I'm one of those people that isn't really bothered what opinions complete strangers may or may not have of me, and (believe it or not!) I'm not someone who is embarrassed easily, so my reaction to this situation surprised me, and got me thinking.
So what happened?
In my regular doctor's surgery, there are two main doctors and one locum doctor. Around three weeks ago, I had ran out of contraceptive pills and called my surgery to make an appointment to renew the prescription.
I was informed by the receptionist, that all at the same time, one doctor was on holiday, one was on the sick and the locum doctor had received some bad news and had to return home to his family. I told her what I needed, as it wasn't personal, and asked if there was a prescribing nurse. There wasn't. She advised me to call the drop in clinic and make an appointment at the family planning clinic there, which I did, and was given an appointment for the next day.
Now maybe I'm naïve, but I was expecting a family planning clinic to consist of other women seeking contraception, maybe some couples who needed help getting pregnant, maybe even some women for mid wife appointments.
What I wasn't expecting, was a sexual health (or GUM) clinic. I'm not sure if the receptionist intentionally misled me, or if they now combine the two. There wasn't any women or couples there, there was me and three boys who looked to be in their late teens.
I try not to judge people who I know nothing about, but in this setting, naturally, I made certain assumptions about why they were there, and I'm sure they did the same about me.
So we all sat in the waiting room, playing on our phones, not daring to look up in case we made unintentional eye contact.
I was called first to my appointment feeling kind of smug - they only take your blood pressure, so I wouldn't be in there long enough for anyone to assume I was being treated for anything! Wrong!
Because I had never been there before, they had to take all my details, including a full medical history, then the printer wouldn't work for my prescription. I was in there about 45 minutes.
All smugness gone, I slinked out of that room like a dog caught stealing the Sunday roast. I know everyone was looking at me, and wondering what was wrong down there!
In reality, probably no one thought anything except thankful that I was finally out and not holding them all up anymore, but I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. If we weren't on the second floor, I may even have attempted to climb out of a window!
And that's when I started thinking about we view STDs as though they are some dirty little secret. I'm not suggesting they should be worn as a badge of honour, but surely we should cut people who have an STD a bit of slack.
Before you turn your nose up in horror and start with the slut shaming, consider this:
Can you honestly, hand on heart say you have never once slipped up? You never got carried away with a partner before you had tests done? You know 100% that never in your entire life has a partner ever cheated on you?Having an STD doesn't necessarily mean you have unprotected sex with strangers (and even if you do, does that give anyone else the right to judge you?). It could mean you got married as a virgin, trusted your partner and he/she cheated and caught something, passing it on to you.
Maybe those boys in the clinic that day (who I admit to pre-judging) were there to get a clean bill of health so they and their partners could both be comfortable in the knowledge they were safe. Maybe they were there to get some condoms. Or maybe they did have an STD. Does that make them bad people? No, it doesn't.
We wouldn't judge a person for catching a sore throat, or an upset tummy, so why do we still insist on judging people for catching an STD?
I learned a valuable lesson that day, and if I ever find myself in that situation again, I will hold my head up high, and make eye contact. Truth be told, I probably won't, but I sure as hell won't be judging the other people there!
What do you think? Would you have felt uncomfortable in this situation? Do you think we judge others too harshly? Let me know in the comments :)