He thought it was a yeast infection…

Ouch, says our elder. I can see how much this hurts, but try not to let it define your lives.

Dear EWC

My husband and I have been married for four years. We have three children together. When we first started dating, my husband told me he often suffers from yeast infections and he had to go to the hospital to get it checked out when we were dating. Apparently he had been to the doctor several times for this and each time they treated him for yeast. They also gave him an STD panel test and it came back negative. Throughout our marriage my husband would tell me, I’m not feeling good and then the infection would return. He would be in severe pain and we wouldn’t have intercourse during this time because it was too painful for him. I never questioned this.

Fast forward to now, a month after our son was born. I started to not feel good and just shrugged it off as postpartum issues. But after a few days I knew something was wrong and went to see my doctor. She told me it looks like genital herpes. She assured me that it was OK and that she will give me the medicine to clear it up. I explained to her about my husband’s condition and how he has recurring yeast infections. And she said that doesn’t sound like that’s right. And that it is unfortunate he was misdiagnosed for eight years because he could have been on the medicine to help not transfer it to me. Now looking back at all that the symptoms of herpes and what he went through, I feel really stupid that I didn’t question this. I talked to my husband and he is very remorseful and showed me his medical records to ensure that he really didn’t know it. When they test for STDs, they don’t test for herpes unless they have reason to or you ask them too. So it was never done all the times he went in with the ‘yeast infection’. He had been having these problems for eight years or so and every time he saw his doctor, they gave him medicine for a yeast infection.

I’m very resentful towards him for giving this life sentence to me. Our doctor says because we’re married, we shouldn’t worry and everything will be fine. It’s just painful and doesn’t affect anything else. Our doctor is great and she did make me feel better. However, now that I’m home and in pain, I feel so depressed. This is supposed to be the best part of my life, raising our young children and focusing on building a routine with our newborn son. Thankfully there was no outbreak when I gave birth so our son is perfectly healthy. But I can’t help but cry and wonder how this all happened. My husband is ashamed and is almost avoiding me when I’m really upset. Which I understand but he did this to me. I’m not sure if I can handle this. I love him dearly. But I’m feeling so resentful towards him. I don’t know if I should tell him I need space for a while. Or if that’s even fair to him. Any advice on how to forgive him? I just don’t want to pretend to move on and really not take time to heal through this. Because I feel if I don’t take the time then it will be unresolved for a long time. Any advice is helpful. Thank you.

Folk replies

Of course you are feeling stressed and depressed right now. You are in pain, you are still recovering your strength after having had a baby, you are caring for a newborn as well as two other children, and you just found out you have an incurable disease. And of course you are angry and resentful that this had to happen to you. I am sorry you have to go through this. But your doctor is absolutely right: once you allow yourself some time to adjust, everything will be fine, and you will realize that none of the things you love about your life have changed.

Other than occasionally having to deal with the pain and annoyances of outbreaks, you are not herpes. You don’t have to change who you are or anything about your life. Herpes is just another virus, and you have been dealing with viruses ever since you were a kid. When you stop to think about it, the herpes virus is a lot like the cold virus. Whenever you come down with a cold or the flu, you are sick for a few days, then it goes away, and you feel fine — until you catch another cold. You have been dealing with having colds all your life and even though no one ever wants a cold and there is no cure for the common cold, no one, including you, thinks of colds as any big deal, as anything other than a minor inconvenience. We certainly don’t think of them as having the power to interfere with our happiness or our lives.

When your doctor told you that you had herpes and you and she figured out that you had contracted it from your husband, you got mad at him for passing it to you. Which is understandable — because he did. When bad things happen to us, blame is one of the ways we cope. But your poor husband had to needlessly and repeatedly suffer with outbreaks for eight long years because he was misdiagnosed. Had he been diagnosed — and treated — correctly from the start, he could have been taking medicine not only to treat his own symptoms but to also reduce the risk of his passing the virus on to you. I am certainly not going to tell you what to feel or whom to blame, but if I were you, I know that I’d be focusing my anger and blame, not on my husband, but on the doctors who told him he had a yeast infection and didn’t even bother to test him for herpes.

Your husband is not the enemy here. In fact, you and he are natural allies fighting the same enemy.

As I’m sure your doctor has told you, the first outbreak is almost always the worst. Future outbreaks — when and if they occur — won’t always be nearly as bad as this one now. With any luck, you may go years between outbreaks. Outbreaks are mainly triggered by stress so if you want to avoid future outbreaks, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start getting on top of your herpes rather than allowing it to get you down. This means enjoying the best part of your life, raising your young children, loving your husband, and building and getting on with your wonderful life. Life dealt you a blip, sure, but it’s just a blip. You can handle it.

Still, it’s heck of a blow. So, give yourself some time — and space — to get used to the idea that, although you didn’t do anything to deserve it, you are stuck with this disease. Console yourself with the fact that as diseases go, though, it’s not a bad one. One in every four or five people — people exactly like you — are dealing with it successfully every day. Work through the stages of reconciliation and acceptance, and then get on with your life. If you feel that talking about what you’re feeling with others who share your diagnosis would be helpful, ask your doctor to recommend a herpes support group in your area.

Whatever you do, please do not allow this virus to rob you of your rightful joy. Herpes may be a “life sentence,” but it isn’t your life. You have a precious new baby, two great kids, and a husband who all love you. Let them be your life.

I hope this helps. If you want to talk more about what you’re feeling, I am always here.

Letter #: 408486
Category: Marriage

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