Self-hate is the strongest human anti-therapeutic agent in existence. Its potential for destructive possibility is almost limitless.
- Theodore Rubin, M.D., Compassion and Self-Hate: An Alternative to Despair
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 . . .
THIS STORY OF MY JOURNEY IS DEDICATED TO MY PARENTS
At last my inner werewolf has been put to rest. I no longer have those attacks of unworthiness and self-hatred.
I love looking at myself in the mirror. In fact, I think I like myself even more than my cat likes me.
~ Kat Tansey
My decision to tell secrets my parents held so close for their entire lives has not been an easy one. I loved and adored both my parents. They were intelligent, hardworking, beautiful and loving people. When they retired and moved back to Texas, their neighbors put together a huge scrapbook with pictures and stories about how much my parents meant to everyone in the neighborhood. Everyone loved them.
I wish I had known earlier what had happened to them. I think it might have changed things for me. But it was not the custom in those times to share shameful stories, and I understand this. Perhaps in some small way, my sharing now the stories of what happened in their lives shows us how amazing they really were. They were resilient, hardworking people who found each other and shared a life filled with love, humor, and adventure. They were two of the bravest, most wonderful people I have ever known, and I will love them forever.