Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 16 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light. I.
'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:22):
Beth and I've been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
I didn't hesitate to say yes, because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
We value honest conversations, and we hope you do too.
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, "How can I love my scars?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:42):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection where we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Steph, HOW can I love my scars? That's what we're going to talk about today. Tell me, why did you title your book "Discovering My Scars"? What does that mean?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:56):
Well, we talk about scars a lot on this podcast, shocker, because it's in our title, and the title of the podcast is taken from the title of my book. I think to me, scars is more complicated than I think we can see.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:15):
I think there are scars that are visible, and I think that's what people kind of tend to think of, and you can have scars from so many different things. My mom has a scar from a vaccine she got when she was a kid. There's so many different types of scars you can have. But for me, as I was going through my life and realizing the things that I wanted to share, and the really hard times, I realized that there were scars that were not able to be seen. There were scars on my heart. There were scars that chose the direction of my life because I had these scars that were internal.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:50):
And for me, scars are more complicated than "I fell off my bike and that's the scar from it," and so through writing my book, I realized I was discovering my scars. I was discovering those that you couldn't see, and I was working through those, and I was not letting them control my life anymore, and I was able to accept them and love them, actually, which is an odd concept, to love a scar. And it hasn't always been that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:24):
Especially, I have scars on my arm from when I engaged in non-suicidal self injury. For a long time, those were really hard for me to see and something that I was afraid for people to see and say something about. And now, when I see them, I see strength. I see how much work I've done to get to the place I am today. I know, for me, there's a lot of strength when I have worked through a scar and I can see the positive that has come out of it instead of looking at them as a negative thing.
The thing about a scar is that, in some way, it does represent healing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:05):
Even those wounds in our emotions, the emotional scars or the wounds to our heart, it's like, "Well, if I can get to the point that it's a scar, then that means I've gone through it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:22):
Right? And so a scar can almost help us have perspective, but it also can be a reminder of the really hard thing. Right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:29):
And so that can make it hard to love, because it's a constant reminder of what was a difficult or traumatic experience.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:39):
Yeah. I think that's definitely a challenge, to see the healing in it. I think it's easy to look at a scar and to see the trauma of it, but you can look at it and you can see the healing that happened through that. But I don't think you can see the healing until you've done the healing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:58):
Until you've done the emotional healing of that moment. And I think there's probably people that have never done that emotionally healing, which is just hard to see. I know there's people in my life that I can see that with certain things, and you can't tell anyone, "You need to fix this. You need to work on this."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:19):
It's something that you personally have to decide, "I want to work on this."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:23):
That's the first step.
Yeah. I have caught myself many times feeling aggravated or frustrated, and then later when I reflect on, "Okay, what happened there? Why was I feeling that?" It's like, "Oh, I wasn't being mindful of their scars."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:42):
"I wasn't being empathetic. I wasn't remembering. I didn't approach them with curiosity," which is one of my things I try to do. Okay. Be curious about why they are reacting that way or saying those things or holding that viewpoint instead of just reacting. Be curious instead of reacting, because everybody's got scars.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:04):
Yeah. Everyone has life experiences that have brought them to who they are today and help them make the choices that they make. We've talked about our political views before, and there's people that have completely opposite political views for me, and I cannot understand how someone can think that way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:26):
And I think all of us think that. How could someone think the opposite way of us?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:32):
But they've had some kind of life experiences that have brought them to where they are so afraid to look outside of their bubble, that this is all they can do, and this is all they can focus on. It doesn't excuse someone's behavior, but whenever someone is completely opposite from me or I'm getting super frustrated with somebody, I just try to think, "They must have had something in their life that has brought them to this place, and I may never know what it is."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:04):
And especially if it's just a random stranger, I'm never going to know what that is, but I know that I've had so many experiences that built me, and so I have to assume that they have those, and I don't have to like it, but it helps me to at least not get so frustrated every time with certain people.
Yeah. And sometimes I'll hear people say things like, "Well, I went through that and it was no big deal." And so then it's like, we expect people to react the same way to their trauma or their difficulty or whatever, or just their life, their experiences. We expect them to act the same way that we act, but everybody's unique. Everybody is different. Everybody is going to react differently, and that scar is going to look different on each person, even if it's the same experience.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:56):
Well, and you don't know what other experiences someone has had that may compound into this one experience that you're like, "Oh, it was easy. I got through that. Why not?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:07):
Well, you've talked about this on the podcast before, is that you had cancer.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:13):
You're what? 100 percent cancer free now?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:16):
They will never say that, but they say "No evidence of disease."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:19):
But I haven't had any evidence of disease, I'm coming up on year four.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:26):
I feel pretty good about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:30):
You shared that story. When that happened, you were like, "Okay, here we go. Here we go. Here we go."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:36):
And then there's other people, and obviously, cancer for everybody is completely different.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:44):
And the type and all those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:47):
But I've actually had so many people recently that I've heard that have cancer, and it's just interesting to see how people react to it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:57):
And the process they follow and their outlook on it. It's just interesting to see how some people, they're like, "Okay, well, we just follow the process. Here we go."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:08):
Boom, boom, boom. And there's some people that just are completely devastated by it, which I feel like I would probably be that person.
I have this exact situation in my life right now. There are two women who I'm close to, two older women, one of them being my mom, who she was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and at first, she was like, "Well, I'm not sick." She's birthed four children, but she's never had major surgery. She's never had to be in a cast or anything like that, even. And so she was like, "What do you mean I have cancer?"
But she immediately followed up. They were like, "Okay, well there's something on your mammogram." So one week later, she went and got the needle biopsy with the ultrasound. And one week later, she was in the oncologist's. And one week after that, she was with the surgeon. She just was very diligent about following her steps, and we expect that she's going to have a great outcome.
There's another older woman in my life who, just before my mom's diagnosis came in, they called and said that she needed to come back in for a needle biopsy. And she told me, "I'm not doing that."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:12):
And I was like, "Why not?" And she said, "Well, I'm older. And even if it's cancer, I'm not going to do anything about it." To me, her approach was to put her head in the sand. And I was like, "But maybe you would get the all clear and you would never have to worry about it." But they just have different life experiences that brought them to those conclusions. And it's their bodies.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:33):
So they get to decide how they're going to go forward with their treatment. But it was just interesting, because literally, it was happening at the same time. They're similar ages and they just had very different approaches to their medical care and what they wanted to know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:48):
Yeah. It makes me wonder, the person that didn't want to have the biopsy, what maybe family history does she have or friend history of seeing people go through this kind of treatment?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:01):
Because if she's already made up in her mind she doesn't want treatment, it might be because she's seen someone go through some horrible treatment.
Right. That's a great point. That's a great point.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:10):
She doesn't even want to get to that place.
Yeah. Because the one thing my mom has said from the very beginning is, "I just hope I don't have to have chemo. I hope I don't have to have chemo." For a lot of reasons. It's a very normal thing. Actually, when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I thought the same thing. But for my mom, it's really high stakes, because she has a friend who died, not from cancer, but from the effects of the chemo; somebody she was really close to.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:32):
I know that that's in her mind.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:34):
"Chemo will kill me." That's part of her experience, part of what she brings to that, to her own treatment plan, and to her own diagnosis. It's true. We all have different life experiences, and even when we're going through the exact same things, doesn't mean that our other experiences have been the same, so our reactions and feelings about it are going to be different.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:56):
How do you help somebody, not your mom, but the friend? If that was your mom, and she said, "I don't want to do the needle biopsy," and maybe you knew the history of why she might be afraid of going forward, how do you help somebody that you love with that process?
Yeah. If it's my mom, it's different.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:20):
Because with her, I would be more direct.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:23):
And also, I would play the me card. Well, can't you do this for me?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:27):
But with this other lady, what I tried to do was to ask questions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:34):
"Well, what would happen if you went and got the needle biopsy and it came back all clear?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:40):
"What would happen if you got the needle biopsy and it did show that maybe you needed to have a lumpectomy?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:47):
"What would that be like for you?" Just trying to walk through some scenarios, just to invite her to flesh it out some, but also you realize there's a point where you can't keep pushing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:58):
Because you don't want to create pain. You don't want to create trauma.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:03):
Yeah. I think that's a great approach, is to really help the person process, because that might be also something that they're not able to fully do for themselves, is process why they don't want to do it. They may not even realize why they don't want to do it. It might be something that's deep and buried from childhood that they don't even realize that that's why they don't want to go through the process, so I think that's really good, to help them talk it through. First, asking for permission.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:30):
That's something we learn from recovery, is if you're going to try to help someone through that process, is to first start by saying, "Hey, could I ask you some questions, and can we talk through this a little bit more?" And always asking for permission, because that really helps set the stage for a safe conversation. Talking about when you got your cancer diagnosis and that sort of thing, do you think that's because you are more resilient? Do you think you have more resiliency than typical? Do you think that has anything to do with it?
I do think of myself as a resilient person, and maybe in some ways that's a learned skill, but also I think part of it's personality. Yeah, and I think my default is optimism, so I'm like, "This is probably going to be okay." So then that makes it easier to think through the steps and to try to do it because, well, this is probably going to be okay.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:27):
It's interesting that you say that, because my dad is a psychologist, a testing psychologist, and he's in Rotary. He loves Rotary. And one of the things is they send youth to other countries for a youth exchange. I guess they exchange youth. And something that he does is he gives them resiliency tests before they leave and the scores actually give them an idea of how these kids are going to do in the countries.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:53):
I don't think they don't let them go if they get a low score, but it just gives them an idea, and he usually can tell the kids that are actually going to come back before the time based on their score. And then when they get back, he tests them again to see if it had changed. It's interesting. You can actually test for resiliency.
That's cool, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:12):
As we're talking about it, I kind of wanted to see if he would test us.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:15):
That would be a really boring podcast, so maybe we would just come to it afterwards with the scores, because I personally don't think I am that resilient. If 100 percent is the best you can be in life, 100 percent is wonderful, beautifully, mentally well, top notch, I work really hard to be 90 percent. That is my goal. I don't know. There's probably days where I'm 100. I'm like, "Go, go, go." But I have to put a lot of work into my mental health for me to be able to function really well.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:01):
But when I am at 70, I'm not doing well and things start piling on, and I just can see my resiliency is just like, I'm like, "Okay, I'm done. Everything is over and everyone. The world is done." It would be interesting to take those tests, to see if I'm right or wrong, and you right or wrong, as well.
Yeah. You might be more resilient than you think, and I might be less resilient than I think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:30):
Yeah. Or we might be right on point with that.
Yeah. Yeah. Especially as I think about my mom, I do think of her as a resilient person. She's 80, so she's got a lot more life experience than I do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:40):
But again, thinking about how I know somebody of a similar age who potentially had a similar diagnosis at the same time that she did, I guess more life experience doesn't necessarily produce more resilience. Seems like it would produce more scars, though.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:59):
How do you define someone that is resilient? What does that look like to you, to be resilient?
A resilient person, according to the Dictionary.com site, is a person who recovers easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship, et cetera.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:16):
Very high level definition.
It's the best that the internet could get, right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:23):
Yeah, but you can see how it's such a spectrum, though.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:26):
You can see how a test can really give you more information on how resilient you are, because how do you define that?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:37):
"Well, it took me three days." "It took me 28 days."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:40):
Does that mean the three days is more resilient? But that might not be. The 28 days could be just as resilient as the three days, it just was a longer process.
When my son was in high school and he was playing lacrosse, one of my observations about him as a player, but also about his team as a whole, is that they were not a resilient team. And what I meant by that was that when they could tell they weren't playing their best or they felt like they were outmatched or the score showed that, when they were losing, they had a really hard time coming back.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:14):
They would just fall apart. "Oh my gosh, we're losing. It's the end of the world." Well, no. You're losing. Pull together as a team and do better.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:23):
It's almost like when a coach says, "Shake it off."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:27):
And that's like, "Be resilient."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:29):
Yeah. Yeah. Interesting.
I think that could also be applied to what it means to be resilient in life. Can you shake it off?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:41):
Are there are connections between scars and resiliency?
I think scars are a sign of resiliency.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:47):
If you think about a physical scar. I recently had a skin cancer removed from my face and I have a scar, which you're always so kind to tell me you can't see.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:58):
Show me where it is.
My face healed. My face is resilient. Right? There's a scar there, but it shows that my skin was resilient enough to heal, so I think there is a connection between scars and resilience because scars can indicate resilience. But again, like you said before, when we're talking about emotional scars, we have to do our work, otherwise the emotional scar is just reliving the trauma.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:25):
Yeah, and I do think for me, I definitely see in my life a real connection between a physical scar and an emotional scar, because my arm, the arm healed, the scars are there, but when I saw them, that was an emotional reaction, a negative reaction to seeing them. But once I did the work to work through all that had happened with those physical scars, that's when I think I became more resilient, was when I did that emotional work.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:04):
I do think there is a connection between scars of all sorts and resiliency on both sides, because I would say, well, if I was to look at myself before, let's say, pre my book.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:19):
And then post my book, that's a good marker, even though I had done a lot of work before the book. That's how I was able to write the book. But me before, I wouldn't say I was resilient at all, because I had so many things I hadn't worked through, so many emotions I didn't understand, so many traumas from my past that I didn't even know were there, so I wasn't resilient, so if something simple happened, I would just crumble. Something simple that anyone could do in life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:51):
I talk about it in the book about just going to work and doing the workday was all I could do in life. To do anything after work or to keep friendships going or anything like that was beyond what I could do, because I had all of this stuff holding me back that made it hard for me to function in any other way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:15):
But now, post my book, and I've worked through all of that trauma and unresolved stuff, I would definitely say I'm way more resilient than I ever was. And because I very much keep my mental health my top priority, I think I am resilient in a lot of ways. I wouldn't say I'm the most resilient person, but because I've worked through those scars, I definitely think I've become more resilient, so I think that connection is, if you haven't worked on your stuff, you're probably way less resilient in a lot of situations than you would be if you've able to process all of that.
Yeah. When you think about it in those terms, if you think about a time when you didn't see resiliency in yourself, and then you can see how that has changed and how you've become more resilient, that could be really surprising. And also to realize, "Oh, I could become even more resilient." It's something we can work on, something we can grow into.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:18):
There are things that I have worked through. Even though I've worked through things, it doesn't mean that they go away.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:25):
The trauma still happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:28):
There are still things that are triggering, so I do think the reason why I don't think I'm the most resilient person is because there are things that come up.
I might have an example when we're talking about triggers. When I was 13, my oldest brother, Donnie, he was 14 years older than me, so he was 27, and he was hit and killed by a train. That defined my life for a long time, but a trigger would be hearing a train whistle. Right? And even when Stephen and I first got married and we moved into our first place, it was like, we had to find a place where I wouldn't hear a train whistle at night, because it was upsetting to me.
It was a trigger for me. Well, 25 years later, it's not as much of a trigger. Right? I can go over train tracks. I can hear train whistles. I still won't go to the train trestle where his accident happened. Because it still is hard, but it doesn't trigger me in the same way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:33):
Something about the passage of time and about doing my own work has made that less of a trigger.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:39):
But is there any kind of emotional reaction when you experience anything train related? Is there even a little something?
Not just hearing a train anymore. The only time that it's hard now... I have ridden on trains and it's been fine. Earlier this year when I was in Ireland, I rode on a train by myself and really enjoyed it.
That to me is huge progress.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:03):
Before, to see a train, all I could think about was the accident.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:07):
It's not emotional. There might be a little bit of remembrance.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:13):
Or a little bit of acknowledgement, but it's not a feeling, really.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:19):
Yeah. I definitely understand that. One of my weird things is tape and sticky things. I don't like tape and sticky things, and I talk about discovering why in my book, but I've done the work to really understand where that comes from, and so I can work with tape, but there's still a tiny, tiny bit of reaction. It's as simple as you using tape would have zero connection to that. Me having just a tiny bit, because it doesn't bring me back to the place, but there's just a tiny little bit of something, which is why it's important for me to always be mindful of my situations and things like that, because if I do a lot of those little things that bring me back to those places in a day, that's when I can get to a place where I'm like, "Okay, there's too much going on. I'm not emotionally where I need to be."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:25):
Yeah. For me, that's why, even though I've worked on stuff, and sometimes because I've worked on stuff, it makes things more... Before I thought it was just like, "Oh, sticky things. Whatever." But then when I learned what it was, it made it even more heavy. I was like, "Oh, well, this is a little bit heavier." I think that's why there's still something there, because it's not just as simple as, "Oh, I don't like that." It's like, "Oh, that's way worse." For me, I think there are things that, because I've worked on stuff, it makes things even more intense. I don't know how to say it. It's brought more weight to things, but it doesn't debilitate me so I'm in a good place with them. I'm really glad to have the answers to the things that are triggering for me.
And you can see that it's changing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:14):
And you can see that it is continuing to get better, it sounds like. It's continuing to be...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:19):
And I don't... yeah.
It's less now than it was before your book.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:22):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:23):
And I don't let the things in my past stop me from doing things I want to in my life now. And actually, my mom's talked about it before, so I don't want to speak for her, but something that's been kind of cool is I love to kayak now, and everyone in my life, I try to have them experience kayaking. Even you. I've really pushed you there.
That's right. I went once.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:47):
But my mom has some water trauma from childhood, just water in general, and so that's why she never wanted to kayak with me. And she got on the water once and she just loved it. And she was like, "Oh my gosh, kayaking is so much fun." But she still has that water trauma, but she still pushes herself to get on the water, because she knows how enjoyable it is to kayak. And so it's really cool to see her push through that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:12):
We'll go through weeds or something and she'll be like, "Oh, water." And so I try to be very mindful of the places I take her and also know that she might need to turn around, or we might need to go, and that's totally fine. It's really cool to physically be able to see someone working on something so out there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:33):
It's so obvious that it's something she's working on, so it's cool to see that.
Yeah, but that's a completely different approach. Your approach with her is, I think, spot on. I have experienced other people in my life who would be like, "Well, you've got to suck it up. Suck it up, buttercup. You've got to just power through this. You've got to just face down your fears." And maybe there are times that that's true, but I don't think that's the way that you and I have built whatever resiliency we have.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:02):
Well, there's different approaches. I know I've learned a lot of different approaches in therapy. With my sticky thing, one of the approaches that Dr. Jill, we had her on the podcast, that she wanted to do with me was, I can't remember exactly the wording she used, but I think it was immersion therapy, but it's where basically, she said, five minutes each day, put a sticker on you. And that was the treatment for it, which was like, "That is horrifying."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:26):
And I did work on it for a while, doing that. That approach of, that's not the wording, "Suck it up and do it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:36):
That's not the wording of it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:37):
But you've got to experience it. That is a constant, which is kind of what I am doing with my mom, and she is allowing herself to do and has chosen without using the words for it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:50):
But that's what she's doing, is she's just getting on the water, and I think it is making it better, because I think she's getting more comfortable in certain areas. I took her to a lake that I was like, "Oh, I don't think she's going to like this." But it was the only lake we could go to at this certain time. She did it and she really liked it, and there was just a couple places that were a problem area, but yeah. There's definitely different approaches to it.
Do you still have scars that you're working through or scars that you're still learning to love?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:21):
I will never say I've worked through everything, because every moment I live, there's something new. Am I actively working on scars, loving scars? No. Will there be new scars that I'm going to have to learn to love? Yes. But I can't think of any that I'm actively needing to work on at the moment. How about you?
Well, I have physical scars that I don't love.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:45):
The face one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:47):
Which I love, but it doesn't matter.
I definitely don't love that I have a scar on my face. And also, I don't know why I didn't realize I would have a scar on my face when they cut on my face. I just didn't think it through. But also part of that is that I just wanted to be done with it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:04):
Just like, "Okay, now I have to have another thing. Okay, well just take it off. Fine. Just take it off, test it. Let me know." Actually, that whole process was pretty uncomfortable and there probably is a better way to do it than the way that my dermatologist did it, but I don't know, because the dermatologist removed it, and then I had to drive myself to a plastic surgeon.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:21):
And then the plastic surgeon had to do the repair.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:24):
Oh my gosh.
And that wasn't very fun.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:29):
And I wasn't the only person in the plastic surgeon's office waiting for that to be done.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:33):
Oh my gosh. Wow.
Probably, there's a better way to have done that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:37):
What was it that you had taken off?
I had a basal cell, which is the most common kind of skin cancer.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:42):
Did it look like something? Could you see it?
It looked like a mole.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:45):
It was pretty small, so it probably looked more like a freckle.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:51):
But I went to the dermatologist for something else and I was like, "Hey, this little freckle, it bleeds sometimes." And they were like, "Oh, well, then it's probably skin cancer." And I was like, "It's definitely not skin cancer. It's teensy, teensy tinsy." So they tested it and they were like, "Yeah, it's skin cancer."
I definitely have physical scars that I am not yet loving.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:11):
But even this conversation is helping me to remember that the scar means that it's healed. Right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:19):
This little one on my face, it's like, "Okay. It means the cancer is gone."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:22):
I don't have skin cancer on my face anymore. That's a good thing. I love that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:26):
I love that I don't have a basal cell eating away at my face.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:29):
I can celebrate that. I can love that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:33):
I have a couple big scars in my back from having moles removed, precancerous, and I remember when I got one of them removed on my shoulder, which I can't even see because it's on my back. I remember the nurse that was helping the doctor remove it, I remember her saying, "Oh," just being so upset for me that I wouldn't be able to wear a strapless wedding dress, which, if you know me, is hilarious as Beth laughs.
That makes me belly laugh. That's hilarious.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:04):
Right? I know. And this was 10, 15, 20 years ago, and I was the same person then. When she said that I was like, that would never, ever, ever run through my head. First of all, I don't know if I've ever worn anything strapless. Actually, I do have a bathing suit. It's actually not strapless. It has one strap on it, but I think you can see the scar when wear that bathing suit.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:29):
But again, I don't see it and I don't care. But she was so concerned for me. And I remember her telling me this. I was like, "It's going to be okay. First of all, I would never wear a strapless wedding dress. Second of all, probably not going to wear a wedding dress. If and when I get married, I'm not going to be wearing no wedding dress." She was really concerned for me, but yeah. To me, I was like, "I don't care. The scar shows that I have the mole removed and that's one less cancer spot on my body. I'm cool with it." We're Floridians.
Right. It's true.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:58):
If we have a mole that's questionable, get it off. Okay?
Get it off.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:02):
We are exposed to a lot of crazy sun here.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:09):
It's almost like not if, it's when you're going to have some pre-cancer or something that needs to be removed. For me, I'm like, "Yeah, take them off. Give me some scars. That just shows that that's one less cancer possibility."
Yeah, I think in that way, maybe for me, physical scars are a little bit easier even than the emotional scars, because for a long time, my emotional... And I wouldn't have been able to articulate it this way. This is with the benefit of hindsight, but my emotional scars left me feeling unlovable. I tell people all the time, the first year of our marriage, I was a terrible person to Stephen, and it was like, I was challenging him to not love me because I really didn't think I was lovable. My parents loved me so well. This is not about them. This is about my ability to receive it and how, in my own mind, I twisted things around.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:03):
Where did the unlovable scars come from?
I think that my parents loved me unconditionally. I think I received it as conditional. I got a lot of praise for being a good student and for earning good grades, and I think that, as a child, I turned that into, "Oh, I can earn their love. If I do things right, then they'll love me. And if I don't do things right, then maybe they won't love me." My parents never, ever articulated that to me. This is just how I received it in my own person.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:40):
Why do you think you received it that way?
Based on the work that I've done, I think that I watched my parents with my siblings. My siblings really struggled in life and did not make the right choices, and because I saw tension in their relationship, I didn't perceive the love that was there, so it was like, "Okay, well, I don't want that. I don't want the tension. I don't want to be a disappointment. And if I do all these things, if I do really well in school, if I'm easy to be around, then..."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:13):
So it's from your observed environment?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:16):
Right. Then learning that I was lovable and that I was loved was a profound shift for me, and now I realize that my emotional scars don't make me unlovable. Now, I still fall apart with Stephen anytime I need to fall apart. He's my person to fall apart with. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I held it together for the world and fell apart with him. There was a time two years ago where, because of some test results, we were thinking that it might be back, and I was a wreck with him because I could be. He's a safe place. He's a safe person.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:54):
Did he stop loving you because of that?
No, he didn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:57):
Yeah. Yeah. I don't know if I've talked about this before, but he intuitively knew what I needed to hear even in the earliest days of our marriage. I would fall apart. Now, keep in mind, I was 20 when we got married, so I'm talking about 20 year old Beth, and I would fall apart about something and I'd pick a fight with him, and he was emotionally mature enough to know that nothing I was saying was about anything he had done or about anything that had actually happened. And so he would say, "I just want you to know that I love you. I think you're beautiful, and I just want to make you happy."
Now, you cannot fight with somebody when they are sincere and they say that, but he intuitively knew that I needed to hear those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:49):
That got me so far. Having that foundation eventually gave me the strength to go to counseling and to work on my emotional scars and to get to a place where I can go, "Okay, you know what? I have that scar, but that's resiliency, and I love that I'm resilient."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:12):
How do you think he got to the place that he could understand that it wasn't him and that you just needed to hear those things? How did he get to that place? Or is he just a magical person that just popped out that way?
This is going to be an answer that's probably very unsatisfying for many people, but I really think it was the grace of God.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:31):
I really do, because it's not like when I look at all the other parts of our life, he's got this off the charts emotional intelligence. It's not that. It's like somehow he knew what I needed in that moment, and somehow my heart was open to receive it, and I think that's the grace of God.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:52):
But I did want to acknowledge that, that our emotional scars can make us feel unlovable or like we aren't worthy of love, and maybe it's not yet a scar. Maybe it's a trauma that still needs healing, and it leaves us feeling unworthy or unlovable. If anybody were to hear this podcast and was feeling that way, I just would want to say, you are worthy and you are lovable, and if you need somebody to tell you that, you give us a call. We'll tell you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:24):
We love you.
Yes. And we don't have to know you to know that you are valuable and you are worthy and you are lovable.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:35):
Well, Beth, as we've been talking about this conversation, I realized, I'm like, okay, first of all, I'm not somebody that says, I love you to people a lot because I just don't. I don't know.
Because you don't love them or just cause you don't say it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:49):
No, I don't say it. It feels weird to me. I don't know. I feel it, but I don't know. It just feels weird. But as you're talking, I was like, "I love Beth."
I love you, too.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:56):
And I was like, I wanted to say that. I do say that sometimes to my friends, but I have to really work up to it. I feel like people will say it very often.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:07):
And maybe they do mean it every time very sincere. I think it probably comes from my childhood. Shocker. And I think it was just expected that when you leave family or when you see family or leave family, you give them a hug and you say, "I love you," and doing it because that's what we, air quotes, "do," but never really understanding what that meant. And so I think maybe that's why it's hard for me to say it, because I don't want it to ever be just said without feeling it, and so I don't say it often, so if I say, I love you to you, that's a big deal, so you take that.
I'm taking it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:42):
And you bottle it up and you keep it, because it'll be a couple more years.
I'm taking it and I'm going to play it on replay every time I need to hear it. And I'm going to be like, "Steph tells me every day that she loves me. It's a recording, but still."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:52):
I'll send you personal recordings. You can save it on your phone. You're welcome. So, I love you Beth. And another thing that I love that I actually can say pretty easily, because it's a thing and not a person, I love kayaking. You know that about me. Right?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:05):
I don't know if I've ever mentioned it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:07):
But I love kayaking.
Even though you don't know how to swim, which I just learned about you today.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:13):
Really? I thought you knew that.
I did not know that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:14):
I've told there's been a handful of people I've told lately, just kind of randomly came up, and they gave me such a hard time for it. I thought you were one of them, but now I'll add you to the pile.
Yes. Add me. I'm going to pile on.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:24):
Pile it on.
Because really, swimming's not that hard. You could learn it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:29):
I have a friend that is a professional swimmer, and I've asked her to teach me to swim, and she said yes. That is as far as I've gotten. Anyways, my point is, and because I love to kayak, I love to track my kayaking journeys. And so recently, I found a couple apps that I can track my outdoor adventures. One of them is called Paddle Logger. And it logs my whole paddle. It shows the exact path, which is really cool.
Cool. Have you posted that to Facebook so I can follow along?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:02):
No. That is one thing that I have noticed. I have this new AllTrails app, which is more for hiking, but it keeps track of your trails. And then I have this other app called Relive, which actually makes a little animation video of your path that you took, which is so cool. But something that I've noticed when I download these apps, every single one of the apps wants me to invite my friends to follow my journey.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:27):
And that part has been really annoying to me, because when I post things, I want to be very intentional about it, and I don't want to just have someone have access to my accounts, and that's basically what that is. Has that happened to you? Because that annoys me.
Yeah. Well, one of the apps that I use, I like simple games, I like word games, and one of the apps that I use every day is Words With Friends.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:50):
With friends. It's meant to be done with your friends.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:52):
I have several people that I always have a game going with, but I only know two of them in real life, because it turns out that it's harder to play Words With Friends with friends, because some people really keep track of how much they win and how much they lose, so some people have decided they don't want to play with me, but Lisa and Lois Ann-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:17):
Because they lose a lot to you?
Yeah. But Lisa and Lois Ann, if you're listening, I just want to say, thanks for continuing to play with me, because it's really fun to see you on there every single day. And we're like 50-50, these two people are. And maybe that's why it works. I lose half the time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:32):
They lose half the time. That is meant to be done with friends.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:38):
Yeah. It's literally in the title.
It's literally in the title, but just today... Okay, so I've been doing Duolingo, which is a language app, and I took Spanish in school in eighth grade.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:49):
Maybe also seventh grade. For sure eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade, and for two semesters in college.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:57):
Wow. You must be really good.
I should be fluent. I know we try not to should on ourselves. I'm telling you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:02):
You should be.
I should be with that many years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:05):
And I'm a great student.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:07):
Yeah, I know. Always.
Always. If we were teaching language the right way in the United States...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:14):
Yeah, I was going to say.
Right? With seven years, or six years plus a year in college.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:19):
Which, I guess, would be seven years. Anyway, I, by every right, should be fluent in Spanish, and I'm not, and that embarrasses me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:27):
How do you say seven in Spanish?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:29):
Okay. Good job.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:30):
Because I was about to say, maybe you should be throwing some Spanish words in there. A lot of stuff right there. Number one, huge issue in our education system.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:38):
I took two years of French, two years of Spanish. Si. Oui. Non.
Okay. I know one phrase in French.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:48):
Je m'appelle Stephanie.
Oh, that's a good one.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:51):
Yeah. Peter's favorite phrase when he took French in high school was "Je suis un poisson," which means, "I am a fish."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:59):
Nice. I think we all pick up on one line and that's it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:02):
That's our party trick.
Yeah. That's right. I know this language because listen to what I can say. I do Duolingo and I'm over 100 days, because it does this little fire thing that's really cool, but the thing that's fun about it is it's like a game and you get points. And just today when I logged on, it was like, "Listen, we'll give you extra gems if you go on a friend quest."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:26):
A friend quest.
"But you have to then friend people in the app and go on the quest with them."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:34):
Oh my gosh.
"Or compete with them." And I'm like, "I really want the gems, but I really want this language stuff to be something I do myself."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:43):
sNot "with friends."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:45):
I think I have friended one or two people on the app, and I think I did that for a badge, now that I'm thinking about it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:53):
But yeah, that's what all the apps want us to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:57):
It's like, "Oh, tell us who your friends are so we can hit them up to download this app, too."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:02):
Yeah. And then try to get their money.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:04):
Yeah. My favorite game that I've played for 10 years now is Panda Pop, and it's the easiest, boringest, funnest game.
It makes me sad.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:14):
Panda Pop, because then if you don't solve it in time...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:17):
Yeah, you can't look at them when they cry.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:20):
I had to delete Panda Pop.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:23):
You just don't look at them or you do better. Do better, Beth. It's such a simple, fun game, and there's no words. That's my favorite part.
There's no words, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:35):
There's no words.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:35):
Oh my gosh. I can't even. Yeah. Playing a game with words? I'm sorry. That's like a nightmare. At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are the questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer yourself, or you can find a PDF on her "buy me a coffee" page.
Number one: do you have any scars? How do you feel about them? Number two: do you look away when you see someone else's scars? Number three: have you had a medical procedure that resulted in a physical scar? An emotional scar? How did you react to that? Number four: when you see your scars, does it remind you of your strength and healing? Why or why not?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:22):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.