It happened guys. I got my first STI (note: this post is reeeeaaal personal, you’ve been warned). Realistically, given the amount of sexual encounters I’ve had within the last ten years of being sexually active, I’ve been continuously amazed at my general vaginal health. As a sex educator I am painfully aware of the risks involved in banging, let alone condomless banging. Our fragile human bods are capable of catching all sorts of things when we mash ourselves against another person. But duh, this doesn’t stop us.
Now, even as a sex educator, the logic in my brain can go into a spiralling deficit of hormones when in the midst of heavy-petting with someone I’m into. At this point in my life I’m fine to own up to the fact that I’ve definitely overlooked condom usage a handful of times. It’s fine. It happens. Like, you shouldn’t do it. But it happens.
This is where the kicker comes in… I got the STI that is also not an STI. Molluscum Contagiosum is common in children and can be transmitted through water, gyms, changing areas at pools (some websites claim pools themselves, but there is a whole lot of chlorine in most pools) and yes, also from skin-to-skin contact.
So while there is a possibility that someone in the last two weeks to six months (molluscum has a long incubation period) gave me molluscum from unprotected sex, there is also a high possibility that I contracted the skin virus from working at camp, from sharing a towel, from sitting nude on a surface at a sex club, or even from holding hands/hugging with someone who actively (and, hopefully, unknowingly) had the virus on their skin.
Fun stuff, right?
Like. Meh. I could do without it though.
You’re probably wondering why I am sharing the details of my genital health all over the internet. Accessible to… well… everyone (hi Mom…). Because in the moment of diagnosis I felt wholly and completely: gross, isolated, unloveable, alone, unworthy, dirty, sad, angry, depressed, anxious, unfixable. You name it. It was a fun night…
I’m writing this on the tail end of healing up, so I am in a considerably better headspace than I was a week ago. But having people that I could talk to (also, send them heaps of really gross and unflattering pictures just to get a second opinion) 1000% saved me from drowning in a pit of sadness.
I LOVE my genitalia. The whole shebang. My entire life is a testament to how much I enjoying utilizing my erogenous zones. So when I read on the internet (thanks, internet) that molluscum, while not harmful (no itching, no pain, no nothing, just little inconspicuous bumps that are contagious) will leave the bodies system on its own in 6 months to 2 years I almost barfed. TWO FUCKING YEARS. HAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH.
The longest I’ve gone without sex since I was 19 is probably about 3 weeks, tops (this blog isn’t called ‘to be a slut’ for naught). This potential 2 years of no sex was absolutely not a thing I was down to swallow (pun intended). Not even just the no sex part – the potential of having an intimate relationship with someone would just not even be an option. That’s SAD. STI’s are SAD. But they don’t have to be AS sad if we can talk about them openly and reduce the stigma attached to them.
For 3 days, I lived on the internet, scouring every corner to find a solution. There are creams and lotions and potions you can get (that apparently costs lots of money and do not work). You can go and get them frozen off, but there are always a bunch of dormant ones under the skin that haven’t surfaced, so this is an unnecessary amount of pain to go through. Or you can just wait two years and then get on with your life.
And then I found this heavenly little nook on a blog. The post has comments from the past 4 years of people going through the same problem and finding an actual, quick solution: Apple Cider Vinegar baths (or direct application).
The vinegar burns the bumps from molluscum virus so they turn into scabs and DIE. The baths also bring out any dormant bumps that haven’t surfaced yet, so you have the added benefit of making sure you get everything (although quite a horrifying site if you are not prepared for the surplus).
I smelt like salad dressing for a few days. It could’ve been worse.
I also accidentally burnt some of my vulva with too much vinegar (over-sharing ftw, if this happens to you, potential molluscum-virus-holder, coconut oil is super restorative, but use it sparingly as it can spread the molluscum).
I have been overwhelmed at the incredible quality of people I have in my life. While a good handful of the people I sought comfort from are also involved in sexual health (and therefore, typically have good knowledge of STI stigma), a good handful of them don’t know anything about sexual health at all and they were just really wonderful. A massive shout out to the lady who stared into my butthole for me without even questioning it for a moment (I’ll stare into your butthole any day, girl).
The startling realization that never in my life had I had the opportunity (or even desire) to not have sex with someone I was dating was daunting. While I had never even given my high sex-drive a second thought in regards to dating, all of a sudden I was immensely reassured that I held value as a person. Something that I KNEW (I’m a pretty confident person, she says humbly), but I had never actually experienced it so directly.
This is not the reality for most people. For good reasons people generally like to keep their health issues to themselves. I was very dubious about posting this out of fear of becoming the poster girl for molluscum (whatever. It’s fine). I was skeptical about posting this out of fear of my peers deeming me sexually unappealing or continuously contagious. Or causing previous sex partners to worry about their status (I didn’t give you anything, don’t worry, but you may have given it to me, so you may want to get checked). I didn’t want to have to bear the front of any of my friends or family not knowing enough about sexual health and then having to over-educate far too many people in my immediate life. (I was about to write “worried about job opportunities”, but really, Caitlin? There are FAR more reasons that someone wouldn’t hire you other than the over-sharing about your STI… [*ahem, porn*]. But this may be a reality for other people.)
My week long battle with molluscum has come to an end. It has been emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. Quite frankly: it fucking sucked. But I am here, at the other end, and I’m FINE and it’s completely because I had people to talk to openly and honestly about it all.
So… If you’ve had or have an STI and want to write about it, you can send it to me and I will post it here, anonymously. For an entire week I was bursting with things to say/write, I can’t imagine I am the only one.