I woke up that morning and felt an odd bump on my face. I figured it was nothing serious, that I had just popped a zit and went to school that morning. When I got to campus I noticed that everyone was staring at me, and it made me even more self-conscious.  By the time I got to lunch, the anxiety was at an all-time high.

I caught my friend staring, “So, who did you make out with?” I felt myself blush, and wondering how she knew, “what? Nobody”

She stares at me coolly, “so then what’s on your lip?”

“Nothing I popped a zit”

She continues to stare at me. “No, that’s a cold sore.”

I feel my cheeks start to flush.

She looks down to take a sip of her drink, “I think you should go to the doctor”

I nod meekly and gather my things as I head toward the health clinic on campus. I’m about to head up the stairs into the clinic when I pause. People already whisper about the brown girls who go into the school’s health clinic- if I go in with this thing on my face my fate is sealed.

Instead, I head to the walk-in clinic near my grandmother’s house. I’d prefer not to run into anyone at the moment. I walk over to the receptionist who takes down my information and hands me a couple of sheets to fill out. Normally, these things are a breeze, I take pride in the fact that I eat well, exercise regularly, don’t drink or smoke-but I can’t help replaying to the party I went to last month. I look up out of the corner of my eye and I see the nurse gesturing for me to come inside.

Once I’m in the room she shuts the door behind me-

“So, what’s the issue?” she phrases the question all business like and it throws me off. I gesture awkwardly at my lip. She peers at my lip for a while,

“The physician will be right in,” she fills out a few forms and walks out of the room while I stand there dumbfounded.

The physician walks in and she looks like a warmer person but everything sort of swirls around and I’m trying my hardest to just sit still. She takes a swab of the cold sore and tells me that results will be available before the end of the day.

When I get the call later in the day I know the results: Herpes. There are creams available, but there’s no cure. Herpes is for life.

I never thought I would be one to get any STI let alone something that would need to be managed for the rest of my life. Just know that you have to take precautions. With oral sex I figured that the risk was minimal, and I ignored things I shouldn’t have. I feel angry, hurt and a whole mess of emotions that I can’t seem to contain.

I’ve been reading up online and avoiding stressors and trying to get in exercise and eating as healthy as possible seems to help a lot of people keep outbreaks at bay. I haven’t figured out what works for me, and having herpes makes dating more complicated because I feel like there’s a part of me that won’t be accepted.

I hope that with the right treatment and the help of my family and friends I will be able to regain my self-confidence and come to terms with my diagnosis.