(This post was inspired by one Andrew Peterson posted on the Rabbit Room blog today–one of my favorite blogs out there!)
Six years ago, I stood in a softly carpeted hallway with my hand resting on a cold doorknob. I was trying out a breathing exercise a friend had taught me.
“Breathe in the pretty pink. Breathe out the ugly gray.”
In. Pink. Out. Gray.
The office was all dark wood and leather and framed diplomas. She was all pink lip gloss and blonde hair and pedicured toes. She gestured to a chair, told me to have a seat. I breathed in the pretty pink and blurted out the ugly gray.
“I have daddy issues and I think I’m emotionally stunted.” She raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow and nodded.
It took me years to work up the courage to visit a counselor. As a child I held my feelings tightly, shielded them in my hand with the same carefulness as when I caught fireflies and brought my face an inch from my cupped palms, seeing the flickering light between my fingers. As a teenager I worried so much I made myself physically ill. In college I struggled with spells of sadness that I never called depression–but there were mornings I woke up crying. And then, in a span of five years I lost my stepfather, graduated from college, got a job, moved to Tennessee, got another job, moved to Missouri, got ANOTHER job and moved to Colorado.
When I arrived in Colorado, I felt breathless. And not just from the altitude.
I made friends quickly, but felt raw and exposed. I was endlessly afraid of being replaced. I was overwhelmed and overwhelming. I was damaged goods. So I finally decided I needed a counselor. A rent-a-friend who could solve all of my problems.
I still remember the first time I worked up the courage to tell a friend I was going to counseling. She audibly gasped and said “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong?” The weight of those words covered me, shame settling like ashes on my skin.
Things got worse before they got better. My “issues” bubbled up, and I felt like there was too much wrong with me. I was broken. I couldn’t be fixed. But my counselor, with her shiny lip gloss and red toenails, walked with me, guided me, and celebrated with me. For four years I saw her several times a month. I filled one journal, and then a second, the ink on the page feeling like poison I had leeched from my body, my mind, my spirit.
I still go to my counselor for an occasional “tune-up” (my words, not hers). And while the weight of shame lessened over the years, there is still a part of me that wants to keep that chapter of my life tucked neatly into a corner, out of sight. Even writing this, I’ve had to force myself not to edit out the details–I made myself leave in how long I went, how often, the present tense visits.
But then I remember that scared little girl I once was. The one who kept the ugly gray inside, where it made everything dirty and dusty. The one who was so afraid that she pushed everyone away and then cried over the ensuing loneliness. The one who lived in the dark.
Six years ago, she finally stepped into the light. Blinking and disoriented. But with her face turned upward. The breeze tickling her skin.
Breathing in the pretty pink.
breathe by ~sibayak