I was a secret agent for fifty years.
My cover was that of a brave, smart, and funny girl — and later a sexy, intelligent, and successful woman. I was fearless. I could take big blows, brush myself off, and get right back in the fray. I could handle teasing, harassment, humiliation and heartbreak. After all, I had my wonder woman bracelets to protect me. They were stored in my memory banks.
This was a skill I learned as a very young child. It’s called splitting. I know now that I grew up in what can be a deadly trap for a child’s soul. In therapy it is referred to as a double bind. I didn’t put the pieces together until I was almost fifty years old.
All I knew was that there was something terribly wrong with me, because no matter how many men loved me, no matter how many accomplishments I had, no matter how many people thought I was amazing — I knew I was not lovable. I was an ugly, total and complete fraud. Often at the best moments of my life — graduations, weddings, awards, special celebrations — I would be filled with despair, tormented by my inability to participate with an engaged, joyful heart.
You see, in my mind I was damaged goods, and no matter how hard I worked, who I got to love me, or what I achieved, I knew I was never going to be able to change that. The only thing that kept me going was my indomitable will — that and looking for my next big opportunity to prove how smart and unstoppable I was. I was so totally unconscious about what was driving me that I was like a high speed runaway train with a comatose brakeman.
From the outside it looked like I had a successful life and career. In reality, I would look at myself in the mirror with repulsion. I was sure others could see me the same way I saw myself and I would once again be driven down into despair.
When I was smacked down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the early 90’s, I lost my ability to keep up the momentum that had been my lifelong shield. I hoped that learning what had really happened during my childhood would unlock the key to my pain, that somehow I would finally remember my childhood and begin to integrate it so I could heal. I was achieving some of this in therapy, but I would still suffer my familiar attacks of feeling so ugly I couldn’t leave the house — as though I was possessed by a secret inner werewolf. Therapy alone wasn’t enough . . .