Celebrating Days

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Today we're back with another post from Teresa where she talks about something that I've thought about a lot - when is the right time to talk to someone new in your life about a difficult thing you've experienced in your life? 

When you go through a bad experience, when is the right time to share it with someone new in your life? 3 months? The 4th date? After they ask you specifically where your parents are/if you've ever been depressed/if you have any skeletons in the closet?

2 years ago this January I went through one of the lowest points of my life. It was 6 months after being critically ill. I had just spent the better part of a year learning how to walk, talk and live again. I had lost all my hair earlier in the year and had gained about 30lbs from hormone therapy and was trying to find a way to be comfortable in my new body and new life. The guy I had been seeing casually before my illness had met someone new 
when I was in a coma, and while I wasn't devastated over the loss of him as an actual person, it made me feel disposable. All of this plus a major falling out with a close friend had me stepping precariously close to the edge of depression. 

Then I met Lucas. He stared at me across the bar for several minutes one night and my self esteem was so low at the time that I actually glanced behind me when I caught him looking, I was sure he was looking at someone behind me. After one of those great 'Really, me too!' conversations that lasted until the bar closed, I gave him my number and he gave me a long hug goodbye that left me with honest-to-goodness 8th grade butterflies. We went out a week later and it was as wonderful as I expected. He said all the right things, thought I was hilarious, called when he said he would and was a genuinely great person to talk to. I wasn't a smitten kitten writing his last name next to my first name in my diary, but I was…...hopeful. Meeting someone like him, someone who finally seemed decent, enjoyed my company and really 'got me' made me think I wasn't so fat and hairless and fucked up after all. 

After 3 blissful weeks of nearly constant contact, we went out for dinner one night and he finally opened the door to my so-called skeletons. We were talking about Christmas plans, and when I mentioned I was going up north to my hometown for the holidays he asked if I stayed with my parents. I tried to dodge it, replied 'no, I stay with my grandmother actually'. He didn't take the bait though, and followed it up with 'oh, do your parents not live there, too?'. It was too direct to not answer.

'Actually, both my parents are deceased', I said, and then waited for the awkward reaction. 

There's a few choices here that I expected:

There’s the 'oh my god, I'm so sorry', sometimes delivered with zero empathy resulting in a flat effect or with enough gusto that you would think they were the ones that killed them.
There's the ballsy: 'How did it happen, were you there?'
The curious/prying: 'How old were you, how old were they?'

There’s also a host of other reactions that are really shitty of me to make fun of because the truth is 
there's nothing really great to say.
He handled it pretty well though; I think he actually complimented me on handling tough situations and being strong. He asked if there was anything else in my life on that scale, anything else big he should know. I figured he would find out eventually so I took a deep breath and said 'Yeah actually. When I was 21 my fiance died in an accident and last year I got so sick that I almost did, too”.

I have to give him credit, he showed no poor reaction, took it in total stride. We left the restaurant with me feeling so good about opening up to someone about these horrific things, someone who didn't view it as a negative in my life, someone who cared enough to compliment me during my most vulnerable time. The next day was New Year's Eve. We had separate plans that night, but made plans to have dinner on New Years Day. We napped on the couch all afternoon and he kissed me goodbye before I went out with my friends to celebrate a new year. A new year that I was excited about, one I was feeling really hopeful about starting with someone new.

I'd like to tell you that the next day we had a wonderful dinner and opening up to him was a great decision and we spent a couple
 wonderful months getting to know each other, but the truth is that he stood me up for dinner and I never heard from him again. I spent the next few weeks plunging into a deep pool of depression, figuring that my life story was just far too much for someone to handle. I was beginning to think I was officially damaged goods. I’d like to tell you that was the only bad reaction I’ve ever received when recounting my life story, but it’s not. Once on a third date after mentioning both my parents were deceased my date said ‘Sweet! No in-laws if we get hitched!’

I used to always dream of being seen as this carefree person, this girl who didn’t have any baggage. Whether you’ve dealt with something like the suicide of a parent, a childhood trauma or a personal episode of mental illness, when is the right time to reveal these things to someone new in your life? This quandary doesn’t apply only to the dating world. When it comes to making new friends, co-workers or new family members, it can be difficult bringing up these sensitive topics to people. I’ve always grappled with the right time to reveal these events to others. They’re considered ‘dark’ topics that can instantly change the tone of any interaction. I understand there’s no light-hearted way to say ‘Check it out- my mother died, my father became an addict, then died, then my fiancĂ© died, and oh yeah, I almost did too and now I’m a busted 28 year old with a ton of residual health issues.” I get it- it’s heavy. They automatically paint a picture of someone who has a lot of issues. But for me, these events are such a huge part of who I am that to not tell someone always felt like I was hiding something, but to reveal it was becoming a risk that I was becoming more and more unwilling to take.

The truth is there’s probably no great time to tell someone that part of your life has been terrible.  There’s always going to be people out there in the world that can’t handle real life, and if that’s who this person is then you don’t want anything to do with them anyways.

So just tell them. Tell people even if you are scared, because being vulnerable and real is a trait that deserves admiration and respect, not fear. Everyone has baggage and while mine or yours may be a viewed as worse than the average person, it doesn’t mean that it should be hidden away. Eventually someone will come along that doesn’t care what happened to you, someone will look at all your scars and scary stories and know they made you the person you are, the person they have been waiting for. When my wonderful current boyfriend is forced to recount my story to a family member or friend, he tells it with pride, as though he is so certain I will always be able to handle anything life throws my way. Be proud of whatever it is that you went through. Don’t disguise your struggle, this tells the world that there is something to be ashamed of and going through hell and coming out on the other side deserves nothing but admiration. Do not let anyone ever make you feel that you terrible experiences define you as a terrible person. So the next time you meet someone you want to share your story with, do it. Tell them plainly and honestly and candidly and no matter how they lament over how sad your story is, smile and look them in the eye and say:

Yes, it is a sad story, but I am not a sad person”.

Teresa is a writer, traveler, nutritionist, tour manager and hula hoop champion.  She likes bukowski, the ocean, holding hands, Roswell reruns, and long, romantic walks down the organic produce aisle. Her blog (www.dancesinthedark.com) is currently under construction, but until then you can find her on twitter @thebandiswithme 

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