I used to think that getting an STD was a horrifying experience that happened to careless people, not someone like me—that is until it did happen to me. I’d always wondered how I’d react if I did get diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, but the reality of it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
I knew there was something wrong.
The first sign that something was up was when I started seeing small amounts of blood or pink discharge in my underwear after plain old missionary sex with my long-term sexual partner. It occurred to me that I might’ve just been spotting between periods, but after all the horror stories I’d read about women who’d ignored early signs of things like cervical cancer, I didn’t want to take any chances.
I never expected it would be an STD.
My then-partner was the only one I’d had since I’d last been tested, and even though we weren’t super strict about using condoms, his promises that he’d recently tested clean and wasn’t hooking up with anyone else made me think that whatever was going on with me couldn’t be an STD. I didn’t know what to expect when I made the appointment, but it sure wasn’t the result that I got.
Even the doctor didn’t think I had anything.
When I explained my symptoms to my doctor, she didn’t seem concerned. She explained that since nothing had turned up strange after my last visit just months before and I wasn’t showing any other symptoms, it was highly unlikely that I was dealing with anything serious. Her thoughts were along the lines of irregularities in my menstrual cycle or an abrasion in my vagina caused by friction during sex, so I was at least able to relax knowing that she didn’t have concerns about cancer.
When I got the call, I freaked out a little.
Chlamydia. That was certainly a word I never thought I’d hear attached to my name. I knew that out of all the STDs I could’ve gotten, chlamydia was basically the easiest one to get rid of, but it seemed like a bad dream that I would have it. I’d always been so careful about using protection during sex, and it was just my luck that the one time I slacked off a little, I caught something.
The hardest part was telling my partner.
I tried to keep things casual when I told my partner the situation, but deep down, I was embarrassed. I’d been honest with him about my previous test results and the fact that I’d never had an STD, but I still somehow felt like it was my fault. He was cool about it, but I knew it was embarrassing for him to have to call his previous partners and suggest that they get tested as well.
It was so easy to get rid of.
I was prepared for at least a week’s worth of treatment, but all I needed to do was take an antibiotic once and I was good to go. My partner had some rough side effects from the medication, like diarrhea, but I didn’t experience anything noticeable. It was surprising to me that an infection that was surrounded by so much stigma would be so easy to remove from my body.
I didn’t feel “dirty” like I thought I would.
All my life, everyone from health teachers to my friends had talked about STDs like they were the worst thing that could happen to a person. And to be fair, there are plenty that can permanently change your life for the worse. But when I got chlamydia, I was pleasantly underwhelmed with the impact it had on my emotional well-being. I saw it as just another easily treatable communicable illness, like the common cold. I know things could’ve gotten much worse if I’d left it untreated, but then, so can other illnesses if you don’t do anything about them.
It turns out I might not have even had it at all.
The biggest kicker of all happened when I returned to the doctor for something unrelated a few months later, and when I brought up my chlamydia diagnosis from before, my doctor was puzzled as she looked through her notes. It turns out that there was no record of me having chlamydia at all, and it’s possible that my records had gotten mixed up with another patient’s. My partner’s doctor gave him medication without even testing him, taking the stance that it was better to be safe than sorry, so there’s no way of knowing if my partner ever had chlamydia either. Although I was obviously concerned that either another patient had gone untreated or the office was disorganized, it was certainly an interesting plot twist to this whole saga.
I know I got lucky.
Whether or not I actually had chlamydia, I’m well aware that things could’ve been much worse. Not only was I diagnosed with an easily treatable STD, but it was also caught early enough that it didn’t have any serious effects on my body. Chlamydia can hang out in a person’s body for years without showing any symptoms, so whether my post-sex bleeding was the result of spotting or the actual infection, I’m glad I went to the doctor when I first noticed that something was off. Just because my own experience with an STD wasn’t life-changing doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been, and I’ll never take for granted that I got off easy after having unprotected sex.
I took it as a learning experience.
Although I wish it hadn’t taken getting chlamydia to learn my lesson, getting diagnosed with an STD certainly made me a wiser woman. Now, I’m way more diligent about using protection, and I make sure that my partners and I have been tested and are exclusive before hooking up without a condom for the first time. I also take symptoms way more seriously knowing that even something that seems small could be a serious problem. Getting an STD wasn’t the terrifying experience I thought it would be, but I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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