I’m brave enough to literally wear my heart on my sleeve.
All of your favorite stories have problems. How boring, meaningless, and uneventful would they be if they didn’t? This is the point of plot, and guess what? We each have our own. A lot of people, though, have a hard time accepting the problems and the not-so-nice things about their own lives, let alone those of others.
If you come from a difficult or even traumatic past like me, it can be a significant hurdle for prospective partners to jump over. Some will accept you immediately because they've been in your situation and understand. Others will judge you.
My latest partner and I have now been in a relationship for near a year but at first, it didn’t look like we’d make it past a month of dating because we couldn't get past this one conversation:
"Would you ever consider getting rid of them?" he almost pleaded. He was referring, of course, to my scars from cutting.
"No, never," I responded immediately. "I’m proud of my scars. They are part of who I am. And if you can’t accept that then you can’t accept me." I’d dealt with this before, numerous times, and I’d finally learned to stand up for myself. "I will not be judged by you or anyone else," I told him.
Scars, especially attempted suicide scars, can be extremely jarring for some people to look upon, especially those who haven’t received their own. My scars were a visual representation of the incredible pain I’d gone through since childhood and throughout my teen years. They were a mark of depression, bipolar disorder, chaotic family history, isolation, neglect and feelings of worthlessness.
These marks on my skin told a story of a young girl waking up every morning and going to bed every evening considering making an exit. But she didn’t. She had the strength to go on, to seek help for suicidal tendencies, to get better and to understand herself and others. She was taught and she learned.
Today, I'm in a happier, more confident place in life but those memories are not forgotten. The scars that upset others calm me when life gets rough because I know I’ve always managed to make it through. Like tattoos (of which I also have plenty), my scars tell the story of myself.
My partner eventually decided that he cared enough for me to push through his judgmental tendencies. He apologized, but I knew he still didn’t understand. He still quietly snuck judgmental glances at my wrist, thinking I didn’t notice.
Then, he began dealing with an incredible pain all his own, for which he would eventually need surgery. A piece of tissue inside his hand needed to be removed as he was up most nights in agony. I was there in the waiting room during the surgery and I helped take care of him during recovery. Months went by and his hand still kept the dark scar from the procedure.
"I kind of like it," he said to me one day when we were showering. He examined his hand with a new kind of reverence. "I could get rid of it, but I kind of want to keep it there."
I extended my arm, tattooed and full of my own scars, to touch the one small scar on his hand. "Now, do you get it?" I asked.
Then, I finally got the sincere apology I had wanted from the beginning. "I am so, so sorry I ever judged you. That was so wrong."
The lesson I wanted to pass on was learned: If you can’t accept and care for a person for who they are or were at their worst, you have no business saying "I love you." It’s not a beauty contest or a test in refinement.
I’m brave enough to literally wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’m more than OK with that. Are you?