There are a lot of really tough life questions out there.
Here are just a few: How do you know if someone really loves you? When do you give up on someone, and when do you give the person a second chance? Can you ever truly trust someone again who cheated on you?
All of those questions have a common answer: You figure it out for yourself through trial and error.
Trial and error is exactly what I had to go through before I could answer the question, “How do you start dating again after being diagnosed with an STD?”
When I was diagnosed with HSV-2, or genital herpes, I thought I would never have a normal life again, let alone a normal relationship. I went back and forth between hating myself and wanting to pretend that everything was OK.
I remember how I kept staring at the screen of my broken computer I had accidently dropped a few days earlier. I stared and stared at the words “damaged,” “error” and “repairs needed.” I couldn't help but see myself the same way. In my eyes, I was broken. I was damaged beyond repair, just like my computer.
It took me weeks to truly come to terms with what had happened. I was living in a depressed state within my own mind, yet I was putting on a show with a smile on my face for everyone else who didn't know what I was going through. My world had come temporarily crashing down, and most people had no idea.
After I made it through the initial shock and anger phase of being diagnosed with herpes, I tried to move on. My way of doing this was to attempt to convince myself I was the same person, and I could still do whatever I wanted.
I did not want to believe this small, insignificant skin disease had to alter my life in any way.
Because I thought this way, I continued my senior year of college as most women do. I went out to the bars with my friends, I met random guys and I even slept with a few of them. I always used protection, and I was very, very careful about being responsible. Despite that, by ignoring the fact I now had an STD, I was flat out irresponsible.
Before getting an STD, I was never a girl who would sleep with a guy she barely knew. I got herpes from an ex-boyfriend whom I loved and trusted not to hurt me. After getting an STD, I slept around with guys just so I could feel “normal” again.
I lost sight of who I was in an attempt to hide what I thought I had become. I used denial as a coping mechanism, and I ended up emotionally damaging myself even more in the process.
I was seeking validation from guys because I couldn't find it within myself anymore. My self-confidence and self-esteem were shattered. I saw myself as used up and damaged.
But when guys wanted me and wanted to sleep with me — even though I didn't disclose my status to them — I felt I was still desirable and worthy of affection. I was letting guys use me and treat me like crap because inside my mind, I didn't feel I deserved any better.
When I tried to hide what had happened from myself and live as if nothing had changed, I delayed the healing process that had to occur in order for me to move on with my life. This period of depression and self-hate went on for several months until I was able to pull myself together. I needed to recognize I didn't need to be with guys who did not respect or value me just because I had an STD. Only when I made that realization was I able to truly forgive myself and begin to heal.
I started to see myself as way more than someone with an STD, and instead as someone who was worthy of a guy who treated her right because of her intelligence, character, kindness and beauty.
I had to change the way I saw myself before I could date again, before I was able to trust that someone else could see me for who I really was and before I would ever believe that someone would give me a chance, despite having herpes. Dating again after being diagnosed did not happen overnight. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles and make it through many days of feeling as if I would never be in a normal, healthy relationship again.
After I made the decision to accept myself, I also subconsciously gave myself permission to pull myself together and move on. I met an amazing guy, and we started dating. Before we had sex for the first time, I told him everything.
At first, he was shocked and surprised. But then, similar to how I decided not to give up on myself, he decided not to give up on me just because of an STD.
So, how do you start dating again after being diagnosed with an STD? You learn to love yourself again, and you just go for it.