You know how life goes… from the outside, everyone thinks you’ve got it all together, but on the inside, there is often an untold story. Others are usually unaware of the trials and tribulations one faces each day; the fears, the feelings and the relationships that are all interwoven into what we call life. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you before, but over the course of my life, I have sometimes found myself in situations in which I honestly feel, “This can’t seriously be happening!” I am left feeling a bit like my life has spun completely out of control and that I am in fact living what many would deem to be nothing more than an “urban legend“.
What is an Urban Legend?
Here is American Folklore’s definition of an Urban Legend:
What is an urban legend? Urban legends are incredible stories – sometimes scary, sometimes funny – which have a tantalizing bit of plausibility to them. Urban legends contain many folkloric elements and they spread quickly through a community or society. The tales are usually told dramatically, as if they are true stories that have happened to a real people, although they may in fact be fictional. Local touches are often added to the legend. A storyteller might say: “This really happened last year to my cousin’s friend in Chicago.” Urban legends often carry a warning or have some significance that motivates the community in preserving and propagating it.
That Dirty RATscal!
I must begin by saying that this story is difficult to share without extending it into the events that occurred many years before and those which followed, as this singular event had an impact on my life which actually transcended a period of about 30 years. I am not ready to share it all, but a friend suggested that I share this story. It still amazes me that a mere moment in time can have the power to change one’s life so significantly. Here is my story….
In the summer of 2006, my husband and I purchased our first home. This was a huge step for us for many reasons, but what many didn’t know was that events from my past made me feel safest on an upper floor of an apartment block. It is mainly for this reason, that we spent 10 years living in a very large (1500 square foot) top floor apartment. I liked the security of having to be “buzzed-in” and the fact that the windows were not accessible. I was very excited about owning our first house, but at the same time had many reservations. Although I felt that I was working through these new insecurities, the events that took place the following May would totally rock my world and be the catalyst that began to spin my life out of control. The most intriguing part of this story is that the event is self, seems quite minor in the scheme of things and yet because of my existing fears, it literally had the power to turn my world upside down.
Our house was built in 1909, and consisted of 3 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The only other bathroom in the house was built in what seemed to be an almost uninhabitable basement. The basement itself had huge cracks in the floor with large slabs that were actually heaving and the ceilings were so low you had to duck. Despite this, a previous owner had installed a small bathroom with a single shower stall, toilet and sink. The basement and bathroom always creeped me out. I think this was because it was completely unfinished other than the bathroom and thus, you could expect to encounter a spider or sow bug on quite a regular basis. Despite this, I would use this bathroom to get ready for work every morning. My husband worked nights and my children never had to go to day care or a sitter, so their routine often began when they woke up between 8 and 9 a.m. (I know, we were so spoiled!!) To avoid waking my family, I would set out my clothes the night before and then proceed to the “dungeon” (I mean basement bathroom) to get ready. On this particular morning, I did as I always do and began my morning by going to the bathroom. I pulled down my underwear and began to sit down on the toilet, but for some reason turned and glanced back over my shoulder. You can not even begin to imagine my terror when I looked into the toilet bowl and found the horrifying face of a rat that had drowned fighting for air. Its mouth was open, its teeth bared and its front legs frozen in what appeared to be a fighting attempt to reach the surface.
I literally only saw the disturbing image for a moment. I raced up the stairs at lightning speed and I woke my husband. I insisted that he go down to the basement. He actually snickered and thought it was funny. (Of course at this point, he believed it was nothing more than a little mouse that fell in the toilet.) I was angry, terrified and completely hysterical and his laughter was not welcome. He dragged himself out of bed and proceeded to the basement. I somehow managed to quickly get ready for work and was able to drive across the city without incident. My husband called me while I was on the way to work (before the cell phone law) to check on me. This was very out of character for him and I could tell that he was quite disturbed by what he saw as well.
While I struggled to make it through the day, my husband scoured our basement looking for signs of droppings, chewing, entry, etc. He found nothing, not a trace. While this news was comforting, it just didn’t add up. I decided to call the city and inquire if there had been a rat problem in our area that we were unaware of. The lady on the other end very casually told me not to worry. She said that we were relatively close to the river and that it is not uncommon for rats to hold their breath and swim up the pipes to the toilet. In fact, they usually get reports of such incidents every few years. I was horrified and completely traumatized.
Within a few days, I began to experience panic attacks and other extreme medical symptoms. After a couple of weeks, tests revealed that at 38 years old, I was in menopause, no not peri-menopause, the transitional phase… I was finished, done, no estrogen in my system ~ everything completely depleted. In looking back, I now know that this was only the beginning of what would end up being years of doctoring, extreme symptoms and a final diagnosis of Trauma Induced Menopause.
The story doesn’t end here, but for today it does. Without going into all the details and events that have taken place between then and now, I can confidently say, that I now feel completely healthy and fully recovered. I am not sure how a “normal” person would react to such an event, maybe most could shrug it off and laugh about it later, but for me it was the “penny” on the track that de-railed my life completely for the months and years that followed. In hind sight, I am thankful. It is often the most difficult things in life that force us to stop and face those things that are holding us back from being all that we can be. I know that this incident triggered a series of events that gave me no choice, but to seek the help I needed to get past the fears from the past that I had never truly dealt with. Through my faith and medical support, I was able to work through this and put it all behind me. I can now sleep peacefully in my own home without constantly fearing for the safety of my family. It is a peace I had not known for many years and for that I am extremely thankful.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NLT
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