A woman illuminates a large heart floating above her head as other people walk casually behind with similar hearts

I Am Ready For Love

Developing hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), at around 11 years old meant there were little to no opportunities for me to date or experience intimacy. Either because I was so insecure I couldn't recognize if someone liked me or because having moderate to severe HS in middle school came with a lot of shame around my body which caused me to isolate myself. Regardless of the scenario, while my friends were out experimenting I was cleaning pus and blood off the bathroom walls. I stayed up all night because the pain from the abscess growing on my chest was unbearable.

Is it hiding from me or am I hiding from it?

When I think about my love life now, the song I Am Ready for Love by India Arie comes to mind. I wonder is it hiding from me or am I hiding from it? Do I even believe I deserve the love and intimacy I truly desire? And even if I were to come across it, do I know what I want that experience to be like? These are some tough questions that I found I was unable to answer without coming face to face with the grief and shame that surrounds my experience.

What pains me about my experience almost more than anything is that I know I'm not the only patient navigating these complex feelings. Just like you, I am twiddling my thumbs wondering when my partner is going to swoop in and swoon me. The truth is that no one is going to save us from ourselves. The truth is that to experience love, we must be open to it, no matter how vulnerable that makes us. This doesn't always mean showing your scars, but it might mean having a conversation about your HS and your daily struggles.

Now, this is easier said than done and takes far more courage than I am letting on here, but it's possible to harness that energy because others do inside and outside of our community. Finding what makes us comfortable on every end of that spectrum and beyond could serve us as we begin to navigate the complex waters of the dating scene.

"The love I desire is desiring me"

What I do know, is that the love I desire is desiring me. What I do know is whether I have HS or if I was able-bodied, I'd still be deserving of love. What I do know is in order to thrive in this body and to experience the fullness of life, I not only need to but want to redefine what it means to be a woman. One is because I don't believe I fit into the parameters that have been carved out by American and Black American society. Two, because womanhood to me, is so much more than what my sex organs can and cannot do. It's more than how good I look in a full face of make-up or in skin-tight clothes. I constantly ask myself, who am I performing for?

I'm starting to realize the validation I seek, and the love I want can also come from me. This doesn't mean that I need to give it to myself first in order to receive it, but why not start with me? Why not show me the affection and care I want from someone else. Then, they will have a concrete example and can expound upon what I already do.

When I think about the relationships that I've tried to build or wanted to build, it came down to whether I was ready for love. Now that I am, I am ready to heal the parts of myself that are convinced that for love to exist in this space, something needs to change. I am good enough as I am and will be loved because of it. Period, point-blank. Now, ask yourself, are you ready for love, and what does that look like?

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