Great Escape Podcast episode 29 - from "there is no hope" to living life to the full

great escape Sep 14, 2019

Still to this day I remember texting my sister, "There's no hope." And setting my phone down on the kitchen counter and just weeping.

Dawn's free resource for Great Escape listeners

- And on this episode of Great Escape Podcast, I'm talking to Dawn Apuan, and Dawn said that her husband and she worked for an organization that provided a fully furnished house with paid utilities, two cars, insurance, and of course, employment. Lots of security, but no freedom. Dawn, welcome to the podcast.

- Hi Stuart, I'm so excited to be here today.

- You're very welcome. So tell us what it was that made you decide that this lovely, secure employment environment had to change, that this was, you needed more freedom?

- Yes, throughout the time, as you mentioned, the job, we were in ministry, and it provided a lot of security for my husband and I. And we had been in a city and in a community for five years, and at that point we had an annual review with our leadership, who basically told us that we were failures and nothing that we had done in the previous five years had mattered. And even though I knew in my mind that that wasn't true, you know, I could list, you know we had stats of close to 80,000 people served every year in our community programs we'd started. You know, all kinds of things, and I started to list, I started to defend myself and list that, and that leader at the time just shrugged his shoulders and said, "It doesn't matter," and the result of that was about eight weeks later we were informed that we were moving. And moves are a regular part of the organization, so we always know that it's possible every year to move, but it was a lot more painful, knowing that we were being moved because of their judgment and perception of how we had done in that community, and we were very well loved by the people in our church, by those came for our services like a food bank and housing programs. So they were all extremely sad to see us go, and the crunching point for us was, we had about six or seven weeks to prepare for the move, we weren't moving far, because my husband has older kids with a previous marriage, so we had to stay within a geographic region in order to get them to school, because we had half custody. And then I had a one-year-old, my husband and I had a one-year-old together, so, a transition with kids is a big deal. There are six of us all together, and we moved geographically and then went to jobs where we weren't in charge, but another married couple who worked for the organization was overseeing us. And they were, what I would say is abusive in their treatment of us, and then I also had to put my one-year-old in childcare, which I wasn't ready to do, she wasn't ready to do. She had always come to work with me, or I'd work from home because we were in charge of our whole county, the operation that we had done where we were so-called failures. So, the big transition point for me was having to put my daughter in childcare when we weren't ready, and when that all happened, like she was crying for hours a night. And there was one night I was just standing outside her door, and tears were streaming down my face, and she was crying, and I was like I can't do this anymore, I can't do this to my daughter. You know, my husband and I were miserable at work, we were miserable at night 'cause my daughter was miserable 'cause we weren't with her. And that's when I made a decision one day that we just had to get out, and that's when the real challenge started, I think.

- Yeah, it often does. You've made that decision but you don't know what's gonna happen next.

- No, or how!

- Yeah. Now, having kind of come to that realization, 'cause it wasn't really a decision, it was a realization that this life is unsustainable, it's incompatible with us as a family, how did you come to understand that actually it was possible, 'cause that immediate thought, "This has got to change," you can't see what's gonna happen next.

- Yeah, it was really tough. I actually still to this day remember texting my sister, "There's no hope," and setting my phone down on the kitchen counter and just weeping, because it felt hopeless. As you mentioned, everything was provided for us, house, cars, furniture down to even pots and pans and cutlery, beds, sheets, towels, like everything. So as I mentioned there's six of us in the family, and because we were given all these non-cash benefits, which were great, the cash allowance that we were actually given each month could not even pay one month's rent in our community, so it took a long time to save up enough money even just to financially be able to get out, never mind finding a place to live. And my husband had been doing it for 25 years so he literally went from his parent's home to seminary, to ministry. So he had never rented, never bought a car, never had to find car insurance, you know, all these things that most people do, you know, right after college when they're in their 20s. we are, here we are in midlife, and trying to basically start over again. And that was a huge barrier for me. It felt impossible, and I spent hours every night Googling. I started with work from home, it's a pretty popular Google phrase. But since my daughter was my main reason for wanting to change outside of the fact that we weren't being treated very well, I was trying to find something that would provide an income without me needing to be in a nine to five. And that was a totally new area for me, but that's where I started, was what could I do that could be from home that could provide an income. And then that was my first step. And then I figured I could figure out a job for my husband, and I started applying for jobs for him. It took him a little longer to be on board.

- Okay.

- Not that he, it wasn't that he didn't want to leave, you know with that geographic change we were actually driving anywhere from 29-42 hours a week on top of a 40 hour job, plus kids, you know, all of that, so it was very unsustainable and horrific, and he wasn't happy but he was far more hopeless than I was in just feeling like, we have so little cash flow, how would we ever move and uproot an entire family and get jobs to get out of the situation.

- Yeah, yeah, and when you've got no cash buffer behind you, it just seems impossible.

- Yeah. I mean I was fortunate in that I had been saving. Not that I knew that that was coming, but you know I'm very good with money and we had a savings but it still did take time. It ended up being 17 months before we were able to make the great escape.

- Okay! And along the 17 months was there, again, a moment or did it happen over time, where the two of you actually believed, "We can do this, we can make this "change, we can build a whole new life." It is together, 'cause I'm guessing your stress like that

- Yeah!

- Causes all sorts of stress on a marriage and relationships.

- For sure. It definitely put stress on us because he felt like it was hopeless but he knew that I was giving all of my energy, after my daughter was in bed, to searching for something else. And you know, like I said, he wasn't against that, he just didn't see where it was possible, so I'm fortunate in that he was always supportive of me, and he was always very supportive of my desire to put our family first. And also at this time, something I forgot to mention, is that the whole childcare force process, I went into deep depression, I was having panic attacks about leaving my daughter in child care, so I was emotionally rather unstable. And my husband was calling a counselor, and he was checking in on me to make sure I was safe. It was a very, very dark time for me emotionally, and very scary for him. So that causes tension too.

- Yeah, yeah.

- And I was not healthy. I also had, at the same time, at the anniversary of my brother's death, and I was the same age that year, as him, and my daughter was the same age as his son when he died, so there was just a lot of emotional things going on for me, and him being concerned for my well-being. And I think eventually the fact that I came out of depression and that I saw hope and that he could see that I was working toward a better future, it kind of then got him on board. So there wasn't really like a moment where we decided, like yes we're gonna do this, until we actually, so I had filled out a bunch of job applications for him, and written cover letters, and he would never send it in. Because I couldn't email it from my email account, I, like, he needed--

- It needed to come from him, yeah.

- He wouldn't, and finally there was one job that he was excited about, and he was willing to turn it in even though, you know we did it together, we did the application together, and you know, for my husband, he's never known anything else. I mean imagine 25 years for the same organization when everything has just been provided for you. It was such a huge leap for him that I was the one by his side, you know, kind of pushing him off.

- Yeah you better jump off this cliff!

- Yeah! And so he went and he interviewed for this job, because I really encouraged him, it was a dream job for him, and in the interview, they said, well, what does your wife do? Would she be willing to work for us too? Totally amazing, unexpected, God-thing, right, 'cause we knew that I needed a job but I hadn't found anything yet. And so then after he interviewed, I interviewed. We went in together and they basically offered us the job and I think that was his moment of... We walked out of the building and he looked at me and he was like, "Did we just say yes?"

- Okay!

- And I guess that is, if there is a moment, that for us was like, here we go, because we then had 17 days to pack up our entire house, to move, to find a place to live. It was just over two weeks from the day we interviewed and accepted to the day we started.

- Okay, was that much of a geographical move or had you managed to stay in the same geographical area?

- We went back to where we had originally been, yeah, so that we were walking distance to the kids' schools, so that they, we didn't need to drive them any more. That was what was accounting for the majority of all of that driving was the kids' school. So it's, we always do it by times, since we have so much traffic, it's about a half an hour.

- Okay.

- Which is 20, 25 miles.

- No, it depends very much on traffic, here in the UK, as with, in any country. In a sense you didn't believe it was gonna happen until it was happening.

- Yeah. I was believing but it was so hard to know for sure. Like, I think in my mind I knew it was eventually gonna happen. I was frustrated that it didn't happen sooner.

- Yeah.

- You know, I kept thinking, this is awful. Like our situation was so unlivable and the fact that we were being treated so poorly, I was like, why would God not deliver us sooner? And so I knew it would happen, I didn't know when, and I was wishing and praying and hoping and pleading desperately with God for it to happen sooner, but I think hindsight is 20/20, right, you look back and you say, "Oh it was perfect." I learned what I needed to learn in those 17 months, to be the person who I was now becoming. And I needed that time, and that growth in order to make the jump, and so I look back and I say it was perfect, but it was the hardest year and a half of our lives, I would say.

- Yeah, I think that's often the case, there are experiences we've gone through that we would really rather have not had to go through. But actually they've helped us to be the people that we've become, that we wouldn't have been otherwise. And I'm so grateful that you spoke about your struggle with depression and anxiety, because often in today's society we have the sense that we can't admit to those things, and it's really, frees other people when they know that you and I and other people have struggled with these things.

- Yeah, you're right, it's definitely something that's more taboo, especially in the church, which we were in ministry, we were pastors, so, you have that taboo subject plus you have that guilt of, well, we're supposed to be filled with the joy of our salvation! We're supposed to consider it joy when we encounter trials, and so then you're just like, shitting on yourself, and this whole guilt thing, and yeah, it was a huge, huge struggle. And my brother, who I mentioned, it was the anniversary of his death that summer, he was clinically depressed and died by suicide, so we also had that to contend with, knowing how depressed and desperate I was. And I did not consider suicide at all but that's why my husband was so scared.

- Yeah.

- Because we knew, we know the effects of that and you're right, it's not something that we talk much about.

- No. I've taken five funerals in the last six months for men who've taken their own lives. So anyway it's a subject that is pretty high on my list of things that I wish people talked about. But you're right, certainly, in society as a whole and very much within the church, depression is kind of skipped over. Now also, one of the questions that I wanted to ask you is, often people have, you decided you needed to find another job, for you and your husband. He's come late to the game, he's kind of spent some time, and that's obviously a cause of stress between you 'cause you're thinking this has to change and he's thinking I don't know what to do, or don't want to do this change. Have you actually chosen a job in an entirely new environment or have you just changed from one organization to another but with a similar role?

- No, it's quite different, actually. The only similarity, I would say, is that it's another non-profit.

- Okay.

- That we work for. It's a conservative think tank, so it is in an area that my husband loves, he was working on his master's in apologetics prior to leaving ministry. So there was a connection for him in that respect. But we're doing development data entry, so, you know, working with donors, which we did in the church because, you know, we did have donors. As a non-profit social services agency, we were doing you know, letters for appeal, what we called direct mail or donor appeals. Writing thank yous to donors, having a board, so a few things came over but we were, you know we're low man on the totem pole. After being, you know we were executive directors, that would've been our title. Even though we were pastors, we were also the executive directors of the non-profit for our entire county, so to go to bottom of the rung data entry is a big change. You know, from the corner office to the interoffice cubicle that has no walls, is a big switch. But I think one that, it just was necessary, and it was a good bridge and there's room for growth within the organization. And the biggest key for us is that we predominantly work from home, and that was a big part of our negotiation. And we said we have, you know at the time, she was two, and we said had a two-year-old and this time is limited, and if we're gonna work here then one of us is home, working from home, and the other one can be in the office. And we take turns, and so we're home with our daughter. So in that respect it's different, 'cause now, you know we keep to the same schedule so that people in the office know who's going to be in when, but we have the freedom to raise our daughter and that was, that's my highest value so, when that got threatened, you know Mama Bear is fierce! And that is, you know I'm grateful, to myself for, you know, my stubborn resolve, and my undying fight to protect those years with my daughter. That's something that I absolutely will never regret, fighting for that time, so. In that respect it's different, we get to work from home and go to the office, and it's a great balance I think, and a great bridge for where we came from to ease into what I would call a quote unquote normal life.

- But you don't have a normal life, in the sense that, normal life would simply have been to have swapped it for a cubicle job somewhere else, but you've held out. You've said no, working from home is the thing we want to do because raising our child, being present with our child, is a fundamental part of who we want to be as parents.

- Absolutely, and, you know that was something we talked about when he was, you know, questioning what I was doing and scared to death that I was looking for something else. I said you know I don't wanna just trade misery for misery. I don't wanna just trade her being in... She had a nanny, so it wasn't, I couldn't even do a normal daycare, I just couldn't handle it. But you know, trading for another nine to five, it just didn't make sense. But that's part of what took us, took me, 17 months, was waiting for the right opportunity, the right timing, all of that to fall into place. And you know, amazingly we got offered the jobs on a Tuesday night, applied for the one house in the one zip code that was available that allowed dogs, and then that Thursday, we got the house, we walked in to our boss and resigned, and then two weeks later we were in the new jobs, so it all happened super fast once--

- Once it got--

- The ball got rolling.

- Yeah. And I that's something that I see with a lot of people is, once the change starts to happen, it really kicks in. But sometimes it can take us, or in your case, or in your husband's case, 17 months to get their head into the right place to allow it to happen.

- For sure, yeah. I think that's maybe the biggest part.

- These prisons we build for ourselves are the toughest ones because we built them for ourselves. We know know how to make ourselves feel trapped.

- Yep. One of my coaches says your comfort zone is a self-imposed prison.

- Yeah.

- And that was absolutely where we were at.

- Absolutely, absolutely. So now life may not have titles, job titles and status, but you have the home life that you were wanting, or more in control of home life, there's always room for improvement in different ways. And do you see you and your husband changing jobs again or do you think this is gonna be it for awhile, whilst you consolidate that family unit, and see your daughter grow up a bit more?

- Yeah, I think we came into this job really looking for it to be long term. My husband is very loyal, and this is an organization that we considered very carefully. The other component of what I was doing, I mentioned I was Googling work from home, and so I had started a business, and it did not take off as soon as I thought it would!

- Never does!

- No. You know you, you listen to all the marketers and buy the programs, and you think oh, this is gonna be so fast and so easy and it'll just take off and we'll be free and we won't even have to get jobs because I'm gonna have this amazing business! And it doesn't work like that! So, I learned a ton. I kid you not, I switched from a flip phone just a couple of years ago. Because of being the executive director I had all these meetings and finally upgraded to a smart phone, but I am not techie, like whatsoever, and here I was, you know, once I found what I saw as my solution, I actually ordered a digital marketing course and I learned how to set up a website, and build funnels, and do all this tech stuff, where, my husband's the tech savvy one! And to this day, he has to turn on the TV 'cause I don't understand how to turn on the TV and I don't watch it. But I then learned all these skills and he's, now he's like, well I don't even know what you're talking about. But, so this non tech savvy girl was learning how to build an online business in my evenings. Once I made the shift and decided okay, this is what I'm going to do, that's what I was looking to do rather than have a nine to five. So really the ability to work from home, since my business was not making a sustainable income, I was making money, which is unusual, there's a small percentage, right, that make money within the first year of doing an online business. And I did, I actually hit five figures in the first year, but it was so up and down, and, you know like Facebook ad accounts getting shut down, and, you know, just different things that I was not willing to bet my family's livelihood on something that wasn't, that I didn't know for sure I could make enough to supplement his income. So that's why we both got jobs and found the positions that we did in order to work from home. Eventually I would absolutely love for my business to grow to the point where I could be part time or not at all, you know it just will depend on that growth. And, but that is my dream and my vision, is to grow it to that point.

- So that business is carrying on as a side gig?

- Yes.

- Yeah.

- Yep and I love it. I always say entrepreneurship actually saved my life. That I accidentally became an entrepreneur 'cause I I didn't go into, I was just Googling work from home, I wasn't like oh, I should start a business and become an entrepreneur! It didn't cross my mind until about eight months later when I was at a conference and they were referring to us as entrepreneurs, and I was like, oh, I guess I am! If I start a business and I make money from home, that sounds kind of like an entrepreneur!

- Yeah, anybody who starts an enterprise! I think that's, you said you hit five figures in your first year and it was profitable, yeah, that's very very rare. It's something which people don't, you know they imagine we're gonna just start this business, put out a few Facebook ads or a few Google ads, and suddenly we'll, we'll have all this money rolling in. And you forget that these gurus who are out there selling these courses have got tens of thousands, if not millions, of people on their email lists, and they can push out an email and even if only point one of a percent of their followers buy it, they've made a ton of money. When you've got no list--

- Good money!

- Yeah, it's pretty tough to start. And so do you have a timescale where you think the side gig may begin to take over and be the main job, or are you just letting it roll and see what happens?

- Some of both. I'd love to see it within a year, year and a half. But I don't want to, I think I'm like hesitating putting a timeline on it because I was so stressed about getting out of the last job, and it kept being disappointing that, I think I was giving myself this message of oh, you're not good enough, you haven't made it online yet. You are not, you know I was in affiliate marketing, that's where I started and I'm not in it anymore, but it's definitely a man's world in affiliate marketing. And to have made as much as I did, as a woman, was, you know, pretty rare for that particular group. So, but I had all this, I don't know if it was self doubt or just shitting on myself of like why am I not better, like what is it that they can be making five figures a month and I'm not? You know, and looking at, you know just comparing myself all the time and being like, well I'm a better writer, or you know I do better ads or whatever the case may be, just not understanding and putting so much pressure on myself, 'cause I felt like our escape was up to me. Not that my husband wasn't supportive but he just was paralyzed by the mountainous challenge that it presented, and he didn't think it was possible, so really it was up to me and I had so much pressure to make this business work, and I was trying to do it so fast. And I was like oh, if I just consume course after course after course after course, I'll make money faster! And then, you know, I was spending hours a day, not sleeping much, trying to make it work, and so I'm not wanting to do that. I don't wanna get comfortable and you know, just let my business go 'cause I love it too much and it's really what lights me up, and I truly believe that that's my God-given mission and purpose in this world, is to bring that message, and to continue that business. So, and it's, my business is around transformation coaching, and helping people overcome difficult circumstances like tragic loss, suicide, because that is part of my story. How it happened for me was when I took that digital marketing course, once again, they emailed his giant email list, and he was like hey, we have this personal development event. And at the time, I didn't even know what that word meant. I was like, personal development? You know, in the church we would say like Christian growth or something like that, right? I didn't know who Tony Robbins was, I didn't know any of the gurus, didn't even know what personal development was but everybody was like, oh, you have to go to this conference! It's amazing, it will change your life! And I was like, I need some some life change. I'm in! So I did not know what I was in for. And it was amazing, and it did, it changed my life. Doing personal development taught, you know, by secular I guess you would say, it was not Christian based, but the personal development, the books that I read, the conferences I attended, that is where, that's how I got out of depression, honestly, is I started seeing the power of my mindset. The power of, like the ability to have a choice over how I felt and what my thoughts were, totally changed how I showed up. And then one of the biggest shifts was that victim mentality, knowing, because of the situation we were in, and then being taught you know, everything is for us, not to us, just sort of put the light bulb on in my mind. And I was like okay, so they didn't do this to me, to my family, or to my daughter; they did this for us and how can I now make this all be for our good and for my family's good and then I saw just tremendous, tremendous growth. Through, I took more courses on personal development, I went to more conferences, up to the point where one day my husband looked at me and he said, "You know, I never thought I would get you back after your brother died." And it was just amazing to see that that change came because I started working on myself in a way that had never been presented to me in 30 years of being in the church. So that's the message and the purpose I feel like I have now, to the world, is you have a choice. You have a choice to show up and live fully each day, and to choose joy. And then you have a choice to choose stress and busyness and overwhelm and all those things that I was living in before.

- And you've been very careful with your choice of words there, because certainly, something I've observed within the church, it's very easy to view Christian teaching or any other faith teaching as not just truth as, but the whole truth. That there isn't wisdom to be learned outside that faith. And what you've just described is kind of this realization that there were, there was more to be learned to help yourself develop than that which, and often it's just a particular flavor of a faith, teaches.

- Mm hm. And it's how it's presented, I think. You know, in the personal development conferences, it wasn't anything revolutionary, they were talking about love, and love for yourself. And they were talking about gratitude and forgiveness, all things that you hear about in a typical sermon. So it wasn't like these earth-shattering new concepts. Same concepts, but a different way of presenting it, a different way of talking about it, that we just never had. And, you know for me, being someone of faith, and you know at the time I was still a pastor so, as I would listen and read, I would be thinking, okay where, where do I find this in scripture, where have I seen this in my faith. So I was connecting the dots because of my worldview but, yeah, I mean the concepts are very basic. It's just how we apply them to our lives, and if you get it, you know sometimes they say that the longest journey is the journey from the mind to the heart. And you know it up here, but I think the problem with so many people of faith is that we don't live that truth. And statistics show that, you know, that the transformation, there's a breakdown somewhere, in what we know about scripture and know to be moral truth and moral living, and how we actually live out that faith. And I wanted there to be the transformation in my life but, I read in scripture, not just feeling hopeless and stressed and overwhelmed, I was like this isn't fun! This can't be all life is meant to be! Especially in ministry when, you know, then again you have that extra guilt.

- Yeah, you were supposed to be called to this, and yet it's not working. How does that make any sense at all?

- Yeah, for sure.

- Yeah. That's been a really fascinating story, and I kind of feel like there's probably another episode that we could unpack on your journey through the self-improvement industry, 'cause you've probably got a huge amount of wisdom to say, you know, avoid these courses, go for these, yeah, but let's not go there right now. Thank you so much for your time and for your thoughts, and your honesty; that's been really refreshing. I really hope that your story has managed to touch some of our listeners and help them make their journey towards their great escape!

- Yes, I hope so! That's why I talk about it.

- There you go!

- I like to inspire other people and know that you could do anything. It's all up to you.

- Thank you so much for listening to this episode of The Great Escape Podcast. You can find other episodes at all the usual places on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Or at the website: And if you'd like to contact me, to talk about any element of this episode or others I've covered, please go to and you can find all the ways of getting hold of me there. And if you're stuck in a situation and you can't find the way out, please go there, send me a message, and let's see how we can work together to get you unstuck and moving forward with your life again. Please do share this podcast with your friends and family or other people you think might appreciate it. And comment on episodes or send me message, I'd love to keep the conversation going. ♪ Can we do that again ♪

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