Part 2: Clouds Lifting

The thing about hitting rock bottom is that you don’t actually know you are there until things finally start to get better. At the time, it was a very scary place to be. After spending two years living under the dark cloud of depression all my hope was gone. I knew nothing except sadness and misery and I felt so utterly alone.

Most of my friends, even those who were supportive at first, had given up on me. Those who hadn’t given up simply didn’t know how to help, so they just let me be.

People can only be patient and understanding for so long. By that point it must have seemed like I was wallowing, and in truth, I may have been. I don’t blame them for getting frustrated. I was so consumed by the depression that I had nothing to give.

I moved in with my dad because I had nowhere else to go. I spent almost all my time lying in bed. I was too exhausted to even try and hurt myself anymore.

Now that I have children of my own, I have a whole new perspective of that time. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for my father to watch me lie there day after day, in so much pain, without any idea of how to help me. But my dad is a man of action, and desperate to get me out of bed, he finally convinced me—bribed me actually, with the promise of a cell phone—to start exercising. He was convinced it would help.

I wanted nothing less than to go to the gym, but I did, if only for him. For a long time that 30 minutes on the treadmill was literally the only thing I could manage to do all day. I would come home and go straight back to bed. But after a few months, amazingly enough, I started to feel a little better.

The clouds were lifting.

I found a new therapist and told her that I had spent the past two years talking about every bad thing that had ever happened to me and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Instead, I now just wanted to figure out how to live a normal life again. After two years in psychiatric hospitals, of madness and self-destructive, dangerous behavior, I honestly had no idea what “normal” even meant.

Dr. Marek was amazing. I saw her three times a week and we talked about concrete, tangible ways to get my life back. I stopped dwelling on the past and began creating a future. It was a huge paradigm shift.

My dad, in a leap of faith for which I will be forever grateful and against the advice of everyone he knew, gave me a job and helped me get an apartment. I got a dog, which gave me a reason to get out of bed and go for long walks every morning. I began to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and even found a way to make peace with my family again.

But not with God.

Instead, I did my own thing. I worked hard and excelled at my job. I went back to school to finish the degree I had abandoned when I went off the deep end. I relished my single life, went out dancing almost every night, watched football, threw parties, and went camping on the weekends. I spent every single day doing exactly what I wanted when I wanted. And it was fun.

Even so, something was missing.

I decided going to law school was the best way to fill the void I still felt. I didn’t just want to get my law degree, but my business degree as well. I buried myself into studying for the LSAT and GMAT and spent countless hours filling out applications, visiting schools, and interviewing for acceptance. In February 2004, I was accepted to the Dual-Degree JD/MBA program at Washington University in Saint Louis, my top choice. I was thrilled.

Two weeks later, I met Chuck. We had actually been introduced a few months before earlier, through mutual friends, but on March 10th, 2004, four years and 1 day after my first suicide attempt, we began dating. I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but it was close. From the very beginning, we both just knew.

Within a month of dating, he made plans to quit his fancy job as an aerospace engineer and move with me to Saint Louis so I could attend school.

No one thought this was a good idea. My oldest brother angrily told me I was ruining my life. My friends and family, who had watched me struggle for so long, and who were so supportive of my new plan to go back to school, did not want to see me throw my life away again on some random guy. His friends told him he was crazy for throwing away a great career to chase a “leggy blonde” halfway across the country.

We couldn’t really blame them. Not only did we barely know each other, he was almost 20 years older than me. We were complete opposites in almost every way:  I smoked, he hated smoking. I was a flaming liberal; he was as conservative as they come. I liked things complicated; he was just a simple guy. He liked meat; I prefer vegetables. None of that mattered. We both just knew.

After packing up our things and depositing them in St. Louis, we decided to spend that summer before law school at his house in Florida, (the house he had bought to retire at after resigning himself to the idea that he would never marry.)  On August 13th, 2004 Hurricane Charley, a category 4 storm, swept through Southwest Florida. Punta Gorda, our little town, was the eye of the storm.

Chuck was brave; I was not. He ran around battening down the hatches while our front door blew in and the neighbor’s tile roof came crashing through the windows at 140 miles per hour. I spent the hours of the storm huddled in the closet with a mattress over my head, screaming “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die! I want to go to law school, I don’t want to die!”

It was in that moment, as frightened as I was, that I knew I had finally found the will to live.

{Read Part 3: Changing Paths}

Don’t miss the complete series here:


Struggling with depression or looking for some inspiration? Read my depression story where I reflect on childhood trauma, self-destruction, and healing.

 If you are suffering from depression or PTSD, please know that you are not alone. It is so hard to see the light when you are in the midst of the darkness, but it doesn’t mean the light isn’t there. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help available. Please talk to someone as soon as possible–a counselor, pastor, doctor, or friend, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people everywhere create a life they love by follwing their dreams and achieving their biggest goals. She is the host of the wildly popular Do It Scared podcast, as well as the founder of Living Well Spending Less® and Elite Blog Academy®. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love, which was the inspiration for this book. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck, and 2 daughters Maggie & Annie.
Ruth Soukup


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