Your post brings up a lot of emotions in me, as parts of it could easily be applied to my life. Recognize that you are soooooo not alone in your experience of multiple “rejections” and the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty that creates. I have never had an STD, but have certainly put myself into situations where exactly what happened to you could have happened to me. After the fact, I have often felt shame about choices that I’ve made (allowing unprotected sex because it felt right in the moment… trusting others despite not having an explicit discussion about sexual history and safe sex practices, etc.) Anyhow….
I’ve had the oral herpes virus since childhood. I presume I got it from my Mom from kissing her. About 2-3x/year I’ll get an outbreak, usually when I am sick or under a lot of stress. In fact, this past week that actually happened. I had a huge cold sore on my lip, and one inside my mouth. Painful and disgusting-looking. I didn’t even want to go into work (I’m a teacher, so I can’t hide in a cubicle). I felt like a leper all week (a colleague told me I had “something on my lip,” etc.) I’ve heard that by age 40 or so, the % of Americans who have the oral herpes virus is as high as 80%…. it shouldn’t really be a stigma, but I SO feel one.
I know that feeling must be even more so with genital herpes. Since they both can be transmitted when the virus a shedding but without a visible outbreak, in the past I have tried to discuss it with men I’ve dated. Technically, they could get it from me from just kissing. My understanding is that both the oral and genital forms can be transmitted during oral sex. Thus, you would THINK it would be something a partner of mine would want to know. (My experience of heterosexual, safe sex norms in my age group is that a latex barrier for oral is rarely assumed.) Anyhow, when I have mentioned it, I have been met by fear and shitloads of lack of knowledge, to the extent that I haven’t wanted to ever bring it up proactively again.
That being said, I feel like this is a wonderful opportunity for you. (Yes, I said opportunity.) Both to increase your communication skills with new or potential partners, and as a general “screening device.” Because you will need to disclose your status before intimacy, it may help you in regard to the feeling of often having sex “too soon.” It will ensure that a partner is “on board” with you before having sex, and you will be entering into intimacy with a greater feeling of being “safe” because of that.
Despite this being something new to deal with, my understanding is that the % of Americans with genital herpes is pretty high, i.e., don’t think of this as limiting your prospects. You may find someone who is also positive and who is RELIEVED to have found a partner with the same status and who can relate, or you may find someone who doesn’t have the virus but it happy to be with you regardless as long as you guys take precautions. I am sure you’re already thinking about those possibilities.
I hope I haven’t overstepped with my feedback. As stated, I imagine you must feeling an intense range of emotions from fear, to anger, to shame, to frustration, to uncertainty… but I really can see how this might be a positive and an opportunity for growth and change.