Cassandra Williams, MA Cassandra@KissOfTheWhiteBird.com
In the Beginning 4
The Church of Scientology 16
The Apparitions of Mary 154
Meeting My Teacher 176
The Initiation Conference: Heart Center Awakening 184
The Dark Side: Death, Demons, and Difficult Dreams 195
The Shadow 201
A New Name 211
Relationship as a Path to Wholeness 218
New Beginnings 241
About the Author 252
*Please note some of the names and descriptions of certain individuals have been changed to protect their privacy. Foreword
I had a dream on March 13, 1992 in which a psychic told me to write a book about my life. I never thought of it as prophetic, but only in symbolic terms, until I received a phone call two years later from Jan Ande, one of my college professors at the time. After reading a paper about some of my life experiences, Jan said, “You have to write your spiritual autobiography. You have something very special to offer.” This call came two weeks after I had a real life reading with Annette Martin who told me that I was going to write a book about my life. Jan persuaded me to write my story. However, I was feeling way to vulnerable to pursue publishing, so I put away pen and paper until now, ten years later.
I had been struggling with exhaustion, so I took a leave of absence from my therapy practice. I was on “burn out.” For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to read one more psychology book or spiritual book for that matter. My passion was lost and it deeply saddened me. I thought a psychic reading might be helpful, since I hadn’t had one in ten years. I made an appointment with Nancy Bradley, a well-respected psychic who lived close by. She immediately said, “I see a book. A book about your spiritual journey that will help a lot of people.” I could not ignore this any longer; a few weeks later I decided to complete my book.
“Breathe, breathe, breathe!” he hollered. I lay on a table with a tube down my nose unable to understand what was happening to me. A man was hovering over me; women in the background looking like ethereal clouds, their faces slightly visible through the mist. “Breathe, breathe,” I kept hearing over and over again. This man was furious with me. “No, please don’t be angry. I’ll do what you want,” I said to him in my mind. I breathed, and it hurt so badly, the nausea and pain taking over my body. Where was I?
In the fall of 1973, I quit my job as a flight attendant with Braniff International Airlines. I was based in Dallas, Texas but decided to return home to Los Angeles. My life as a flight attendant was filled with fun and excitement; however, I was getting increasingly troubled with the way the airlines treated us. We were objects--frankly, sex objects. I was so excited to join the airlines and fulfil a dream of traveling around the world that I ignored their demeaning manner. I was also a very naïve nineteen-year-old.
My first interview was in a bathroom of a hotel room, where I had to take off my jacket and turn around in front of a male interviewer. At my second interview I was told to step on a scale and pull back my hair. When I was finally hired hairdressers and make-up artists come in to give us a make over. We were being sculpted, like an American Geisha girl, if there were such a thing, to please the male passengers who comprised most of the airlines business. I told the hairdresser with his scissors in hand that I did not want my hair to be cut short. He ignored me and swiftly cut off my ponytail that hung down my back. I suppressed my anger. I wanted to fly! I also had to sign a contract stating that I would not get married and would quit by age thirty-two. I remember laughing and thinking thirty-two was so old, and never did it enter my mind how degrading this was.
As I matured, the demands of the airlines to look and act a certain way, to be packaged for men, began to take its toll on me. I rebelled. I was written up and reprimanded for changing my hair color, for wearing my own coat because it was warm and the uniform coat was paper thin (but it was pretty!), and other trivial things regarding my appearance. Never mind that I got glorious letters from my passengers on my service. I was fed up. I couldn’t compromise my self-worth any longer. I wanted to be me, not someone else’s ideal. I also started having stomach trouble, facial tics, and shaking.
My first job in Los Angeles was working for United Artist Records. I wanted to be a promotion director, but I had to start at the bottom, which was a secretarial position for the national promotion director. Our first meeting was over dinner. From out of the blue he said, "By the way I take cream and sugar in my coffee." The arrogance in which he spoke should have warned me to walk out then and there. After a few days of working there, while having lunch at a restaurant, I had my first panic attack.
My stay in LA didn’t last long. I couldn’t continue working in such a subservient position and I hated the fast-paced smoggy city. Since I was not going to be traveling any longer, I was surely not going to live in a place that I couldn’t stand, so I decided to move to Colorado, a place I loved for its pristine beauty. Braniff was opening up a base in Denver and Robin, a friend of mine who was still flying for Braniff, wanted to move there as well. Her boyfriend, Bill who was a traveling salesman would join us. We found an adorable house in a small town called Evergreen, sixty miles from Denver. The house overlooked a creek where two horses grazed. We were surrounded by the breathtaking Rocky Mountains.
I went to work for a radio station. When I had the interview, I told the owner I was interested in working in promotion. He told me the present promotional director was going to be leaving soon, and he was sure I would be a good fit. He asked if I would be willing to be a receptionist for the time being. I believed him, so I accepted the position. I would find out later that this was a lie; the present promotional director wasn’t going anywhere. I believe he used that as an excuse to put me in a “woman’s job.” I found the industry to be very inauthentic.
My whole world seemed to be people deceiving other people. I was shocked to find that when Bill was out of town, Robin would have different men over who shared her bed. When Robin was out of town, Bill was trying to put the make on me. I was very confused. How could people who seemed to love each other act this way? I felt very alone.
I have to admit this wasn’t the first time I felt this way. I also felt this way when I was a flight attendant, but I could fly away somewhere to escape these feelings. In fact, I was consciously aware of how travel was a way to avoid meaningful relationships and the pain they often caused. When I traveled I would meet many wonderful people, but I was never with them long enough to get hurt. My running away kept me from pain, but it also kept me from experiencing love and deep intimacy.
Like all human beings, I needed to love and feel loved, so I adopted a Collie/Spitz mix puppy, who I called Scamp. He was all white, except for a brown patch around one eye. He looked just like the RCA dog. He naturally healed and was always by my side. We walked and played in the woods for hours. When I came home one day, Scamp was gone. I was devastated. I looked everywhere for him. Frantically, I went from neighbor to neighbor, called the humane society over and over again, put up fliers, placed ads, but no one knew of his whereabouts. I wanted this to be a bad dream and upon awakening, he’d be back in my arms. This did not happen and I sank into a deep depression.
My world was becoming more unreal. The only thing that was real to me at that time was my puppy. I wanted a world of honesty, a world without betrayal, a world that wasn’t superficial, a world where people would see each other for who they were. I found none of this. I was lost.
I was living in a culture that was foreign to me. I was used to living in a community comprised of airline people. Our life style was very different than most, always traveling to different cities, states, countries. It was exciting. When I wasn’t working a trip, I would take advantage of the airlines’ amazing benefits and travel, most of the time for free or for very little to remote places. My salary was excellent, so I never had to worry about money. I was shocked to find out how low the wages were for women on the ground.
Life lost its zeal. I decided to end my pain. The day of my planned death I was preparing breakfast: two scrambled eggs and two pieces of cinnamon-raison toast. My body always needed a good breakfast. How strange that I would give myself life-sustaining food on my last day. I had a small yellow suitcase, a gift from my mother, by my side. I had planned my suicide for days. I didn’t want to end my life at my home, where my roommates would find me. I couldn’t do that to them.
I was shaking inside as I drove the windy rode into Denver. I checked into the Sheraton Hotel feeling very conspicuous, my heart pounding. I smiled hoping it would mask my fear. It wasn’t the fear of death, but the fear that the hotel employees would know what I was planning to do. I handed the desk clerk my VISA gold card. Relieved when I felt the key in my hand, I heard him ask, “Would you like someone to carry your luggage?” “Oh no,” I answered, “I’m just fine, thank you.”
My yellow suitcase was my prop making me look like I was just another traveler. I didn’t want him to know the suitcase was empty inside like I was. Carrying my suitcase, I went up the elevator to my room. I wrote a short suicide note to my parents telling them I was sorry and that I loved them. Walking over to the bathroom I glanced in the mirror for the last time and filled a glass with water. I swallowed a bottle of tiny yellow Valium tablets and about a dozen or so of large soft red Seconal capsules. I went over to the large glass window, where I saw my gold MGB parked. This was my last look at life. I was calm or maybe just numb. Because I wanted to cause less drama then absolutely possible, I crawled in bed with my clothes on--black corduroy pants and a red sweater--and waited for death.
As I write this I can see that the colors of the clothes I wore represented the same polarity in my psyche that played out by having a nourishing breakfast. The color red represents life, the blood mysteries, and vitality. Black represents death. I suppose the deep psyche wanted a new life, which called for a death of the old ways. I mistook this as a physical death. How close I came to aborting a transformation process that would show its face in the years to come.
The hotel maid found me in a coma the next day. I woke to find strange people hovering over me, but then went unconscious again. The next time I awoke, my mother was standing over my hospital bed. I remembered. She had her usual happy smile on, like nothing unusual had happened. She flew in from Los Angeles. I still don’t know how the hospital was able to contact her. The doctor came into see me. He was the man who had been screaming at me to breathe. He was still angry with me. I was very hurt and troubled by this. The nurses smiled sweetly and were so kind to me. I loved them. I don’t ever recall feeling so loved.
I was so weak that I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t eat. A male social worker came to see me and asked me a number of questions. The first question was “When was the last time you had sex?” I couldn’t believe my sex life would be listed as top priority and that he would even think sex had anything to do with my wanting to end my life. I was very cooperative, however, because I was afraid they would send me to the loony bin. He asked, “Would you go home with your mother to Los Angeles and have therapy.” I said, “Of course.”
In the days that followed it was like a party in my hospital room, my mother bringing gifts and the nurses and I laughing, like nothing had happened. My suicide attempt was never discussed. One evening I had to use the bathroom and I was tired of having to call the nurse for a bedpan. I wanted the simple act of independence, so I attempted to walk to the bathroom. I was still too weak and fell to the floor. When my doctor found out that I had gotten out of bed, he came in and lectured me. I imagined he thought I was going to hurt myself again. I wanted to please him so much. I’d do anything for him not to be angry with me.
I don’t know why I was deeply troubled by his apparent anger. I can only assume my subconscious mind perceived him as my father. I was around eleven years old when my father came into my room and caught me trying to suffocate myself with a plastic bag tied around my head. He ripped it from my head and slapped me hard across my face. He said he didn’t want to upset my mother, so he wouldn’t tell her, as he stormed out my bedroom. This was not the first time I tried to kill myself. I was around seven or eight years old when I took a handful of aspirin. It just put me to sleep. No one ever knew about it.
As a child I felt invisible and depression would overtake me. Of course, it would take many years to even realize that I suffered from depression. I remember how easily I could drop into depression even if it had nothing to do with me. I recall if my mother was upset about something in the morning before school, it would make me sad and I would be depressed all day.
I returned to LA with my mother. When I saw my father, he did not mention one word regarding my suicide attempt. I agreed to see a psychiatrist who fell asleep during our sessions. I could actually see the whites of his eyes as he succumbed to slumber. I must have been pretty boring. Actually I don’t remember saying much, because I didn’t know what to say. But I continued seeing him for a few months, because he kept me supplied with Valium and barbiturates. I’m only assuming he felt I was no longer a suicide risk. Little did I know I was on the road to drug addiction.
I tried various jobs from cocktail waitressing, to selling insurance door to door. They didn’t last long, because they weren’t an expression of who I was. One day my neighbor, who was a pharmacist told me about pharmaceutical reps. I wanted a job that I felt could help humanity and one that also paid well, so pharmaceutical sales sounded ideal.
I went on three interviews with a small pharmaceutical company called Tutag Pharmaceuticals; I was certain I had the position, but I never heard from the interviewer, until six months later. He said he hired someone else for the position I originally applied for in LA, but there was another position open in Riverside, CA and wanted to know if I was interested.
When I accepted the position, he confided in me that he had wanted to hire me for the LA position, but management said, “No women.” I’m not sure what changed their minds--probably pressure from the legislature.
When I proved that I could make a contribution in this field, Bristol Laboratories, a major pharmaceutical firm hired me for a territory in San Mateo Co., CA. The three-week training program was very difficult for me. I was so overstimulated being with a large group of people for long periods of time, having very little sleep, and having to learn so much that I just couldn’t control the tics and trembling. It was very painful and embarrassing…but as always I made it through; somehow, I made it through.
I loved my job. My clients became my friends. I owned another dog. I was making a good living, so I was able to fulfil another dream that I had since childhood--to own a horse. But behind all my success and joy was this awful pain--my body always feeling threatened, overwhelmed by some unseen force. I took more and more pills to dull the pain, but it always came back. I finally went to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me as having agoraphobia.
The word agoraphobia goes back to the 1870’s in Germany when it was used to describe an intense dread or anxiety of going out into the marketplace. Seidenberg and DeCrow in their thought-provoking book, Women Who Marry Houses: Panic and Protest in Agoraphobia view agoraphobia as a woman’s issue. Throughout history women were not permitted to go into the marketplace, which may still be deeply embedded in the psyche of many women striking them with a terrible fear of leaving their homes. The assumption the authors make is that agoraphobia is not only a possible inherent fear for many women, but may be protest against control.
Agora comes from the Greek word for marketplace. In early times the marketplace was a wide-open space enclosed by walls where political, social, and commercial exchange took place. At that period of time most women were restricted from entering the market place. Throughout history--and presently in some countries--women were sold and bartered as common goods in the marketplace. According to Seidenberg and DeCrow, "The market is not an innocent area for her even though she will make no conscious connection between her now irrational phobia and the thousands of years that she herself was handled as a commodity." At times the airlines made me feel like a commodity. Because women who are struggling with agoraphobia are commonly very sensitive, I have to ask myself: Are we more in touch with the deep collective unconscious that remembers that the market place represented danger? I have to wonder if this was the contributing factor to my development of agoraphobia since it manifested at the time I was rebelling against female oppression in the airlines. It may have intensified when I went to work in a male-dominated field--a field in which I wasn’t totally welcome. This is all speculation and part of an on-going puzzle.
I also have to wonder if this is the reason I never wanted to marry. I never wanted to feel controlled in anyway or put in a subservient position. I realize now that this is not what marriage is about; nevertheless, this was the message I received as a young girl. At the time of this writing I have come to realize when this pattern was struck. I will use my mother’s influence as a form of reference, because I have no certainly whether or not this could have been a dormant pattern in my psyche that she simply activated rather than caused.
My mother had a bigger hold on me than I thought. I’m aware that no matter how much I rebelled and disagreed with her, I wanted her approval. When I was preparing to join the airlines, she encouraged me to travel and told me to drop the man I was dating, because I shouldn’t be tied down to anyone. The seed was planted.
I always had the sense that my mother wanted to live through me vicariously, but even with all the years of study and therapy, my writing of this is the first time I’ve expressed it.
My mother left a promising career as a singer/actress to marry my father and raise a family. I felt she missed her calling to be on stage, because she appeared to me to always want to be the focus of attention.
As a child my mother felt like she was a burden, simply another mouth to feed. Her sisters were in show business, and they with their mother, who acted as their manager, traveled to different parts of the country where they performed. My mother was left behind with an aunt and uncle. She felt unloved and abandoned.
My mother grew up to be an independent woman and left Chicago, where she was raised, to travel to Los Angeles to pursue a career on stage. Although my mother has a beautiful loving relationship with my father, I always had this sense that a part of her missed the independent woman she once was. My mother totally accepted the role of being a conventional wife and mother yet I feel she wanted to experience more of herself through me-- the part of herself that she could not fulfil.
Like a loyal daughter of some ancient time, I accepted her advice and dropped the man I was seeing. This would begin the pattern of breaking-up with nice eligible men and being attracted to men who were married or unavailable.
Agoraphobia is antithetical to who I once was. I traveled extensively throughout the world, alone in strange, seemingly chaotic surrounding, with no hesitation or fear whatsoever. I loved the excitement of being in a crowd. In fact, I’ve always had an adventurous spirit and still do. But the body I’m in reacts in a way that is contrary to my spirit, who I really am. The suffering and confusion of agoraphobia has led me on the adventure of my life--a spiritual quest, one of tremendous pain and tremendous joy.