Renewal - The Phoenix has risen from the ashes

Jilliana Ranicar-Breese
Writer, Broadcaster, Interviewer and Storyteller

Written especially for Action for Happiness talk 2/8/17 adapted from the original 'Finding renewed Zest for life' written in 2013 and revised in 2014.

I didn't have a care in the world in 2005. I lived contentedly with my loving husband of 23 years, the conjurer and multi media publisher, Martin Breese, in a large Georgian house located in one of the most prestigious crescents in Brighton. I had it all, so I thought, without any notion of betrayal.

Suddenly my magical world was shattered. One evening he calmly announced that he would be leaving, was no longer in love with me, that he had broken our fidelity bond and been unfaithful with Maritza, the live in Cuban housekeeper, who I treated as a daughter, that he was besotted with the Argentinian neighbour Diana and had loaned her £25,000 of our joint money without a contract. He believed that he stood a chance of happiness with her not knowing she had lied and manipulated him and was, when he checked up on her, a professional confidence trickster.

I ran away to Chania in Crete, Prague to meet Helga and finally Cuba while he took 6 months to move his home office to another flat we jointly owned depriving me of the income. Over that period I began to have a complete mental breakdown as he stole everything of material value until I almost only had the clothes on my back. I went from size 16 down to 10 because I stopped eating and had difficulty taking care of myself and my personal hygiene. The housekeeping was non existent and my new cleaner became an unofficial carer. I was down to 1 shopping bag of possessions and feared I would become a bag lady. I fell into depression and suffered from paralysing panic attacks, agoraphobia and stammered for at least a year. I threw out almost all the precious photos of my past life and my stylish clothes from Paris. I became a recluse, with Doj, my devoted neighbour, coming in to pick me up off the floor and make cups of tea.  

I came back from a month in Havana where I had fallen in love with my companion Victor. Still in the same house before moving from number 10  to the maisonette at number 19 Hanover Crescent which we jointly owned, Martin had become a maniac Jekyll and Hyde character, having harvested a crop of marijuana at number 10 which he smoked, heavily drinking red wine added to sexual favours from Chinese prostitutes at the age 69.  He harassed and mentally abused me over money matters.  Our marital roles had reversed. I was no longer top dog but collapsing, barking and howling like a dog in pain, terrified of his shouting in my face, abusive poison pen emails and evil letters pushed through my letterbox. He said he had lost everything in his first marriage of 18 years and wanted to make sure he lost nothing in his second of 23 years! I went to the police but emotionally was in no state to sign the forms.  In the end there was a Court Order against him coming into contact with me. Divorce was costly on both sides and inevitable.

I ended up voluntarily in Mill View mental hospital for a week where they drugged me and later falsely admitted me to the very expensive ‘Priory’ a private mental hospital with so called celebrity status, by manipulative Martin with the colluding psychiatrist Doctor Bowskill for two weeks without cognitive therapy that I was tricked by Martin into paying.  I was forced to take heavy drugs and was surrounded by depressing NHS alcoholics and drug addicts. I discharged myself into the terrifying unknown, a complete wreck. Martin had notified almost everyone I knew by email that I was in The Priory! My oldest best friend Helga flew in from Jerusalem to take care of me for a week in my large empty dirty house. Yonna and Doj brought me soup at Mill View as the food was so bad. I would watch the clock and divide the hour into quarters watching my life tick away. Judith would bring food from Eastbourne by car. I had nowhere to go and would sit on park benches in reverie and panic. In the end 2 years on, the psychiatrists at Brighton General, who had a huge file on me, concluded I had had 'An adjustment disorder!' So I was not mental after all!

I lost almost 4 years of my life. I kept my oldest close friends, Helga and Anna Mae, a top psychotherapist in London, and let go of all my outer circle of friends and acquaintances. However, a new woman entered my life who saw a depressed submerged Being through my tears.  Her name was Pauline Weir and she became my 'new' best friend and ‘soul sister’ who supported me through my darkest hours, feeding and spiritually nourishing me.

Victor continued to email and encourage me not to give up hope. He had his demons too. Once again a role reversal scenario as I had helped him through being an alcoholic to completely rebuilding his life in Havana. I am his woman and despite the oceans of distance and time, he is my man!

My writing became more profound. I wrote about my past life, my cultural Jewish background rather than concentrating on my negative thoughts and feelings. Of my own accord, under medical supervision, I weaned myself off the strong depression pills that made me put on 3 stones. I had woken up and seen myself in the mirror, a stout 60 broken gaunt woman. I didn't like my reflection!

The renewal happened when I moved from the grey depressing flat I had been forced to live in for 3 years after the house was sold. The move liberated me beyond belief. I was like Dickens Miss Haversham pulling back the curtains and letting in the sunlight. Suddenly I had a home again and wanted to invite friends around. They marvelled at how I had survived my ordeal and how well I looked with make up and a new hair style because when I was depressed my straight hair had gone wavy!

Another epiphany happened in Spain when I regained my old passion for travel and languages.  Now I live for costume jewellery, hats and turbans. Colour has flooded back into my life and replaced the morbid black and shades of grey. 

Today 10 years on, I am thankful to my close loving friends for their respect, support and encouragement. 2 years ago I was discovered and encouraged by the wonderful Susi Oddball, owner of Brighton and Hove Community Radio (BHCR) who loved my vignettes and my voice. Thanks to Susi, I have a new passion.  I am the co-presenter of her Friday morning show 'Your voice matters' and have discovered I have a talent for interviewing people, bringing out the best in them. It is essential to have a passion in your life!

I have moved on internationally and consider I am only based in Brighton. However, I have come to enjoy our vibrant city and have opened a new chapter. I have moved with the technological exciting times thanks to Apple and my new best friend - my iPhone!

Never stop learning or let an opportunity pass I say. Ask for what you want and do not be manipulated. Listen to your friends and show an interest in them. Get rid of all the negativity in your life and people who suck your energy.  Be positive. Be free. Carpe Diem!

I recall the words of Anna Mae Silver who told me 'When you get through this, you will be a better, happier and more interesting person.’ 

She was right! The Phoenix has risen from the ashes and soared towards the light above.

If I was not myself, I would be someone else
In my twilight years, I am happy being who I am
In fact, there are others who would like to be like Me!

I am completely myself now
No husband to criticise my behaviour!

I am a creative individual
I am like Marmite
Love me or don't
I don't care and never have
I am a magnet for individuals who 'recognise' me
It takes one to know one

I have new talents that I am discovering and exploring
I have no Mentor
I have become the Mentor

If I want something, I get it
'If you don't ask, you don't get!'
Has always been my motto

I am a survivor
I am self confident
I am positive
I let go of all the negativity in my life
I experienced 4 'lost years' in breakdown
And I am making up for lost time

Writing kept me going
Writing is healing
Words are empowering

I found my voice on the radio
And I have a voice!
I am heard

I have stories and tell them on the radio
I am a storyteller and always have been
Now people listen

I am an interviewer and always have been
Now people listen and talk

I do not want to be someone else
I celebrate who I am
I am unique
I am Me

Revised and updated on 1.10.18 in Vienna.