The first step to healing, after you recognize and admit there might be a problem, is to get what’s inside of you, out, so you can reckon with it. Now, I’m not going to say this is easy. It’s not. It can be very difficult and painful to open up and walk into your past shame. It was hurtful and a seemingly long process for me.
I thought I knew exactly what the problem was, but putting everything out there helped me see that there were many hidden issues I needed to confront; there were myriad lies I needed to counteract with truth.
Processing memories in the presence of a trusted and mature individual makes recovery happen sooner. For me, it made sense to find a counselor that I could work with because a counselor is a neutral party. I’d shared a lot of my past trauma with my husband and some friends, but a counselor can hold your “stuff” better sometimes than someone who is personally invested in you because they are not affected and possibly damaged themselves by you honestly sharing the things you have experienced. The flip side of that is I can “hear” the hard stuff more clearly from a neutral party rather than from my husband. So many times I would come home from a counseling session and tell Darin something I had learned, and he would say, “I have told you that a million times.” Friends, spouses, parents, siblings: they love us and have good intentions, but they are not the best counselors.
Here’s the thing: in order to live up to my potential, I had to be courageous enough to put all my junk on the table and sort through it. Not to feel sorry for myself, not to blame someone else, but to take responsibility for my life. Sometimes I would walk out of those counseling sessions absolutely wrecked. Like someone had ripped open my chest and I was freely bleeding. I was capsized by the pain of exposed shame, even though I was in a safe, loving, and non-judgmental environment. But more important, my hidden shame had been exposed to the truth and it had begun to die. Shame-death is slow, bloody, violent, and smells putrid, but there is freedom on the other side.