Auntie SparkNotes: You Can Pick Your Girlfriend, You Can Pick Your Scabs, But...
We definitely don't pick our boyfriend's scabs. OK, definitely MAYBE not. —Sparkitors
Recently I started going out with this girl I really like. She's smart, pretty, and totally gets me, and I'm really happy. The only problem (if it is a problem) is that recently she told me about a year ago she used to cut herself. I don't judge her for this, and I know where she's coming from -- a few years ago I thought about killing myself, but I got through it. Now I'm happy and healthy, and so is she. Despite this I really feel like we need to talk about it, but understandably whenever the conversation comes up it's really awkward and uncomfortable, and we usually just change the subject quickly. Could you please help? I don't know whether I should talk to her about it or just let it go. And if we should have a conversation, how do I get it started and keep it going until we work it out?
Work it out? But why... I mean... it's just... well, here, Sparkler; let's look at this in another way, and perhaps you'll understand my confusion.
Imagine that your girlfriend had a giant scab. We're talking massive—the kind you get when you trip while running full-speed down a sidewalk wearing a pair of short-shorts; and the wound has all this gravel and stuff in it; and when it finally scabs over, it's raised a solid half-inch from the surface of your skin; and not only that, there's yellow ooze coming out of the cracks and it smells really bad.
And imagine that your girlfriend shows you this scab—this horrible, smelly, oozing scab—because even though it's mostly healed up, it's still a part of who she is, and she wants you to know that it happened.
You'd probably appreciate that, right? Because even though the wound is nearly healed, it's good to know that it's there—just so you can be careful of it. And you'd be glad she trusted you enough to share such a painful part of her past. And you'd be sympathetic, too, because hey, you've had some nasty scabby wounds of your own to deal with.
But you know what you wouldn't do?
Try to yank off your girlfriend's scab.
That's what you're doing—metaphorically speaking—when you a) view a painful issue from your girlfriend's past as a "problem," and b) keep trying to bring it up despite the fact that she clearly doesn't want to talk about it. It's understandable that her confession might worry you, and it's sweet that you want to make sure she's okay, but your letter contains all the info you need: She doesn't cut anymore. She's healthy and happy. She told you because she wanted to be honest, not because it has any current bearing on your relationship. And—most important—she gets uncomfortable and changes the subject when you try to talk about it.
Together, those things add up to just one logical course of action: You drop this, immediately and forever, unless she brings it up herself. This isn't an issue between you; it's her personal past. And haranguing her to discuss it (particularly when the only reason you know about it in the first place is that she trusted you enough to tell you) isn't a great idea.
Or, in other words: Relax, sit back, and enjoy your relationship. It's all good.
...And now that your letter's been answered, I'm going to use it as a springboard for a quick PSA. I'm not easily frightened, but it scares the ever-loving crap out of me when I hear from Sparklers who casually (or not-so-casually) mention wanting to harm themselves. And as glad as I am to hear that this letter-writer and his girlfriend both made it through a dark time and came out fine on the other end, we all know that the past few months have been filled with far too many stories about kids who weren't so lucky—namely, the tragic stories of teens who took their own lives after years of being bullied because they were gay, or just because people thought they were gay.
This is heartbreaking, terrible, and senseless. It shouldn't be happening. But it does, because these kids—and others like them—don't have the resources or support to realize that things will get better.
So, to all of you—gay or straight—if you're feeling alone, desperate, and hopeless, please don't give up. Your life is important. You're not alone. Help is out there. And as bad as things are now, they do get better—but for that to happen, you have to stick around. For resources and more information, contact the Trevor Project (for gay and questioning teens who need support), or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also watch videos from the excellent and inspiring "It Gets Better" project here.
Take care of yourselves.
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