Friday, December 1, 2017

Rapunzel's Tower

Most people will know the fairy tale of Rapunzel. The lonely trapped young girl whose long hair was the only way anyone could climb up to her window in the tower where she was kept.

My Tarot card deck is called The Fairy Tale Tarot. I relate so much to fairy tales, I just love their meanings...not the Disney versions mind you, the original tales. Rapunzel signifies feeling trapped, longing for your "happily ever after" but not having the confidence to take the next step.

Are you Rapunzel? :)

I was for a long time. In 2003, I had a pretty severe burnout and the nine years that followed were what I refer to as my "hell on earth" time. I lost everything that year: my car, my condo on the mountain (that was the hardest hit, my very first home!), all of my "toys" (tools, electronics etc)...I was forced to move to a loud crappy apartment back in Montreal. I felt trapped by my condition, I couldn't see a happily ever after. I remember my p-doc (that's psychiatrist) telling me in 2003 that the average length of time it takes to start feeling better after burnout is 7 years. It was quite shocking, I didn't believe her. She was a great p-doc though, she fought with our workman's compensation board here to convince them that due to the events leading to the burnout, my quality of life would suffer for the rest of my life. Again, I didn't believe her. Maybe it was more like I couldn't believe her.

But...after enduring all that challenge and difficulty, I finally realized in 2010 that this was it. I was so grateful for my income but very bitter about having to live with mental health illness. I had to accept what was going on and live with it; and work really hard to manage it. The other option was to continue living like a drugged-up zombie, sleeping 14-18 hours a day and zoning out to The Weather Network for the rest of the time. This was not a life and I knew if I didn't make changes, I wouldn't be around long. In fact, I'd made a secret pact with myself that when my pugs died, I probably would too. I hope that's not shocking to anyone, but this is the reality of what many people with mental health illness live with. It's quite unbearable. 

I decided to spend a few days just thinking, researching and reading about people who had managed to come out of the dark pit. I made my decision, I wasn't going to let the burnout and my condition kill me. That's when I decided to go off meds, which took almost 2 years in total.

I started to think of my situation, how trapped I felt. But after only a few months of lowering the doses of meds, I started to really think clearly. I started exercising again and lost 97 of the over 100 pounds I'd put on because of the meds. I got my finances in order, I got my teeth fixed (I had 8 broken teeth from constant grinding) and I moved from Quebec to Prince Edward Island for a fresh start - I only brought me and the pugs, and anything that fit in my little Hyundai at the time! Being in a completely new environment (from mountains to the ocean) was the key to making my changes, because I had extra motivation. I did have difficulties of course, and times when I wanted to run back to the p-doc for renewed prescriptions...but I held on. I moved back after a year though, I couldn't handle not being in the mountains anymore.

After 19 years of being single, at age 43, I decided to start dating again in late 2011. That experience will be for another post lol...anyone know first hand about how crazy online dating is??? I had to be 100% honest and I wrote about my burnout, the depression/anxiety that I was managing, and what I really wanted in life and in a man. I figured I'd get zero hits, but surprisingly a lot of men found my honesty refreshing. I met Alex in 2013 and that was all she wrote. :)

Being trapped by near-bankruptcy and mental health illness is frightening. You can't spend money, you can't get money and you're too sick to find your energy - it's like you are completely trapped and cannot make any changes to your situation. In the end, my p-doc was right, but in my case it took about nine years for me to really feel confident and whole again, despite the daily struggle to manage things.

You've heard the question: "If you went back, would you change anything?" To me, that's extremely thought provoking because if I never burned out and suffered so long...would I have met Alex? I'm the happiest I've ever been, but I can't bring myself to say "yes, I'd do it all over again". I'll take a pass on that question! What about you? Are you trapped? What can you do to find a way out? Were you trapped in the past and how did you manage to turn things around? And...would you do it all over again? ;)


Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Rain, thank you for sharing this with us. Your story is both tragic and inspiring. You've gone from one end of the spectrum to the other with hope and perseverance. I truly believe that as long as you have a sliver of hope, it's the building block for moving forward. You are incredibly strong. Despite having crashed, you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and slowly began getting up. Baby steps at first, but important steps that brought you to where you are today. I'm so glad that you are in a good place now. I was like Rapunzel for 16 years while I was with my ex. And perhaps a couple of years after our split, too, because it takes time to shed that skin. I am exactly where I want to be today with the most amazing partner. I also went from one end of the spectrum to the other. Would I change anything in the past? That's a really tough question because my two daughters are from my first marriage. I can't imagine going back in time and giving that part of my life up. If anything, those years with my ex made me the person I am today. So in many ways it was worth it.

And yes, I know all about how crazy online dating can be! LOL

Rain said...

Hi Martha :) You're welcome :) Trust me, those were MINI baby steps during those first 7 years! It was the most difficult time of my life. Burnout really messes with the body physically, but of course, the worst part is the mental and emotional torture. It was rough too because so many of my now former friends thought I was either faking or exaggerating. I was told I was "lucky" to never have to work again, that I was on "permanent vacation". Selling my material goods to buy Ramen noodles because that was all I could afford for a few months...that's not what I call a vacation lol...I'm better off without those people in my life now anyway. And thank you, I think it's important to talk about the rough times too, you never know who is reading your blog. You know that feeling because you wrote about the worst times too. There is a terrible taboo in our society that certain things shouldn't be talked about or mentioned, but the heck with that. That feeds the problem and I'm an open book. I still don't think I can say that I'd go back and do it all the same again though! :)

Isn't it crazy to think we both lost so many years, being Rapunzel? I mean, you have your daughters which is a highlight of those years of course. I had a similar experience in a previous relationship when I was young, and I put up with it. But that trend continued through my work life. I was being used terribly and all I wanted to do was please my employers. Remnants of childhood I guess, or so the p-doc told me. I suppose I needed the burnout to turn my life around, I just wish it hadn't robbed me of so much of my life!!!

I'm really proud of you too for getting from one end to the other. So many people can't make it there. Some kind of flip switched with us, and now look...we both have amazing relationships and a happy life. I agree, those years made me who I am today too. This is the woman I am happy to be now. :)

Your online dating stories were so much like mine, like a carnival or something! I had one guy send me a long sob story about how we could have been made for each other except for my "horrible flaw" of not wanting kids, lol...we hadn't even "met" before online and I didn't even know he existed but he was already so sad that we weren't going to meet because of that. There are lots of lonely people out there, but also a lot of crazies, I'm fortunate that I found Alex just about a year after I started the dating process!

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

Hiya! Such an incredibly honest post! I am so glad things worked out so well for you!

Rain said...

Thanks Dianna :) It was a tough road, and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but I'm so happy these days. :)

Pam Jackson said...

I loved the story of Rapunzel. I loved how she cut her hair to change her life....I can relate Rain. I had a breakdown in 2006, a man was the last straw but with that it brought back years of crap. It took me about 5 or 6 yrs to get out of it all. I took those yrs to study my life, to come to terms with it and accept what I could not change. Today, my life is a health (fibro) issue and I work hard to not let it take over my life. There are days that it is hard and I go into hiding. I have always been a social person and the fibro has taken a lot of that from me but.....I still try to plug along! Hang in there, glad you have Alex and the furbabes! Life can be a rough road to travel but taking hold of it and showing it that it will not rule you is awesome. You did good.

Rain said...

Thanks Pam :) You've been through a lot too and I commend you for getting to the point where you know what makes you happy; and what doesn't make you happy - which is sometimes hard to figure out. I don't have many relationships in my past, a few as a teenager, if you could call them relationships! But in my early 20's I did meet a man who was abusive and that really turned me off men until I started dating in my 40's. One bad experience can bring up so much awful stuff from the past. I'm sure the fibro steals a lot of your joy and energy too. I feel that way about the anxiety. But this is what we have to live with and you're right, taking hold of it and not letting it ruin you or rule you is the only way to go unless you downright just give up. I didn't want to. But it's sure tough some days! Thanks for your comment Pam :)

Michael said...

Such a great post, again, Rain. I sure hope you read all these comments I'm leaving you. :) Lots to ponder here again.

While it is not abusive, I do even now feel trapped-- in Colorado, in America! Even though I love it too, I miss London, even after all these decades! Crazy. I miss English culture, centred around cakes and tea and British traditions like tea time and Christmas treats you just don't find here. I know they are superficially and seem silly, true, yet they are a part of the fibre of my upbringing and sense of life.

The reality is though as with every winter and every winter visiting since, I physiccally cannot stand English wet damp weather and always end up with a horrible wheezy chest and brochitis, feeling like I am going to die from lack of air. I can;t take that damp cold so am lucky to be in Colorado where it is dry.

That's all minor though compared to someone like my Alex who was trapped in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic who would beat her etc then apologise, etc but while ppl think she should have jsut left, ppl don't get it unless in it. She was terrified she would be killed or her family if she ever escaped. When she did, the shelter said she mets all the statistics tehy had from the questionnaire on her situation to be most likely to be killed by her ex. She ended up changing her name, her hair colour and finally leaving her toxix family, and like you, left with only what she could fit in a car on her way to Colorado, years later.

While it was hard for you to go through what you went through, no doubt, I am glad you have foudn your Alex and had the COURAGE to change things. You could have easily justified the higher salary but be dead before 50 or incredibly overweight and sick or what have you. It happens all the time. The unknown is scary.

I have also sufferd some of the things one most fears--bankruptcy and foreclosure and at the same time divorce and totally alone. If it wasn't for my beautiful children, I would have very likely ended it all as I couldn't take any more heartache and shame for being divorced as I prided myself on being the only one in my family not divorced! (there are 12 marriages with my parents alone!

Metting Alex during this time saved me most likely as while I was soooo broken, I saw a genuine true survivor in her. I thought if she can overcome her horrible upbringing then I can get over these dark depths too. You can read a fraction of her story here if ever interested ( -- you would NEVER know that if you met here as she is totally not defined by her family now and the horrors she suffered/suffers-everything a woman can suffer at some point I think).

Rain said...

Hi Michael :)

Firstly, thank you for sending me your Alex's link to her Hope To Dream. I just read the whole thing and listened to her music. It was very touching and spoke to me a lot. What you said that people don't get it unless they've been through it is very true. I find that is true with mental health disease. I also was in an abusive relationship in my early 20's. I could have left, but I was too beaten down to find that courage. What changed was that he asked me to marry him so we could start a family. I did get pregnant, but it wasn't meant to be, stillborn baby. This shook me to realize that marriage was not what I wanted, nor children, and especially not an abusive husband! I got lucky and got out. But it really jaded me on romance and relationships and men. I feel grateful that I found my Alex, even though it took a long time for me to do so. I legally changed my first and last names too. No secrets. I had to in order to help me move on.

And the whole subject of suicide, is so taboo also. SO MANY people go through those thoughts. What you went through when you lost everything after your divorce, it amalgamates into a ball of despair. I think that emotional pain is so devastating that the only way we sometimes see an end to it, is a complete end to it. Which is so upsetting because if we're able to tough it out, usually it does get better...but sometimes it takes too long and we can't handle it anymore. I'm so glad that you met your Alex and found a light in that dark!

I don't think that the little things you miss are superficial or silly. When I moved all the way to the Atlantic Ocean on Prince Edward Island, I missed the little things that I was used to in Quebec...or I guess just on the mainland. I missed my favourite wine! I missed the variety of cheeses...and Montreal bagels - they do them so well! But I also missed the mountains, the snow and the wildlife which was very different by the ocean. When we finally move out of this province, we will still be near the mountains. We'll stick to the mainland of Canada, likely in Nova Scotia where there are the Appalachian mountains, lakes, similar wildlife...and more options for food and drink. I do think those things are important! But I wouldn't handle dry weather lol...I'm used to the humid summers and the damp snowy winters!!

Michael said...

So glad you did, Rain. :)

Never knew there were any mountains in N.S. Whoa!