The first time I ever got an STD test, I was 16 years old and convinced that I had full blown AIDS.
Not even HIV, I went straight to AIDS because I was an ignorant, bubble gum-smacking twerp who didn't know anything about anything.
At the time, I was still technically a virgin with a much older, far more experienced boyfriend (this is before I crossed over to the ~lesbian side~, baby). One drunken night, we had rolled around without clothes on and dabbled in a little oral activity. Or so I thought.
I couldn't really remember what had happened because I was a string bean teen creature who was maybe a 110 pounds soaking wet, and I'd made the wise choice to drink Everclear with only Adderall (another wise choice!) and pop tarts swishing through my system. It was my first blackout, and I was convinced that during those dark hours, I had somehow contracted AIDS.
I've always had a fear of AIDS. My mother lost her best friend in the world to AIDS. Plus, I'm a '90s kid. The aftermath of the first AIDS crisis was all around me. I was educated enough to know that the disease didn't discriminate. It wasn't exclusive to gay men in bathhouses or intravenous drug users. I had seen the harrowing Larry Clark film, "Kids."
So, as far as I was concerned, AIDS was running rampant in the school hallways and it was only a matter of time before it happened to me.
Pregnancy, herpes, HPV, chlamydia — they were all small potatoes compared to this big kahunah. Like most wonderful products of abstinence-only sex education, I didn't realize that HIV came before AIDS, and that I was far more at risk for contracting other STDs.
I didn't really know anything at all. Which made getting tested even scarier. A trip to the clinic felt like a trip to juvie.
Now, I'm 30 years old and I get tested every six months no matter what — even when I'm not having sex (which happens from time to time).
Of course, being the bonafide reigning drama queen that I am, getting tested is still a wild emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish.
Here are the ups and downs I — and likely, everyone else — go through every single time I get an STD test:
"Um, WTF do I wear?"
No seriously, what the hell do you wear to go get an STD test?
It sounds so trite and so petty, but really, is it appropriate to wear torn jeans to the clinic? Will the doctors judge you for your grunge-chic attire (even though those distressed denim pants are Rag and Bone)?
Is it in poor taste to wear red lipstick to Planned Parenthood?
Ah, fuck it. You end up settling for a maxi dress with a grown up blazer thrown over the top. You need to be comfortable.
"Holy crap, I'm driving to my doom."
You're driving to the clinic feeling sort of mom chic in your grown blazer and floor skimming maxi dress, when suddenly, a dark wave of depression washes all over you. It's as if the bright summer sky has instantly turned slate gray, and something bad is about to happen.
"I will be positive for all the STDs. I know it, I know it, I know it, I know it," you think to yourself, as you recklessly speed through red lights.
Whoosh! Just like that, all your hopes and dreams fly out the car window. Because who will want to date a 20-something who is positive for every STD in existence and is most likely 5 months pregnant to boot?
"Actually, this can be my true calling."
As you make your way into the static clinic, you smile soulfully at the woman behind the front desk who tells you to sign in, honey.
Now that you've convinced yourself you're living with every STD (including pregnancy and HIV) possible, you're starting to come around to this new reality.
Now, you have a purpose in this world: God herself has handpicked YOU to educate the masses that it's okay to have an STD. You can still have sex, live a full life, and have wonderful friends.
Oh, the speeches you'll make at schools! Oh the stints you will have on the news! They say everything happens for a reason, and this is ~your reason~.
A strange calm feeling overtakes your body, until suddenly you hear your name called. It's time, baby. It's time.
"Why is this hallway so LONG?"
Walking down the hall of the clinic and into the testing room is the longest walk of your life. It's endless.
Your angry. Your sad. You hate the boy or girl you last had sex with. God, why do infections things like STDs even have to exist?!?!
Then, you enter the room.
"OMG, hi new best friend!"
Once you enter the room, you realize there is nothing jail cell-y about this place at ALL!
It's full of colorful arrays of condoms and the nurse is oh-so-young and bubbly and sex-positive, and the entire vibe is just so gorgeously FREE. It's like a yoga class with lube and sex facts written on the walls.
You tell the nurse in great detail about your sex life, and she seems totally unfazed by all of your illicit sex stories.
It feels so good to TALK about all this stuff and ask all these questions, that you just want to keep on going, sugar. In fact, the nurse is so friendly, is it weird that you kinda wanna ask her out for coffee?
You mull it over as she swabs under your tongue, draws some blood, and has you pee into a cup like a good little patient.
Before you know it, you're all done. You get a GOLD STAR, babes.
"That was so damn easy. But wait... now I just wait?"
Now that you're home and the happy high of getting the test over with has worn off, you're starting to feel a little, well, uneasy.
One moment, you're so deliriously happy, feeling like a sex positive woman who took her sexual health into her own capable hands.
The next, you're so anxious that you're feeling phantom symptoms. "Is my mouth dry? Is that a side affect? Why did I just pee 3 times?"
And let's not even talk about that bizarre itch between your legs...
"Time to face the music, girl."
The phone rings. Your heart stops. You have a dry mouth. The room is spinning. What's wrong with you? Are you about to faint?
"YAS! I'm on top of the world, baby!"
Awesome news: You're ALL GOOD, GIRL!
You feel like ten thousands weights have lifted off your shoulders. You're glowing baby. You're glowing.
You promise the nurse on the phone that you'll wrap it up and use a condom every time and get tested EVERY 6 MONTHS.
And damn, girl, this time you will.
Read more from our Sex ED series.