A tale of one woman’s descent into madness in the face of extremely mild adversity.
Precisely nine days ago, I awoke with an ill-placed scratch in the corner of my mouth. It was a strange place to have cut myself while unconscious, but sadly I do sleep literally like a baby and often wake up to find I’ve dribbled all over myself. I figured the moisture from my mouth had dried out my lip and consequently caused the split. Nothing to see here.
Sadly, like all things that will eventually become a giant pain in the arse, the cut didn’t just go away after a couple of days. I’d split the wound open again if I opened my mouth too wide, and inevitably found myself fiddling with it. Put it this way – if I were a pet, a right-minded owner would have fixed me with one of those enormous cones to prevent me from irritating it.
At some point I first considered that this cut might actually be a cold sore, and as soon as that initial thought entered my mind, it remained firmly wedged in the forefront of my consciousness. Suddenly the relatively unnoticeable split in the corner of my mouth became a wound the size of the left side of my face, and I became convinced that everybody was staring at me, obviously disgusted by my incredibly catchy virus.
I found myself standing with my head down on the tube. I didn’t want anyone to see my face in case they saw it. I didn’t know what to do at work – do I mention it? Do I ignore it and hope they don’t see it? Of course they’ve fucking seen it, it’s taking over your face and growing bigger by the day. Perhaps if I mention it, I’ve put it out there, I’ve emerged from my cave of shame and I am here to tell everyone that I have a cold sore.
Of course I didn’t do any of that, and the reality was that whatever it was wasn’t spreading across my face. It was still a relatively unnoticeable little cut in the corner of my mouth; it really is amazing what the mind can do to us when we’re feeling vulnerable. Eventually, I decided to head to Boots on my lunch break, and find out once and for all what on earth was going on with my face.
I don’t often approach medical practitioners because I’m worried they’re going to tell me something is actually wrong with me – wise and logical, I know. But sod it; if it was a cold sore, it was a cold sore. I’d already frantically googled “celebrities with cold sores” in an attempt to feel better about myself. Turns out Alexa Chung, Kim K, Brad Pitt and Rihanna are just some of the sexiest people who walk this earth who also happen to get cold sores. If they get them, this really couldn’t be that bad. Nobody would back slowly away from Brad Pitt, arms raised, pleading that he not come any closer. In fact, I considered, maybe I’m actually cooler now, because, Rihanna is edgy and gets cold sores. Maybe cold sores are edgy. Yes, let’s make that a thing.
With newfound confidence, I marched up to the Boots pharmacist, gracelessly opened my mouth, pointing to the offending cut, and said: “is this a cold sore?” To which she replied, “did you feel a tingling sensation before it came up?” To which I said, “no.”
“Well,” she said, handing me some Blistex, “It’s probably not a cold sore.”
I was instantly flooded with relief. Maybe I didn’t have herpes on my face. There was a real possibility that this was actually just a cut in a very unfortunate location that I kept reopening due to the inevitability of human interaction and the necessity to consume food. That pharmacist had handed me a lifeline, and although she didn’t guarantee me it wasn’t a cold sore, she edged my bets the other way. I could have kissed her, but of course I didn’t, just in case.
After my non-diagnosis, I felt more confident. I strolled back into the office, Blistex in hand, and the first thing I did was mention “this annoying thing” to my colleague: “It might be a cold sore, but the pharmacist seems to think it’s just a cut.” “Oh really?” She responded, barely looking up from her salad, before moving the conversation on to something else.
And that was that. This truly terrifying moment, for which I anticipated my skin actually turning in on itself when I finally broached the subject of the potential cold sore, was over. My colleague had barely even reacted to the news that it might be a cold sore. It was almost like she didn’t care, and this wasn’t a big deal.
Had I really been tormenting myself for a week because I might have a cold sore on my face? Because I might have had a glorified blister? My horrifying reality was quickly diminishing and being replaced with a rather sheepish one instead. I’d allowed an idea to take over my mind and sit right in the slot often know as rationality. Even if it was a cold sore, who cared? We humans pick up all sorts of things from all sorts of places. Most tellingly, when I see a person with a cold sore, what do I think? Precisely nothing. I don’t give it a second thought. So why did I assume everybody else would?
Perhaps I am now infested with herpes of the mouth, and will be forever doomed to unsightly blisters popping up around my lips every time I’m a little stressed. Perhaps more likely, I’ll occasionally cut my lip and behave like a toddler, picking at the wound until I’ve made it 5 times worse that it initially was. Either way, does it really matter? If Alexa Chung can handle hundreds of photos of her splashed across the internet of her and her cold sore, I can handle a peculiar mark on my face.