Today’s blog post was written by Maija Gust from The Depressed Diarist. On her website, you can read all about her life “as a wife, mother, and typical midwestern gal with depression and anxiety.” In this post, she discusses her journey to better understanding her mental health.
I have lived a very privileged life. I grew up in a middle-class family in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I went to private school all the way up until I went to college. There were only a few very rare moments in my life when I couldn’t afford the very basic necessities for life, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by a great support system of friends and family. I found a wonderful man to marry and we are blessed with two healthy and happy children. We have built a great life together over the years.
I have struggled most of my life to feel “happy” despite this incredible life I have been given. A part of me always felt empty, as if there was always a piece of the puzzle missing. As I continued to struggle to figure myself out, I let myself fall into an impetuous, irresponsible lifestyle. I convinced myself that by living this carefree (mostly careless) lifestyle I could truly be happy. I drank too much, I skipped class, I had regrettable one-night-stands. I lost myself into a whirlwind of parties, boys, and bad decisions.
This reckless behavior ended up leading me to the lowest part of my life. I had a falling out with my family, I dropped out of school, I lost my really great job on campus, and I could barely afford to live. After a few rough weeks, I knew things had to change and I needed to get my life back on track. I got a new job, I found a new place to live off campus, and I began to surround myself with good people who supported a healthier lifestyle. Things slowly turned around for me.
Eventually Ben and I started dating after being friends for about a year. Life was starting to feel good again. After a few months of dating, we moved in together and our relationship got serious. We had a very hot and cold relationship in the early days. We’d get in huge fights but eventually within less than 24 hours get over it and move on. We both hated fighting but I seemed to have these huge, uncontrollable reactions to things. For years I convinced myself these were just normal relationship bumps in the road occasionally worsened by my overdramatic personality.
After a few years of being together, Ben and I bought a house, got married, and had a baby. I was once again living this really amazing, privileged life with a wonderful man by my side. But I continued to feel as if something were missing. Occasionally I’d wrongly blame things on Ben, I’d sometimes blame it on my job, sometimes I’d wonder if it was the stress of becoming a parent so young; I was 23 when I got pregnant with Sophia. I felt like I was constantly searching for the cause of my unhappiness. It felt so odd to have such a wonderful life but still feel unhappy. When I started to run out of things to blame it on I decided I needed professional help. I set up a therapy appointment to try and make sense of everything.
Boy, was that a life-changing decision! In my very first session, I discovered that adopted children have a high rate of mental illness and depression. My therapist urged me to go online and do a little reading on my own. That evening I sat gaping at what was being described in some of the research papers I found. It felt so good to finally have the understanding I’d been searching for so many years. My next few sessions were equally as eye-opening and I am eternally grateful for taking that first step and going to a professional. It has been worth it a hundred times over. Despite my continued struggle with mental illness, I am no longer blindly searching for happiness. I have more control over my emotions and a better grasp on myself more than I have ever had in my life.
It’s been a long, hard journey into self-discovery but every step was worth it. I look back with gratitude at all the lessons I have learned over the years, and I try to take on every hardship as an opportunity to grow stronger. Some days are harder than others. I have plenty of moments of weakness, but I now have a toolbox full of tools to use when things go wrong. For those of you reading this: keep moving forward. Continue to learn and grow, and FIGHT. Never stop fighting. You can have a full toolbox as well if you continue to move forward. And if things ever get too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for what you need from friends and family.