May 2013: Around this time I had been with my boyfriend Stephen for a little over a month. We had just taken our first holiday, a weekend away at Harrogate; the town I was born in. He met my family, we drank nice wine, ate nice food, drank overrated tea at Betty’s tea house, walked through the Valley Gardens (which I called Galley Vardens more than I called it Valley Gardens because of my brain injury) talked about my childhood, went swimming and took cliche tourist photographs.
At this point some of my hair had grown back on the top of my head so I was wearing a headband made of thin elastic with a big flower on to hide the right side of my still bald(ish) head. It was sunny but not sunny enough to use sun cream, or so I thought.
I usually burn very easily and because I hadn’t yet I thought I would be ok, then during a walk I got an immense stabbing pain on my scar and touching it only made it worse. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but Stephen realised that my scar had been sunburnt, we rushed to the nearest shop, Boots I think it was and bought some sun cream.
We sat on a bench and Stephen applied the sun cream, I remember feeling very safe at that point… He was looking after me without me having to ask. I also remember feeling very self conscious because my headband was off and people were staring, looking back they probably weren’t but at the time it felt like all eyes were on me. This moment didn’t last long because I focused on Stephen and how he was making me feel, I shut the people around me out and went back to feeling safe. That bench became our own little world.
The photograph is from our journey home, we got lost, very lost. None of that seemed to matter though because we were both happy, enjoying the views and joking about the weird villages we’d passed. It’s the only photograph of me since my brain surgery and leaving hospital where I’m not wearing a headband, I love that. It makes it so special and takes me back to a time in my life where I realised that Stephen wasn’t just a boyfriend, he was more than that. He was someone that truly cared for me, he didn’t stare at my scar and he didn’t make me feel self conscious. He made me feel safe, content, brave, confident and like I could take on the world.
We’ve been together over four years now, have been through so much and sometimes I can’t help feeling like the half bald, scar shown to the world self conscious Naomi I used to be. But no matter what happens or how I feel, when I’m with Stephen I always have that safe feeling I did back on that bench when we made our own little world.