I need to recover my self-esteem from a possible STD diagnosis?
March 25, 2012 3:12 PM   Subscribe

I need to recover my self-esteem from a possible STD diagnosis when I'm a vulnerable place?

Just moved to a new city and started dating a guy who shared some common friends from college. I had an inkling this was a bad idea because I was already the "new girl" and if it didn't work out then it would endanger me integrating in with these people. But I didn't follow my inkling.

A month into the relationship I thought I had maybe either a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. I booked an appointment with the closest OBGYN with the soonest appointment because I was so uncomfortable.

I should have followed my instincts and left when she started castigating me about my sex life. I come from a religious background and for the past two years I had been dating a religious guy and we had been waiting until marriage (we broke up because I realized I was an atheist). Before that, I was not a virgin and had several sex partners in the context of long term relationships. But after the breakup of that two-year relationship I was just starting to come to terms again with the idea of having sex.

But then this doctor, who doesn't speak good English, looks at my cervix and says it is "covered" with HPV genital warts all over and that she will biopsy them. I am shocked and start to cry. She tells me that most American women have this because they sleep with different men. She hands me a prescription for Avesta. I didn't know very much about HPV and she gave me no idea what the prognosis would be, how long the test would take, or how to apply the medicine.

I called my then-boyfriend and cried about it. He's a medical professional, so he says it's not a big deal, but he comes over to comfort me. But when he comes over he says he no longer feels comfortable having sex with me because we could spread the virus back and forth to each other even if he gave it to me ("it could mutate" he says, I have enough of a biology bg to believe this is bullshit), so we shouldn't date anymore. He says he has been in a LTR for years and then had sex with a girl a month before he met me, but he has never had sex without a condom (which he also used with me).

I'm not so much devastated by the breakup, but by the fact that he broke up with me because I had a venereal disease. I feel gross, ashamed, and broken. My mother suggests I see a doctor at a more prestigious hospital and I do. This doctor looks at my vagina and cervix and tells me that she can't see anything of note, certainly not anything that looks like a wart. But gives me a pap and takes some scrapings. A quick lab test shows I have bacterial vaginosis. She also explains to me the real prognosis and tells me not to be ashamed. She tells me not to fill the original prescription because if I HAD warts on my cervix, it wouldn't even have worked and would have made my vaginosis worse.

At this point I just feel so messed up. I called my now-ex and begged unsuccessfully for him to take me back and just break up with me for another reason, any reason, particularly since he's moving away from the city for a job in a few months. I'd rather be broken up for nearly anything but this and it makes me feel too ashamed to hang out with these old college friends now.

I feel alone, since I'm so new to the city that I don't have many friends to talk to, and used. The one main friend in this social group is away and I keep thinking...how do I stay friends with her since this now-ex is one of her close friends? We have been friends for many years.

I shouldn't have kept talking to this now-ex because he keeps describing us both as "damaged goods" now, which is scary since he is a high-ranking medical professional. I'm just waiting for the tests, hoping I don't actually have this, but what if I do? How do I feel safe enough to be in a relationship again without a crippling fear of being rejected?

Should I see a counselor? Should I take action against the first doctor? I just don't know how to feel good about myself again.

throwaway whatdoidonowwiththis@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Steps to recovering your self-esteem:
1) Tell your story in a one-off fashion, anonymously in a sympathetic arena.
2) Try as hard as possible never to have anything to do with this person again.

There's no excuse for his behaviour, and you certainly have a lot of sympathy from me. Building self-esteem's a long slow process, though.
posted by ambrosen at 3:19 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, you should see a counselor.

Your ex sounds like a major jerk. Jerks say jerky things, and I find that it can help to keep in mind that they are jerks and that normal people wouldn't even think those things.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:24 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. I'm sorry, but that first doctor you went to sounds like a fucking idiot who shouldn't be practicing. Are you kidding me? I would report your experience with her in detail (including the choice quote "most American women have this because they sleep with different men") to her employer and the medical board of her state.

And the same goes for Mr. "It Could Mutate" aka your boyfriend. I don't mean I think you should report his ignorant comments to anyone, I just really hope he is not in a position to be dispensing medical "knowledge" or advice to anyone. Right now some of the lyrics to the Bed Intruder song are playing in my head -- "You are just dumb. You are really dumb."

I'm really sorry that this happened to you, Anon. I can tell that it really threw you mentally and made you feel horrible. You didn't deserve that and it sucks.

However you are not "damaged goods." What a fucked up thing to say. That's beyond being dumb, that's having really warped and messed up values and world view. People aren't "goods." And a human being's value isn't measured by whether they have ever gotten any illnesses. Or gotten any wrong medical diagnoses. That's just... idiotic. Sorry, I know you liked him a lot, but I tried to think of other words for this and that's the best one that fits.

A counselor is a really, really good idea. In time, I think you will realize this guy is just a dipshit and his ignorant opinions will not bother you anymore.
posted by cairdeas at 3:32 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

That first doctor sounds TERRIBLE; her behavior was so inappropriate. I'm so sorry you had to go through that! I think you should absolutely report her - though I'm not sure who she would get reported to, I'm sure someone else will know. You may want to wait a couple weeks to make the report, until you're feeling a little bit better again and can clearly and succinctly explain exactly what she did that was inappropriate (made judgmental comments about your sex life; prescribed the wrong medication; prescribed medication without instructing you how to use it).

Again, I'm so sorry that you're feeling awful right now. You did NOTHING WRONG and I hope that you feel better soon.
posted by insectosaurus at 3:35 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Okay, slow down.

It sounds like you likely DON'T have HPV, you just saw a crazy incompetent doctor.

But even if you do, HPV is incredibly common, something like 3/4 of sexually active adults have it. Many women have abnormal pap smears that then resolve themselves after a few months. This is not the end of the world or a dealbreaker.

Your ex was a jerk and you are better off without him. And your new friends won't abandon you just because you broke up with him - don't let them. Call them up, make plans with them one-on-one. Don't avoid group events that he might be at - go, be cold to him (or cordial, whatever you feel like), but don't cede ground on these mutual friends. Some of them probably have HPV too! It is okay!
posted by amaire at 3:43 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry all this happened to you. There is a LOT going on here - let me unpack some of it.

1. First of all -- HPV. This is an STD, yes -- but it is very, very common, and unless your ex was a virgin, there's a very big chance he already had it himself anyway. And the fact that he's a "Medical professional" means that he should have known that already. In fact, there's a part of me that has a hunch he already did know that.

Which leads me to point 2.

2. If he knew that HPV is as common as it is, then it sounds like maybe he was counting on your NOT knowing much about it to use that as an excuse to break up with you, rather than just telling you the real reason why he wanted to (whatever it is that may have been). In other words -- this is a guy who was so scared of being honest with you about his true feelings that he deliberately decided to make you feel like crap instead. So all that stuff he's saying about how you guys are "damaged goods"? That's just more of his same "oh no I don't want to tell her what I really think let me just insult her instead," and you do NOT deserve a guy who treats you that way.

If he honestly DIDN'T know how common HPV is, then he's irretrievably stupid.

3. Just in case your new doctor didn't explain it to you -- bacterial vaginosis is NOT an STD. There is actually a lot of different bacteria that lives in our vaginas all the time; they're normally all in a balance, though. It's only when the balance gets out of whack that we get different things like yeast or bacterial vaginosis; overgrowth of the candida bacteria is what causes yeast infections, and other bacterial overgrowth leads to bacterial vaginosis. And anything from stress to sleep loss to bad eating habits to a cold can throw that balance out of whack. (And if you want anecdotal evidence: the one time I've had BV, I hadn't had sex for nearly a whole year prior.)


4. That first doctor who misdiagnosed you and then gave you a prescription also needs some kind of strong wake-up call - not only for treating you horribly, but also in giving you a drug that you shouldn't have been having. (I can't even FIND what drug Avesta is, so who knows what you may have been having.) So at the very least, you should lodge a formal complaint against that first doctor. It is possible the only thing that will happen is that the first doctor's supervisor may just put some kind of note in their file -- but this will also help you becuase you'll go from feeling helpless, the way you're feeling now, to feeling that you took action about something. It'll help you get some of your sense of control back, and that's ALWAYS a good thing; even if not much happens, you'll have fought back a bit. And that always helps; it may even help you enough to call up your ex one last time, on a night when you have a bunch of your new friends over, and all of you can then shout "YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE AND NONE OF US WILL EVER SLEEP WITH YOU" into the phone and hang up. (Okay, I don't seriously recommend you do this, but thinking about it may be a fun revenge fantasy.)

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:45 PM on March 25, 2012 [13 favorites]

This dude sounds totally jerky and terrible. I definitely think that seeing someone to talk to about this will help you feel better that. I also think you should report the first doctor. If you are in the US, the AMA's FAQ has guidelines about how to go about that.

As far as HPV goes, even if you do have it, it is SO SO SO SO SO SO common and it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. The CDC says 50% of sexually active Americans get a strain of HPV at some point. You are not dirty, or broken, whether you have it or not.

I'm not so much devastated by the breakup, but by the fact that he broke up with me because I had a venereal disease. I feel gross, ashamed, and broken.

I think people are entitled to break up with other people for whatever reason -- HPV, because you don't know your left from your right, a weird relationship with your mom, whatever. Those reasons aren't always REASONABLE, but people have free will. That being said, I think between the "damaged goods" comments and the "it could mutate" comment, the person who comes out of this break-up looking bad is HIM. You want to be with a person who comes through with you when the chips are down, and HPV is not a particularly big deal, and yet he handled it like a total tool. It may not feel like it now, but in the long run, you are better off without this guy in your life.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:53 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better, this is one of the worst stories I've ever heard. Your ex and this "doctor" are both horrific human beings.

While there is not really any appropriate forum on which to report bad boyfriends (no Yelp for humans... yet), there is for doctors, and I think it might make you feel better to take some action around that, as advised above.

And in the long-term, it would be great to find an ob-gyn that you adore and is well-recommended.

This will pass. There is nothing wrong with you. You are undoubtedly traumatized. What happened to you is completely crazy and not your fault.

The only thing you will come to regret in time is asking this guy to get back together with you, but you'll be laughing when you regret it.

BTW I have HPV and don't consider myself diseased. This will be great fodder for your upcoming counseling session, which you should book tomorrow morning.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:45 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

As everyone has already mentioned, you got caught up in a perfect storm of incompetence and asshatery and that SUCKS. I think you already understand that, however, and this is more about dealing with the emotional fallout. Since you don't have a strong support system in the immediate vicinity, I think seeing a counselor/therapist is a good idea. I would also be tempted to report the first doctor to the medical board, but taking care of your emotional needs to be the top priority, and only you can decide if the emotional pay-off will be worth it. Lastly, the only person in this scenario who is "damaged goods" is your jerk of an ex, not because of any STD-scare, but because of the emotionally abusive way he has treated you. Mostly, it will take time, some talking, and a few new friends. Best of luck to you. For what it's worth, you sound like an awesome, proactive person who has weathered all of this with dignity and grace.
posted by katemcd at 5:40 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry this happened to you. If it makes you feel any better, I think all women have a bad obgyn experience under their belt. I'll never forget the old German obgyn I saw when I was 19 who screamed at me and made me cry. A doctor should never ever try and shame a patient about his or her sex life. It's okay to say the risks of x behavior are....but it's really not okay to try and shame patients. This is all her nothing to do with you. And the guy was a dick. You're better off without him. It'll get better and you'll even be able to laugh about it some day. I'm able to laugh about the old German doc now.
posted by bananafish at 5:44 PM on March 25, 2012

I'm not so much devastated by the breakup, but by the fact that he broke up with me because I had a venereal disease. I feel gross, ashamed, and broken.

Your boyfriend was a creep and your doctor was incompetent. I think you've got things backwards -- YOU are not the one who should feel gross, ashamed, or broken.
posted by desuetude at 8:14 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Your ex is the one who should be ashamed, not you. Any decent human being would think the same and if you retold the story you'd get major sympathy points. By the way, because HPV is spread by skin contact and viral shedding is involved, it is quite likely your ex has or had it prior to you even with the condom use.
posted by Anonymous at 1:45 PM on March 26, 2012

Response by poster: And your doctor, by the way, was fucking awful. Like bananafish said, I think every woman out there has had at least one bad OB-GYN experience, there seems to be a percentage of the OB-GYN population that took the position in order to exert power over women at their most vulnerable rather than help.
posted by Anonymous at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2012

1) Just because someone is a "high ranking medical professional" does not mean they have a healthy attitude about sex.
2) Your ex is an asshole.
3) Nearly every person who has sex with another human being will get HPV. The whole reason that women have routine pap smears is to check for this. Like, your grandma gets pap smears to keep an eye on her HPV.
4) You are as eligible and classy as you ever were when you were a virgin. Hell, more so. Now you have additional wisdom (from life experience) and sass (from spurning assholes).
5) Go forth and be sexy.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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