She's a survivor, self-motivated and intelligent, and successful. She has family and friends, all over the world. She is a good daughter, a good friend, a good mother, a good wife. She does all she can to help others. She doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, eats well, exercises regularly, holds honesty as her top value (which is not always to everyone's liking but it's more important to her than pleasing), she feels for and with those around her and remembers birthdays and anniversaries because they are important moments for her and she knows they matter to others too.
All this openness and connection ... but she's had a secret for so long.
She's always sensed that she is "too much" for others.
She has long suspected that she holds herself back for fear of being judged as too hard, too complex, too messy.
As a result, she's steered clear of anyone who needs her too much or loves her. When she is with them she feels the need to protect herself, keep a distance, hold something back for herself. She says she fears being engulfed by them.
But, the truth is something quite different.
She fears being truly seen and judged. If they could see her (even the ones closest to her) she would see reflected in their eyes how unlovable, horrible, disgusting, psycho, maniacal, diseased, foul she is inside. How imperfect she is. How human she is.
It's not safe for her to show these things. She learnt that a long time ago.
So she heeds the internal warning signs: she leaves the party early, she restricts the time she spends with others, she hides her feelings with cleverness, bravado, jokes, words, she holds back from getting involved.
When anyone gets too close she sends out the warning signals to "back off" - and they do, confirming her belief that no one wants to see the dark side.
In doing so, she keeps herself safe: locked away, disconnected, isolated, alone, hurt, sad - but safe.
Her world is a self-generated prison, a half-life, a place out of the sunshine that is cold and bereft.
She doesn't want what she has created, but she doesn't know how to change it.
She is not the only one.