The Tower Princess – A Short Story

I wrote this short story based on the fairy tale Rapunzel back in 2012 for a contest. It was inspired by a girl I knew from online who was suffering from severe anxiety attacks and couldn’t leave her house. It’s not my best work by any means. I’m thinking of rewriting it to be a little more polished (and realistic) so I thought it would be fun to share the original first. Enjoy!

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(image source)

Once Upon a Time, Rae could leave her house.

Rae could ride in cars.

Rae could talk to strangers.

Rae could get in the elevator and go all the way down from the 11th Floor to the 1st Floor, and walk out the revolving doors of the Hotel Tower, and be just like everybody else.

But one day, someone tried to hurt Rae. He attacked her right on the street. He would have used her and left her for dead if a stranger hadn’t helped her get away.

When Rae finally got home at the end of that long, traumatic day, she ran into the Tower, took the stairs to the 11th Floor, shut herself in her room, and never came out.

“I will never go outside again,” she vowed fearfully. “Ever.”

Rae’s mother’s solutions for herself were always temporary, like a Band-Aid. Her solutions for Rae were no different. She thought she could ‘fix’ Rae’s problem by trying to force her to go outside, to be normal again. But all she did was wound Rae deeper. Rae couldn’t leave the safety of the apartment. She suddenly wanted nothing to do with a world that had once meant everything to her.

Slowly, Rae’s friends, even her closest friends, abandoned her. It was as though they feared her broken, isolated condition was contagious, and they left her. Even Rae’s mother, living in the same apartment, distanced herself and liked to pretend there wasn’t a lonely, sad girl behind the door to Rae’s room.

Rae was all alone.

 

Meanwhile upon a time, I was the stranger.

I had always been curious about Rae. I was working for my BA in architecture at the same college where she was taking art classes in the city, and even though I never had the nerve to say hello, I started following her from time to time. I tried to be subtle, but when she daringly strode into shiftier neighborhoods, I hung around just in case.

And that one day, I was there to save her.

During the twelve hours we sat next to each other in the police department, I managed to talk to her.

“Hi. My name’s Patrick.”

She didn’t answer, but I knew her name. Rae. Rae Elizabeth Ponce.

“Are you alright?”

Then, she looked at me, with those beautiful eyes that were suddenly so full of tragedy. She shook her head slowly. “No.” she murmured. “No, I’m not.”

When Rae disappeared, I knew she had gone up to the top floor of the Hotel Tower. It broke my heart to hear her closest friends write her off at school. I could only guess how lonely she was, and I decided to contact her online, offering her support.

At first, she was suspicious of me, even resentful. But I gave her time, and gradually, she accepted my offer.

Years passed, and I graduated from college. Rae and I became close friends and we talked on the phone frequently. But Rae stayed stuck in her tower. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I wanted to see her again.

So I walked to the back of the Hotel Tower building and found the fire escape. I had to jump onto a dumpster to reach it but then started climbing up without thinking. I didn’t stop until I’d gone as far as I possibly could. Then, I gave Rae a call on my cell phone.

“Hello?” she said quietly. Her voice was always a little hoarse from underuse.

“Rae, it’s me. Patrick. I’m under your window. Let down your fire escape.”

“What?”

“Let down your fire escape. I can’t go any higher until you do. I’m coming to see you.”

“You mean… open the window?” Rae asked nervously.

“Yes. You can do it, Rae. I’ll be waiting for you.”

It took a while, but finally, I heard the rattling and clattering of metal stairs unfolding, and the long, unreachable section of the fire escape tumbled down until it stopped at my feet. I climbed up two more stories, and I found my princess waiting for me at the top, sitting on her balcony. She had her arms wrapped around her knees, and looked a little bit like she might blow away in the wind.

For a moment, she just stared at me, afraid and unsure.

“Rae,” I said gently.

Rae started to cry. She leaped up and embraced me in a tight, desperate hug. She hadn’t seen anyone but her mother in two years.

 

And so, our worlds, our very distant ‘once upon a times’, collided.

Rae was so afraid, and I didn’t blame her. She didn’t invite me into her room for a long time, but when she did, I could tell how sacred it was to her. It was the only place she felt safe.

A year went by, and Rae’s mother never knew I was there. She was gone most of the time, and when she was home, she was usually recovering from drugs or drinking. I was afraid for Rae, but she begged me not to tell anyone about her, or her mother.

One night, Rae and I were lying side by side on her floor and gazing at the very few stars and helicopter lights out her window. We’d just finished watching a movie together, and it was almost one in the morning. I knew I should leave, but I hesitated. 

Rae suddenly pulled away from me. “This will never work, Rick. It never will.”

I looked into her eyes. I watched them glisten in the semi-dark.

“No. It will. Even if you never leave this place, Rae, I’ll make it work. I’ll be here for you. Everything will be okay, I swear.”

Finally, Rae let herself fall for me. She pulled me to my feet and kissed me. It was the most beautiful, innocent kiss any girl ever gave me.

Suddenly, the door to Rae’s room flew open. Her mother stood in the doorway, breathing heavily. She had a half-empty bottle of beer gripped in one hand, and she advanced on us quickly.

“Get out!” she slurred. “Get out of my daughter’s room you—”

“Mom, no!” Rae cried, as her mother grabbed me with surprising strength, and pushed me out onto the balcony.

“Stop!” Rae sobbed, trying to pull me away from her mother. “Let go of him!”

The last thing I remember was Rae’s mother breaking her beer bottle over my head, and shoving me over the balcony railings.

I fell eleven stories to the ground.

 

I woke up in excruciating pain, barely able to move, and unaware of my surroundings.

Sirens wailed somewhere, echoing in my ears.

“Rick! Rick please, wake up, please speak to me!” a familiar voice sobbed above my head.

As I slowly came to, I found that I was lying on the hard, cold cement surface of a sidewalk. I opened my eyes and saw my Tower Princess looking down at me, her tears dripping from her cheeks onto my forehead.

“I… I’m alive,” I breathed in amazement.

“You better be,” she replied, kissing me in relief. “I came out of my tower for you.” 

 

 

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A Love Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

We go way back. I didn’t know your name for a long time and I don’t remember exactly when we met, but I do recall when I was five or six, having that chronic fear of being lost, being locked in rooms or being locked out of the house. You stole a lot of fun and joy out of my childhood.

I got to know you better when I was twelve years old and became convinced that my chronic headaches had to mean I had a brain tumor. I still didn’t know your name, so every time you showed up, I just assumed you were a symptom of whatever was killing me. Finally, I found out that I needed glasses, and when my vision was corrected my headaches went away. But you stuck around in the form of that crippling fear of death, which took years to ease off.

And then, December 2014. That was your big breakout, wasn’t it? I was sitting on my bed and thought I was going insane from the all the thoughts and fears spinning around in my head. I felt so physically ill, I wondered if I’d caught a stomach bug. I grieved a relationship that wasn’t even over yet because you had me so, so, scared. I fought with you for six more months, and finally, I was able to get past you and make the decision I needed. With nothing I could love and lose to torment me over, you faded into the shadows.

But you’re still here. You got a good grip on my heart that night in 2014, and now it’s easier for you to sneak back up on me. (Kind of like heat exhaustion.) You keep flaring up whenever I have to do something new, whenever I fly on a plane, whenever things get too crazy at work, whenever I’m alone for too long, whenever I drink too much caffeine, whenever I perceive something wrong with someone, and whenever I care about something a lot. Could you stop doing that?

At the end of the day, you aren’t me. I believed that lie for a long time. But you’re not. You’re something that happens to me. I know you come from some weird survival instinct, this need in me to protect myself from getting hurt, to weigh the risk vs. reward before doing anything. I’m learning that it’s not my job to protect myself from everything because that’s impossible. At some point, after I’ve thought things through and done my best, I have to trust God enough to let my future be uncertain. 

You and I are probably going to spend the rest of my life together in some capacity. And that’s okay. I won’t live my life afraid of you. That being said, you better believe I’m going to work every single day to be stronger and smarter than you. My life is so much better when you’re in your proper place: keeping me from jumping off of bridges and away from possibly-rabid cats.

I’m choosing not to be afraid of you. Even when you jump me and pin me to the floor, sitting on top of my chest and asking me a million questions, I’m trying to choose not to be afraid of you. You drive me straight into the Garden with my God who was so anxious, He was sweating blood. He knows you better than I do, and you didn’t stop Him. You won’t stop me, either. 

As I wrote in my journal back on January 21st: “This is just anxiety. It’s just something that is happening to you. It will go away, and when it does, you will still be here. Don’t be afraid.”

Love,

Clare

Anxiety, Gratitude & Self-Compassion

Late in the day, but here is my post, as promised. I’m currently committed to doing a blog post every Tuesday and Friday, and today my little dinosaur-themed reminder went off on my phone, telling me that this is a blog post day.

Today was weird. So was yesterday. I had a horrible hair day that turned my self-confidence into a little pile of mush, I learned that a friend’s father passed away, I learned a man from my parish also passed away, I didn’t get enough sleep, I ate too much sugar, and my roommate has left town for the weekend.

I feel troubled, disoriented, anxious, not myself. I’m reflecting very hard on life and death. Everything feels too scary and hard right now.

As I thought about what I could possibly bring myself to post while I’m feeling all these messy, complicated things, I decided this was what I needed to write.

Here is a list of things I’m grateful for, and some reasons to be compassionate towards myself. Maybe my lists will help you. Maybe they will prompt you to write your own.

Right Now I Am Grateful For…

  • This Nature’s Truth ‘Happiness’ essential oil blend I just got.
  • These growing pains. All I have grown and will grow into.
  • The gift of writing that God has given me.
  • Hope. This hope that what is broken can come back together, what is messy will be beautiful, and that I know who I am and where I’m going, no matter how lost I feel in this moment.
  • The fact that Joe and Tweetie will be back in town this weekend. I’ve missed them.

Reasons to Be Compassionate Towards Myself…

  • You only just moved. The change is catching up with you. You are adjusting to your new place and in some ways a new life.
  • Death is scary. It’s sad. Don’t let it become an anxiety that eats you up inside. You can use this awareness of how fragile and uncertain life is to foster gratitude, love, and mindfulness.
  • It’s okay to feel disoriented and not like yourself. You are changing and growing. Growing can be painful. But you have changed and grown before; you will come out better and more beautiful in the end. Eventually, you will feel like yourself again, even if she is someone different in the future.
  • God’s got you, and you are where you’re supposed to be.
  • Life is always changing. Tomorrow is a new day. You will be okay.

 

What are you grateful for? What are some reasons to be more self-compassionate? Thanks for reading, new post coming Tuesday. God bless,

Clare

 

Other Posts On Anxiety:

A Ride Home

Winter

Journal Entries 1

How I Journal – Prayer In Spite of Anxiety

How I Journal – Prayer in Spite of Anxiety

First blog post of 2018!

Today I decided to share how I journal, specifically for prayer. As a person who suffers from a lot of anxiety, for a long time, I found it very difficult, sometimes impossible, to pray. A little over two years ago, I was feeling really anxious and out of it and just not myself, and I remembered this widely recommended grounding exercise for people with anxiety:

54321.jpg source

I started journaling, sort of following this method, only instead I wrote HOW I AM FEELING RIGHT NOW… followed by writing out how I was feeling Mentally, Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually.

It helped so much to keep me in the present moment, sort through my thoughts and feelings, and quiet myself. Prayer became possible because all I had to do was sit down and start writing tangible things, then relate those things to the Lord. Over time I’ve modified it to fit where I am in life.

How I Journal

Step 1: Open journal, blank page (string lights totally optional). My journal is a 3-N-1 from Markings and was purchased at Walmart.

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Step 2: Date, time, and location on the top of the page.

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Step 3: I write FEELING. Underneath that, I write out every feeling I can articulate.

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I bundle my physical and emotional feelings here, so whether its tired and hungry or happy and hopeful, they go here. I elaborate on whatever I need to, like what is making me sad or what I’m feeling excited about.

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Step 4: I write THINKING ABOUT.

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Here, I pretty much empty my mind onto the paper. Work, a conversation I had, a movie I saw 7 years ago, song lyrics and book characters…whatever is in my head, I write it down.

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Step 5: I write SPIRITUALLY.

howijournal7 (1)I write out how I am feeling spiritually. Empty? Dry? Far from God? Joyful? Hopeful? Aware of His love and presence? Whatever it is, I write it down.

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Step 6: Relate all of this to God. Write down anything and everything, but take time to just be quiet and be with Him.

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I’ll often read scripture and reflect on it here as well. As difficult as it can be, I try to let God lead this conversation. I praise Him, I thank Him, but I invite Him to be with me and to speak to me.

BONUS: GRATEFUL FOR…

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This is something I just started doing recently; taking time to write down a few things I’m grateful for every day. Gratitude can be an excellent remedy for anxiety because it moves your focus out of your anxious head to all the blessings in your life.

 

And there you have it: How I journal and pray in spite of anxiety. If you try this, I would strongly encourage you to tailor it to you. Maybe you want to be more specific. Maybe you want to just write down your thoughts. If you are severely anxious, you could actually go through the original 54321 grounding exercise and then just sit in quiet with God. That would be a perfectly beautiful way to get into prayer in spite of anxiety.

I hope you enjoyed this. If you have any other insights on praying when you are an anxious person, please share them!

New post coming Friday. Thanks for reading and God bless,

Clare

 

Other Posts On Anxiety:

A Ride Home

Winter

Journal Entries 1