Rapunzel, Rapunzel — Barrier Series # 5

Rapunzel, Rapunzel © 2012 Bo Mackison

“Above all be the heroine in your life, not the victim.” ~ Nora Ephron

This post is the fifth in the series of my story, an intimate exploration of art and healing. See the introduction and complete series at My Healing Journey

I was in my mid-thirties, a wife and mother of three children under the age of nine, when I had what I refer to as a spirit breakdown. Most people, including medical professionals, call this a mental breakdown. But truly, it was not my mind that could no longer carry my burden. There was a disconnect from my spirit, from my center, from my wholeness.

For years I had successfully woven together a life that looked much like any other woman’s in my neighborhood. I was married. I worked part-time in the physical therapy department at a local nursing home. I led Girl Scout troops, worked in the concession stands at Little league games, organized a co-op playgroup for my two-year old and her friends. I was active in church and school functions.

And then one day in an early October, I received a jury duty summons in the mail. Two weeks later, I was in a courtroom, one of thirteen jurors chosen to hear an assault case. The case was a first degree sexual assault case; the victim was a woman my age, married with three children, active in her church and neighborhood.

The woman testified repeatedly how she was unable to recall many details of her assault, how instead she’d had an out-of-body experience. She had floated above her body as the two assailants raped her and had observed the attack in a haze. In her dissociative state, she felt no pain, no fear. Even when she returned to her body, after the assailants had run away, she questioned what had actually happened. It was several hours before she went to a hospital, was counseled by a law enforcement/rape crisis team, and the necessary examinations were completed and documented.

This testimony caused quite a stir during jury deliberations. People were skeptical, doubtful. Many of the jurors, including most of the men, did not believe her. They accused her of telling lies to cover her own part in what they thought was a possible illicit affair. However the women on the jury found her testimony very believable. One woman juror, a recently retired nurse, stated dissociation was a well documented medical phenomenon.

I took part in the jury deliberations, but some of the time, as I listened, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and anger. I felt threatened. I requested a break as I was feeling ill, but convinced myself  I’d contacted a flu bug in the close quarters of the courtroom.

After several days of deliberations, the jury found the men guilty.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” ~ Naomi Wolf

During the following six weeks, I could not stop replaying the woman’s story. Visions of her rape and dissociative testimony haunted me. I began to feel less connected to my life. Time became distorted. I struggled with my regular activities and my children’s schedules. I began having flashbacks from my childhood.

I felt the need to get away from my family. I felt unworthy to be a part of their lives.

I wanted to hide. I imagined myself in a place far away where no one would know me or expect anything of me. I dreamed of hiding in a tall tower, alone with my shame. I wished for a life like the fairy tale character, Rapunzel. I could live alone. I’d have no contact with anyone and no one would have contact with me.

During this time, I had glimpses of my truths; I refused to believe them. I wanted my life to return to normal, yet I vaguely understood I could never be the woman I’d been only a few months before.

Unsure and frightened, I was in limbo.

      – compiled from journal entries and letters, 1990-91

Next: Unlock the Art

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Your story is gripping. Your photos illuminate the words. I hope that sometime this series of photos and writings is on the walls of a museum or gallery for many, many people to see and read and learn from.

  2. Bo, you are doing beautiful, soulful work with your images and your words that share the story of your journey. I’m already riveted – and feel in many ways you are telling a story for us all. Thank you.

  3. …and with all that is happening in the world right now…this is very important work…powerful for us to hear. The spirit of humanity…

    wow…let me know when the exhibit opens…

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I agree Susan. It is a story whose time has come to share.

      I’ve wondered about an exhibit of some kind — it could be so powerful.

  4. A true testimony to the strength of your human spirit. So very painful…evocative..honest. Like the others – I look forward to the exhibit someday!

  5. You are beautiful and brave, Bo.

  6. As you have an eye through a camera lens, you also have a gift for the written word, quite powerful.

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