Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
The Good Girl Syndrome
My visceral desire to reach consensus, to please others, never to make waves, caused me throughout my childhood, my adolescence and my adult life to lose my true self, my authenticity, my truth, my flame. I had to join the ranks, make efforts, sometimes more than others. Work hard to achieve some kind of realisation, not even perfection. Work more. More.
My parents, like most parents, fantasised over the perfect little girl. I think they abandoned the idea when they understood that this concept was not fitting their daughter. I was nice, I was a good girl, but I would never be perfect. Unfortunately, when they discovered that, they forgot to tell me! It would have saved me a lot of years of trying hard.
Nevertheless I was programmed to do everything right; be stable, be supportive, and most of all, be silent. Shut up. Comply. Listen to others. Don’t express your emotions. Sometimes, it felt as if someone had planted an invisible chip inside my brain (or elsewhere in my body) governing my attitude, ushering the grand plan, the right path, the linear trajectory, all the rules I needed to swallow, absorb and reproduce. I was meant to be stable. I was meant to be serious. Basic. I went into stable and serious studies, (no parties, no drugs!), followed by stable and serious jobs, stable and serious relationships (my first boyfriend and I lasted 11 years, from my 15th to my 26th birthday!)
But little did I know that my soul was slowly shrinking…slowly but surely stripped out of purpose and meaning. I was becoming a sort of machine fed with basics : breathe, eat, work, sleep, repeat. I was sustaining a model of exhaustion. I was ghastly silent about all what my heart really desired and sundry about what really mattered to me.
I was trying to become someone, without anyone inside.
When we are young, we are guided by norms that are imposed by family and society, striving to become what is expected of us; the result is the development of what Jung called the persona: the mask which we present to the world. The persona rarely reflects our true self, because over the years we compromise, we adapt; we pretend we are something that we’re not - and along the way, in some fashion or other, we begin to betray our authentic nature. Sharon Blackie Hagitude
I did not realize how much pressure there was on my shoulders, on my system, on my cells. Not only on me, but for centuries on girls like me. I found myself, at 18, with excruciating pain in my whole body. Wrongly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, they discovered a few months later that I had an incurable auto-immune disease, called Lupus or SLE systemic lupus erythematosus. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between the “foreign” and your body’s healthy tissues (auto meaning self) and creates antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue and organs. It could be fatal. The word lupus (from the Latin word for wolf) is attributed to the thirteenth century physician Rogerius, who used it to describe erosive facial lesions that were reminiscent of a wolf's bite.
Pushed down by centuries of abuse, forced migration and fear of persecution, I realised that my body was not just mine. My body was the recipient and the container of so much more. The suffering of my ancestors, chased from land to land, trying to find refuge and a safe home, was producing toxicity inside and out. First, the malady manifested through excruciating pain and swelling in my joints. After, I started having skin rash specially on my hands and knees - red spots marking where my body was inflamed. Then, I was extremely tired, often zoning out, numbed, feeling sad and useless. Sometimes, I would cry silently for hours. Incessant nightmares, constant doubts, millions of questions, insisting and intrusive voices raging over my head nourished day by day my terrible and monstrous disease.
From then on, my family, my friends and the whole medical community would surround me with universal sympathy. They would dictate, medicate, and generate rules over my case. I had nothing to be scared of anymore : I would be taken care of. For a while, I must admit, I felt seen and somehow important. Even in deep pain, the situation was rather comfortable. I could hear the voices say: Poor girl, she is such a good girl…In the discomfort of my comfortable lupus, I was the center of attention. I took solace in that. Maybe I would be able to collect some crumbs of love too? You see, sometimes, “evil” can do what “good” cannot do.
But things did not go as planned.
Attention and care were transformed into power games. I was forced into heavy medication. I was forbidden to go ever again in the sun. I was not allowed to go outside if not covered from head to toe, even in the summer. My menstruation was brutally stopped by the continuous intake of contraceptive pills. As the medicineI was taking, was ruining the retina of my eyes, every month, I would need to go through the most traumatic and cruel examination. The electro-retinogram consists of sending strobes inside a wide-opened-retina, in the form of low strength flashes then stronger and stronger flashes, and repeat that, and repeat that, for nearly 20 minutes without moving. Pure torture! It would leave me completely knocked out for the next 2 days, nauseous, lying in the dark. Every month.
Without really being aware of it, I was at a gigantic crossroad in my life. I needed courage. I needed force. I needed wisdom. I was so young and so unexperienced, how was I supposed to find all this? How would a good girl like me, ever be able to become anything else? What that expected from me? Did I need to fight? What exactly? Myself? The big bad wolf?
After 2 years of this extreme regime, I decided to stop my treatment. No more doctors, I said. I did not want to talk or see or hear about the lupus ever again. At the last checks, my levels of antinuclear antibodies were very high. My doctors went hard on me; they patronised me one after the other, the gynaecologist, the dermatologist, the internist announced unanimously that I was putting my life in great danger. My poor mother in a very dramatic gesture went to Church to gaslight God into taking her instead of me, she was ready to give Him everything she had…
There I was, standing in front of the knot of knots, I had to let go of the thirst to be liked, to be approved of or even to be taken care of. The palpable fear I felt all my life in my body and my soul was being depleted. I was feeling an intense grief. I was called to open up, to break the line of oppression, to cut the cord to a story I had knowingly and unknowingly inherited. I needed to surrender. Through and with my disease.
I was ready to die.
My illness was not some kind of a random misfortune or a genetically decreed calamity. It was not bad luck. It was a dynamic process, a manifestation of a life in a certain family, with a certain environment, an internalised pattern that I had to break free from it. I needed to take back agency over my life. I would otherwise lose it. The poisonous loyalty injected drop by drop in the blood of the lineage of mothers and daughters, from very old times, made us lose ourselves into neurotic and dysfunctional bodies. The big bad wolf would devour the good girl.
As I recollect that moment of my life, as I try to understand the process, look at the big picture, I cannot really express with words what kind of initiation I was going through. I am tempted to use the miracle card. But my story is not so special. Nor was the disease affecting me. Nor the healing that was operated. Still, when some years later, I was rushed into the emergency room (for something else), the doctors accessed my files, and did a routine check, it was important. So they checked my levels, and they discovered …nothing! The lupus was gone. I was free. Total remission…
I am often visited by wolves in my dreams. I love to read about them. They are fascinating. The symbolism, the archetype. Back in 2018 I made a note in my dream book of a reference copied probably from internet somewhere. “Wolves are supposed to take quick decisions, often need to trust their own instincts and make firm emotional attachments. They teach us to do the same, to trust our instincts and intuitions, and have control over our own lives. At some point in psychological development, most people struggle with the transformation of spiritual and physical aspects of their being. Wolves are seen as teachers of hard, but necessary lessons. The wolf is also a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit.”
Last year, I did a beautiful shamanic journey that guided me to visit my 6 years old self, my 15 self, 27, 42, 51, all the way to my 78 years old self. My 6 years self came to visit me first. I felt her innocence, her warmth, her joyful presence, wanting to play and sing and dance. She was hugging a babydoll. She told me, it was her baby! It was a black baby doll. As I often dream of a black baby I was not surprised. Often, in my dreams, it is a dead black baby…. But maybe, I had it wrong in my dreams? I should look better : maybe it was a (lifeless) doll? Anyhow, the little girl gave me the doll to hug and hold. I felt tears coming up. My heart cracked open at the tenderness of the moment. It was so beautiful. So peaceful. I parted with her and her doll and I walked towards a river. I planted my feet in the water. I decided I would walk inside and as I did, it became deeper and deeper. I walked further inside. I was not drowning. I was breathing perfectly inside the fresh waters. When I came out, on the other side of the shore, I saw 4 women aligned. My 15, 27, 42, 51 self. This was such a revelation. I felt first the crippling insecurities of my 15 and 27 and 42 self! So desperate for approval and acceptance, and unconditional love, contorting themselves into something they were not. Not the right body. Not the right attitude. Never enough. If only they knew how beautiful they were. ….My 51 years old self was quiet. She was more confident. She was writing on a piece of paper. I turned around, feeling another strong presence. Behind me was my 78 years old self. I saw her wise and sage face, her wrinkles, her tired body, completely grey hair (finally!) and I cried. I looked at her eyes, they were the same as my mothers´. She did not speak to me but she clearly conveyed this exact message to me: Enjoy every moment dear, you will never be as young as you are now!
I stopped crying. I understood.
Not all what wanders is lost…
Plaquenil / Hydroxychloroquine. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/hydroxychloroquine/about-hydroxychloroquine/