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  • Nathalie Weister

my unraveling

The pain was excruciating, and it wouldn’t dissipate. I’d never experienced anything like it. One day, I woke up with a kink in my neck, and within a few hours, I could barely turn my head. The throbbing started at the base of my skull and reverberated up through my head and into my temples. I couldn’t even find a reprieve in sleep because the agony only intensified at night. Nothing physical could explain the source of the torment I was experiencing, and I desperately wished there were. Maybe then there would be an easy fix. But deep down, I knew it was something more profound; psychological and emotional forces stemming from my subconscious were to blame. Alas, I’d have to confront the real foe: my resistance.

Not coincidentally, this episode began shortly after declaring I was leaving my corporate identity behind. I was experiencing a death of sorts, and my body knew it before my conscious mind. In reflecting on this experience, which relentlessly persisted in the form of migraines and severe muscle spasms for four weeks without relief, I realized the overwhelming attachment I had to my former self. I was so identified with the job title, the structured schedule, and the rush of cortisol day after day as I jumped out of bed before dawn to start the whole charade over again. Despite an ever-present hum of anxiety and lack of authentic purpose, I took comfort in the safety of the familiar. I didn’t realize it until I was a few months removed, but I felt an illusory protection behind all the masks I wore in order to fit a high-achiever profile.

The pain I experienced when I finally decided to step into a new life ripe with uncertainty felt like a complete physical and emotional breakdown. Now that my body has recovered and I’m more distanced from the experience, I can see it for what it was: an unraveling. That word had a negative connotation until recently when I heard it eloquently explained in a podcast. Famed researcher and author Brené Brown explained that “ravel” means “a tangle, a cluster, or a knot.” And that’s exactly how I was unknowingly living for the entirety of my adult life: so tight that I could barely move, stifled by my self-imposed inflexibility. To unravel means to loosen the knot, but as you may experience in a good massage, you have to work through the pain to get the muscles to let go and relax.

I can’t say I’m fully unknotted, but I’m making progress through an intentional practice. This quote from renowned author Steven Pressfield hit remarkably close to home as I’ve moved through this life change: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” Years of being wound up in a system that celebrates and rewards stress doesn’t dissipate in a couple of months; my resistance to letting it go was strong and visceral. But as I gift myself with more compassion, grace, and the occasional massage, I know I’m on my way.

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