes isn’t the end of things and you can live an amazing life and have a great sex life after, but it is difficult to go through.
Not to mention the fact that this all over increases technology that may one day include a vaccine for HIV which definitely has more of an impact on your life than herpes and has an even more detrimental impact on your immune system.
As someone who has Genital Herpes, I see a vaccine as something that could be incredibly helpful. Living with this STD is complicated - complicated because of social stigma, physical discomfort and its potential to effect my ability to have relationships and sex. All of these things have an immense effect on my ability, at times, to operate in the world. It sometimes changes interpersonal dynamics, it sometimes changes my ability to wholly express myself sexually and makes me much more susceptible to other medical issues and other STD’s. A vaccine could not only prevent other people from experiencing this kind of inhibition, but could also prevent future partners from having to worry about contracting the virus.
You can’t just shrug things off as social construction. Yes, social construction is a very real mechanism that is operating on all things and provides meaning and context for those things, but you know what else is real? Having a really fucking painful herpes outbreak. That is real as real can be … and uncomfortable … and painful … and it doesn’t matter what society says about that, when its just me and my body all alone in a room, I have to walk myself through that experience in a very loving way so I don’t allow the negativity of the very social construction you’re talking about to eat me up inside.
I also have HSV, and if I had the opportunity to go back and be vaccinated? Damn skippy I’d do it. The symptoms are not fun, and the medication to treat them or keep them at bay is fucking expensive. I don’t know a whole bunch of people right now who have a lot of spare cash to throw around. Right now I’m fortunate enough to have medical insurance, but I’m working part time and collecting part time unemployment. This morning I woke up with an outbreak. I don’t have any anti-viral pills left. So do I call my gyno and have my script refilled, and fork over $120 towards my new deductible? Or do I rough it out and hold onto that cash so I can contribute more fairly to my and Boyfriend’s living expenses? Somebody with a compromised immune system might be in enough discomfort during an outbreak that they need to take off work, missing out on the income they need.
Living with medical afflictions costs people money. All the body positivity in the world won’t change that.
I’m about to do something that is probably a terrible idea. I’m about to talk about STIs. I’m not a doctor. I am familiar with how things said on the internet are quoted out of context or read without full comprehension. I feel like these things need to be said anyway.
The way that I see it, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis are kind of like Strep Throat for your genitals. They’re all bacteria. They’re all easily cured with antibiotics if caught early. If you don’t catch and treat them early, they can cause serious damage to your body. Untreated Syphilis will eventually eat your brain, and kill you. Strep Throat can progress into Rheumatic Fever, which people used to (possibly still do) die from too. If you have one of these infections, it’s really freaking rude to pass it around. Do you see the parallels here? Sweet.
First let’s talk about catching things early. You’re aware of your throat. You’re aware of how it usually feels when you swallow and how things usually taste. You’re familiar with what your tongue and mouth look like on an average day. You know when something isn’t right. How aware are you of your genitals? Do you know how they usually feel? Do you know which parts are sensitive in which ways, what they look like in their resting and aroused states? If you have a vagina, do you know what goo happens during which parts of your cycle and what the typical texture and taste of these goos is? If you have a penis, I’m sure there’s some kind of equivalent, but I’m not qualified to speak on that. If you’re good friends with your genitals, you’re more likely to notice as soon as something out of the ordinary is going on with them. However, some STIs don’t show symptoms. Some people don’t show symptoms. Sometimes things get overlooked or written off as symptoms of another issue. This is why frequent STI testing is recommended, even if you’re diligently using condoms. Condoms can break, they can slip off, and they only cover part of the genitals. STIs can be transmitted through oral sex. STIs can be transmitted via shared toys, a finger that goes in a vagina and then into your mouth.
Moving on to how it’s rude to pass it around. If your throat hurts and you feel sick, I’d like to think you’d call out of work. I’d like to think that you’d wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and be careful about where you leave your tissues. You might warn people you’ve been in close contact with you’re sick and remind them to drink their orange juice. If it burns when you pee, you have an odd rash, or your genitals smell different than normal, I’d like to think you’d keep them in your pants until they can be assessed by a doctor. I’d like to think you’d immediately tell your sexual partners that they may have been exposed to something.
This paragraph is kind of random but definitely related: Most sexual education materials seem to have a worst-case scenario approach to what STIs look like and how they present. The most readily available pictures of each disease are, frankly, horrifying, but they don’t stop people from having sex. They don’t even stop people from having unprotected sex with near-strangers they’ve picked up at a bar. I think these worst-case images may actually contribute to an unrealistic feeling of ability to spot someone with an STI. For instance, you meet someone at a nightclub. They seem nice, smart, clean. You take their pants off later and see one small irritated bump. It could be a shaving injury or an ingrown hair. After all, it doesn’t look a thing like the cauliflower-like growths you’ve seen in pictures of HPV and certainly isn’t a blistered mass of angry red sores like the images of HSV2 (genital herpes) you were shown once in 8th grade. You really want to get your dick wet, and they *do* seem nice and clean. Maybe it is just razorburn, or maybe you end up with an incurable viral STI, partially because you were making decisions based on faulty information.
Why don’t we approach sexually transmitted infections the same way that we approach the flu or pinkeye? Why isn’t practical, easily understood information about STIs readily available? Why, in a world where Jenna Jameson is a household name and people can (and do) google up every sexual act imaginable to watch video footage of it, are we still so uncomfortable discussing sexual health?
I’m really glad the OP touched on something that bugs the crap out of me: It’s almost impossible to find photos of STD symptoms that are not horrific, exaggerated and worst-case-scenario.
My first outbreak? Pretty bad. A bunch of sores. Still nowhere near as bad as the photos I’ve seen online. Subsequent outbreaks? The earlier ones were maybe 3 sores. Now it’s one. That’s it. A small, tucked away, not-that-scary-looking papercut kinda thing. I could have had an ingrown hair, or cut myself shaving, or maybe my partner had a sharp fingernail and was a little too rough during sex play.
Boyfriend’s first outbreak? Tiny. One little place. He describes it as a “weird-looking spot.” A SPOT. Not a horrifying bumpy mess all over his penis. It was so small that the medical professional who inspected it wrote it off as “could be anything,” wrote him a script for UTI meds, and sent him on his way.
So in a world where we can’t talk openly about STDs and sex and sexual health? Where we’re afraid to talk about our own bodies and desires and what we do with those things? Where people would rather not be tested than know what they might be carrying? Think about how easy it is for someone who has a suspicious looking bump to think, “Hey, it doesn’t look like the awful photos they showed us in health class, so maybe it’ll just go away.”
It’s feast or famine. Either we’re afraid to talk about it at all, or we flash around a photo of someone with lesions covering half their body. For the majority of people, this will not be anything like their experience. For the majority of people, the information we’re (not) providing is utterly useless.
**Also, a friendly reminder that while HSV2 is the herpes strain more likely to thrive in the genital area, HSV1 and HSV2 can both be found on the genitals or on the mouth.**
Mild itch, a couple bumps.
When they tell you that 80% of people who have genital herpes don’t know it, because they don’t recognize the symptoms?
This is why.
I know I have it, and I still don’t always recognize my symptoms.
Just on my knees, and my thighs right above my knees. It’s been happening for the past 2 or 3 days. Sensitive to the touch, unpleasant. At first I thought maybe my shorts were rubbing my skin in a bad way, but wearing different clothes hasn’t helped.
Boyfriend suggested that maybe it was an outbreak symptom, like the “flu-like symptom” of sensitive skin that often happens during a primary outbreak. And it feels kinda like that, except that it’s down awfully low on my legs for a herpes symptom.
Also, I’m healing from an outbreak, and to my knowledge not experiencing a new, fresh outbreak. (That last sore in the nook where my labia meet feels much better, but it’s still open and a bit raw when you look at it. I think it has a hard time healing because it doesn’t get a lot of air.) With the last one, when I was experiencing the prodromal symptoms, I did have skin sensitivity on my butt cheek and the back of my upper thigh, but it went away once the nerve lightening subsided.
No idea. I just hope it goes away soon.
So, your twat itches. Goody. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because…
- there are too many bacteria all up in that bizz.
- there are too many yeasts all up in that bizz.
- you shaved recently.
- you didn’t shave recently.
- you’re experiencing prodromal (pre-outbreak) herpes symptoms.
- you’re experiencing a herpes outbreak.
- you washed your body with a soap that your bits find irritating. (Stick to water, ladies!)
- it’s one of those weekends where you haven’t had time to shower.
- it’s Tuesday.
Vaginas are not very creative in the symptom department. Maybe when they have a yeast infection they should learn to frown. Or wear googly eyes. Or dispense chocolate pudding.
Actually, scratch that last suggestion.
So your twat itches, but only a little, only on the inside of the right inner labia, and it gets a little sore and annoyed when you scratch it. Why is that?
Friend Suzie (who knows of my HSV+ status) sent me this link last week, which touts the benefits of green tea for a number of ailments. You know I’m all about the home remedies and such.
The article doesn’t actually say anything about green tea + herpes, but my Glitter Sponsor has recommended it for its soothing properties on more than one occasion. For relief of discomfort during a herpes outbreak:
- Brew green tea
- Squeeze tea bag
- Apply tea bag to angry bits
- Feel better
I mean this makes sense. From the article:
The useful parts of green tea are the leaf bud, leaf, and stem. Green tea is not fermented and is produced by steaming fresh leaves at high temperatures. During this process, it is able to maintain important molecules called polyphenols, which seem to be responsible for many of the benefits of green tea.
Polyphenols might be able to prevent inflammation and swelling, protect cartilage between the bones, and lessen joint degeneration. They also seem to be able to fight human papilloma virus (HPV) infections and reduce the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix (cervical dysplasia). Research cannot yet explain how this works.
Emphasis mine. Herpes outbreaks can cause inflammation and swelling, which is why the doctor will suggest ibuprofin. Green tea fights those symptoms naturally.
Did you catch that cool bit about HPV, though?
Likely effective for… Genital warts. A specific green tea extract ointment (Veregen, Bradley Pharmaceuticals) is FDA-approved for treating genital warts.
A little more specific:
Some women use green tea to fight human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause genital warts, the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix (cervical dysplasia), and cervical cancer.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For human papillomavirus (HPV) infections of the cervix: green tea ointment alone or in combination with oral green tea extract, twice weekly for 8-12 weeks.
- For genital warts: a specific green tea extract ointment (Veregen, Bradley Pharmaceuticals) providing 15% kunecatechins applied three times daily to external warts for up to 16 weeks has been used.
If you have HPV, look into treatments rooted in green tea!
And then I remembered again, and I was really surprised!
It was really nice! Not so much the forgetting (not bad!) or the remembering (womp-woooomp!) as the ability to forget…because I feel healthy.
Right now, things are great! Nothing itches, nothing hurts, nothing is sore or blistery or dischargey. If you were to do a full inspection of my nethers right about now, you would find a perfectly healthy vagina with all the usual features and moving parts. (Wait, what?)
Anyway, I promised an update on the garlic experiment. Actually, I only did it the one night! The next evening I took a whole head of garlic and my sewing kit to my boyfriend’s apartment, where I spent the night. He never questioned the garlic, which he just put on the banana stand (WHERE THERE IS ALWAYS MONEY) on the counter. Come bedtime I couldn’t bring myself to peel, thread and insert the garlic clove and then have to explain myself, so I just skipped it and figured that if the itch came back, I’d make it an every other day thing.
But the itch didn’t come back!
Ladies, if your vagina is practicing its impression of a delicious, yeasty baked good, go ahead and try the garlic bread.
ADVENTURES IN HOME REMEDIES
As a college freshman I picked up a plantar wart (the kind you get on the bottom of your foot), and struggled to be completely rid of them for 7 years. Freezing, burning, acid, you name it, I tried it. The treatment that finally worked (but took 8 agonizing months to do so) was a blistering agent derived from blister beetles. I’d recommend it.
A home remedy I tried before resorting to another podiatrist? Apple Cider Vinegar. Seriously, that shit is a wonderfood. Vinegar of the white or apple cider variety will kill your funguses, kill your viruses (like HPV, which causes warts), clean your shower, de-smell your Tupperware and take you out to lunch. It’s pretty amazing.
When you strap it to your foot on a cotton ball, 24/7 for several weeks, it also makes your shoes smell like some kind of potato salad. It’s slightly distracting when you’re, say, sitting at your desk and cross your feet and catch a wiff. You’ll wonder if your coworkers notice that in addition to limping, you smell something like the prepared foods counter at the deli. It kinds worked, by the way, but it hurt like hell and I didn’t follow through with it long enough. The warts came back, had a party, and multiplied.