I found a thread hanging loose from my shirt.
I tugged it gently thinking I could stop it from running.
But the slightest touch made it come undone.
Before I could stop it the seam had unraveled.
Long, looping strands pulling away from neat stitches.
I tried so hard to keep it together.
I knotted the ends as tight as I could.
I meticulously sewed myself up so nothing could get in.
And yet a single strand sent the whole thing unraveling.
A tiny flaw in an integral stitch and everything fell apart.
I never thought I would need to see a counselor. I never thought my problems were worthy of such an extreme measure. I never felt like I was broken enough to need help putting the pieces back together again.
But I was wrong.
Strong people still feel weak. Happy people still cry. Sensible people still snap.
I didn’t cry. Not at first anyway. I was so proud of myself for that. At least I was still in control. At least I could still be contained.
But if you pull on a thread, it hardly ever snaps off a single piece. More often than not you’ll find that the thread you pulled keeps unraveling.
So that’s what happened.
One story looped through into another. On and on the pain I’d bottled up came flooding out.
Funnily enough, my biggest fear before I began was that I would have nothing to say. That we would sit for an hour in awkward silence, watching the clock hands inching around, eyes flickering from abstract art pieces to the flower vase on the coffee table.
You can imagine my surprise then that I found I could not keep the words from spilling out. I was a kitchen timer. Tick, tick, tick. I twisted around and around, a constant stream of stories, a tireless monologue.
I found myself smiling at things that weren’t funny. I laughed to mask the sadness.
And after every session I was always surprised that I felt nauseous. Physically ill from sharing such deep parts of myself. Like I had taken my internal organs and laid them out on the table in front of me. Inside parts always object to being outside.
This kind of vulnerability, this kind of healing is always painful. The deeper the wounds, the longer the healing process.
I wish I had sought after the healing sooner. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time wallowing in the mess and brokenness. I wish I hadn’t tried to keep myself sewn up neat and tidy.
Because the unraveling of our stories is beautiful. The unwinding, the coming undone, the letting go…it’s exhilarating. We find the source of our sorrows. We discover the roots of our fear. We realize the truths that will set us free.
The unraveling made me aware of threads that had run through my entire life. Lies that had shaped me. Burdens that had strained me. Core beliefs that had hindered and blinded me for far too long.
Shame was one of these threads. Deep and sometimes indistinct. Winding itself around every good and lovely memory, choking the very life out of them.
It taught me to hate my body. It led me to hate myself. It taunted me until I had no choice but to hide my full self from the rest of the world. I put up walls around my heart, a sturdy shield of armour to avoid getting hurt.
Shame swallowed up my voice, never allowing me to give an opinion or share my real thoughts. It distorted my vision, making me believe I was never good enough. It whispered constantly in my ear that my body was a distraction to others and a burden to myself.
And at the end of the thread, where the knot meets the fabric, I found shame whispering to me that I would never be enough.
Week by week as I sat on that scratchy, white couch with its chevron cushions, I shared all of the ways shame had entangled me. Slowly but surely, in the releasing of words and the surrendering of tears, I felt the weight begin to lift off me.
I learnt that love and shame can never inhabit the same space. Shame needs darkness, dampness and very little oxygen to thrive.
But to love is to be free from shame.
Love is authentic, all-consuming. With nothing to hide. Nowhere to run.
To fight shame we must expose it to the light. We must drown it in truth. We must recognize its many faces and challenge each one of them.
That’s what counseling did for me. It caused me to notice all my loose threads that needed to be pulled.
It taught me to extend grace towards myself and others. To be kinder, gentler and more vulnerable. To wear my heart proudly on my sleeve once again.
To knock down the walls I had constructed as a defense for my fragile heart. To recognize the ways I was intuitively protecting and doing what is best for myself.
I thought counselling would be like taking a sledgehammer to my foundations. That I would tear everything down and start all over again. But for me it was more about recognizing the parts of myself that needed redecorating. Attitudes that needed shifting. Negative thoughts that needed replacing.
It turns out that I didn’t need to be completely rebuilt…just reminded of the beauty I already possessed.
I was afraid that counseling would be a waste of time. But perhaps the biggest waste of time is denying yourself the opportunity to heal.
At the end of the day, that’s what we all need more of. Healing. Honesty. Hope. A gentle tug on our loose threads that begins the beautiful unraveling.
“I am nothing but a ripped fabric stitched together by God’s grace.” ― J.A. Anum