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'I was up at 3am googling my symptoms. Then I saw two ulcer-looking things down there.'

There I was in the bath at 3am googling my symptoms. I was shivering, vomiting, my legs ached and I was in excruciating pain from the cut I had in my vagina.

It all started with the age-old story. Girl meet boy that looks like GI Joe on Tinder. Girl and boy have drinks. Girl discovers boy has huge penis. Girl puts penis inside of her. Girl gets earth-shatteringly painful cut.

Jackie Lunn has a go at swiping people on Tinder for Jessie Stephens. Post continues after video. 

Mirror in hand, I continued my vagina excavation until the early hours of the morning. I discovered I had two mouth ulcer looking things down there. This had me extremely concerned. Upon falling asleep I convinced myself that my cut was infected and maybe I had blood poisoning. There’s a new doctor in town, appointments on request.

I went to hospital the next day.

When the doctor told me I had herpes my Google nightmares and general nightmares came to life. I would have this virus FOREVER. I can’t commit to a relationship but this virus and I were walking down the aisle and saying our vows.

It was GI Joe from two weeks ago. I knew it!

I immediately felt angry with him. I blamed him entirely for this virus that was about to end my sex life entirely.

“I knew he was good to be true,” I told my best friend. He lived 500m away from me. He could get to me faster than Uber Eats and of course he looked like a GI Joe cartoon character. We used a condom. I was far from promiscuous. I hadn’t slept with anyone else for six months and although I was all about the sexy adventures I was quite calculated with my romp partners. I didn’t deserve this.

I hit up all sorts of Google sites in the coming days. I was heartbroken. I decided I would no longer have sex. I deleted Tinder and deemed myself a leper. Maybe I could focus on my intellect instead, write my first novel… take up Spanish… feed the hungry in Africa.

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LISTEN: Real talk, how does one have a one night stand? Post continues after audio. 

I wasn’t only in emotional pain. I wasn’t able to wee outside of a bath and I had tears in my eyes every time I sat down.

Thankfully, I went to a special sex clinic that changed everything. The doctor was so compassionate and thorough in her explanation of the virus. She shared a website with me that eased my shame.

I began to focus on the facts.

      • Herpes simplex causes a viral skin condition.
      • As many as one in three adults has the virus that causes genital herpes.
      • Around 80 per cent of people infected with genital herpes don’t know they have the herpes virus.
      • 75 per cent of people who have genital herpes get it from people who are entirely unaware that they have HSV1 or HSV2 herpes themselves.
      • The emotional impact of being diagnosed with genital herpes is often much worse than the condition and it doesn’t deserve the upset it causes (DING DING DING DING).
      • Oral herpes, also known as cold sores (HSV-1), is commonly transmitted to the genitals through oral to genital contact. Up to 50 per cent of genital herpes is caused by the oral cold sore type of herpes simplex. (That’s what I have down below. Who knew that was even a thing?)
      • The herpes virus can be passed on when there are no symptoms present.
      • Most people who infect others with herpes don’t realise they are even putting their partners at risk.
      • Using condoms reduces the risk of passing on the herpes virus, but doesn’t completely eliminate it.

There were a few main takeaways. Herpes is very common, the boy may not have known and joining a nunnery may not be necessary. I had always been such an open-minded person in all aspects of life, so why was I stigmatising STI’s? Why had I labelled myself a slut when the facts said otherwise? The fact is anyone can get herpes. It doesn’t discriminate.

I decided to tell GI Joe. Every instinct I had told me he didn’t know. He just didn’t seem like the deceitful type.

I was right. He was beside himself with guilt. He had zero symptoms. He said that he felt sick that he was the one who did this to me. He came over that night. I made jokes about how we may as well get married now, questioned what would be good herpes chat background music and nicknamed him my herpes husband. Hilarious content if you ask me.

“I’m completely shocked at how you are handling this, you are handling it better than I ever could,” he said while holding my hand on the couch. Wasn’t he worried he’d catch hand herpes? (Turns out it doesn’t work like that). Was this new age romance?

He went on to cook me dinner, take me out to lunch and check up on my everyday. I’m telling you, herpes perks are real people. Spread the word.

I decided to keep seeing him. The fact is that the herpes virus brought us closer. It made us vulnerable and it’s taught me a lot about being kind to myself. I’m sure I will encounter the same shame when I tell my next sexual partner but for now, I’m choosing to just let it go. I have banned the word “herpes” from my vocabulary because after all… it’s just a skin condition.

Be kind to the herpes folk. We didn’t choose this tribe and for God’s sake don’t Google medical symptoms in the bath at 3am.

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Tags: dating , features , health , sex
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