I’ve never been one to keep a journal. As much as I like the idea of it, I have a hard time with doing it consistently. Every now and again, some major event will snap me out of my journal hibernation. Telling my parents I had herpes was one of those events, as I mentioned in my first post about life with herpes. I had completely forgotten that I wrote about it that same week until I stumbled onto the journal entry on my computer. I was planning to write a more detailed account about the whole thing, but I realized that the journal entry was already the most accurate depiction of the experience. So here it is, completely unaltered, except for one addition to clarify who Ricky and Javier are.
The Journal Entry
I told my parents that I had herpes on Tuesday, December 19th, the first full day that I was in Houston. Like a lot of scary events, the lead up to the moment was much scarier and stressful than the moment itself, which passed with a few questions from my parents, some reassurances from me that it isn’t a health risk, and very little fanfare.
The day before, Monday, 12/18, I was wrestling with if I would tell them and how I would tell them during my two Spirit flights from Seattle to Houston. I was pretty determined to tell them, knowing that it would be the only way I’d feel comfortable going public with the news, but there was still a little hesitation since both Ricky and Javier (my brothers) thought I should keep it a secret. So it kept on creeping into my mind as I tried to read Modern Romance on the plane.
I thought that telling them when I arrived was a bad idea because I was getting in late, and I did not want to drop stressful news that would potentially keep them awake the whole night. And I also thought it would be a better idea to tell them earlier in the trip rather than at the end so that they’d have more time to interact with me and realize that it doesn’t change who I am. It was based on the notion that having more time with me after learning I have herpes would help normalize the situation than if I told them and promptly left for Seattle. I decided that I would keep an eye out for a good moment to bring it up as early as possible during my trip. I didn’t have a plan for what I would do if that moment didn’t arrive in the time that I felt would work best.
The next thing that was on my mind was how to tell them. I mapped out different ways to bring up the topic and then tell them during the flights. Every approach was followed by my trying to simulate what their reaction would be. I was looking for the most thoughtful way to tell them. I toyed with doing a set up for it where I first assured them that my health wasn’t at risk. I also thought about just leading with it and then answering questions. I never really got to a point where I felt comfortable or confident with how to tell them. I think I resolved to just figure it out on the spot. Trying to script something out in advance would probably just make me more nervous when it came time to do it.
Tuesday morning I was talking to mom and dad in the kitchen about random stuff while drinking my cup of coffee. We were going through the conversation and all the while I was wrestling with if I should tell them in my mind. It was very stressful, and I was extremely nervous. There never seemed to be a good moment to bring up the news. But the more we sat there talking, the more I knew there would never be a good moment. And if I was going to do it, I needed to just take the leap and not think about it; the more I kept thinking about it, the more likely it was that I wouldn’t do it.
I resolved to rip off the bandaid, as it were. My dad was walking into the bedroom as I was starting to mouth the words, so I paused mid sentence and asked my dad to come back into the kitchen, telling my parents that I needed to tell them something. I’m pretty certain that my tone had become somber when it had been lighthearted and energetic just a few seconds before. They must have realized that I was about to tell them something bad.
I don’t remember what exactly I said, but I know that within 2 short sentences I had told them that I have herpes. I then proceeded to assure them that it didn’t have any implications for my health. My mom was the first one to ask me a question, and she led with why as an adult I had not been smart enough to use protection. I responded by explaining that I had in fact used protection (I left out that it was used for some things and not others), and that you can still get herpes with or without protection. We then went through a few details, including other people that we knew that might have it, more information about the different types of herpes, and what it meant for me.
There were a couple of times during the conversation that I felt my voice tremble and knew I was at risk of crying. I think my dad might have shed a few tears…I noticed him rubbing his eyes a few times.
The end of the conversation centered on my thinking about going public with this information to help destigmatize it among my circle of friends. Unsurprisingly, my parents first inclination was that I should keep it to myself and anyone that I was going to be romantically involved with. I let them know that it was exactly this kind of thinking that kept it so stigmatized and led a lot of people with herpes to go through mental anguish. My mom was the first one to say that I was an adult and could make my decisions and that at the end of the day it wouldn’t change anything between us. My dad fell in line afterward.
All told, it was probably a 6-7 minute conversation with weeks of anxious preparation and pre-thinking. My parents took it as well as I could have hoped because they are fantastic. Afterward, the next 8 days together were exactly what they would have been with or without the herpes news. It was fantastic. And I love them for being so understanding and supportive.