Shelby Schulten
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My Own Unhappiness

And the Real Secret to a Happy Life


Growing up, my father used to tell me that the only person making me unhappy was myself. It was infuriating. Some situation or another had me wallowing in self pity, and here comes dear ole dad telling me to get over myself. Getting over yourself is not an easy feat for a sullen teenager. So I shrugged off his advice and continued on my self destructive path, blaming everyone but myself for my discontent. 

Fast forward about ten years and a lot of grief later, and I still hadn't been able to be truly happy with my life. Most times I even hated myself. No matter what I did, I just could not find the type of fulfillment I expected out of life. I destroyed my relationships because they couldn't fill the gaping hole in my life. I withdrew into myself and spent my time hauled up in my apartment when I wasn't working. Then I spent my hours at work grumbling about how much I disdained my job. It was an endlessly unhealthy circle of condemnation that I inflicted on myself because I thought that was as good as it could get for me. I thought I was just doomed to live the same unending cycle, finding only brief windows of fleeting happiness.

I had spent a few years dating an extremely kind and thoughtful man who loved me through all my crippling behavior. As I did with all meaningful relationships in my life at the time, I tore it apart. I was unhappy, therefore it had to be his failure. It was his job to make me happy, wasn't it? He did everything he could possibly do to make me happy, but it wasn't enough. I just thought that meant he wasn't the one. Again, this black cloud in my life couldn't have been my own fault. 

That is when it happened; That eureka moment that FINALLY opened my eyes. I was 23 years old, I had been in the Navy for four years, and had successfully destroyed my relationship with the earlier mentioned man. I was at a point where I had never really hated myself more. Well, in the middle of self destruction, I got a message. That sweet, wonderful man had been shot in the chest stopping an armed robbery. In a fury of tears, streams of obscenities at the rush hour traffic, and a lot of disorganized prayers and promises to God, I made it to the hospital to find him with a tube sticking out of his side, IVs in his arms, and lots of newly healing wounds. But it would seem that God had heard me, because he was alive.

This isn't some sappy romance where our lives were suddenly perfect because this calamity brought us back together. I was a bundle of nerves and emotions. Eventually it all boiled over and I ended up nearly breaking my hand beating it black and blue on a wooden door. The Navy forced me to go to therapy because my wounds were self-inflicted. I was so proud that I didn't think it was something I needed.

I was prescribed an antidepressant and weekly sessions with a therapist. I fought so hard to claw my way out of the dark pit that I had dug for myself that my emotional nails were raw and bloodied. Eventually, I was able to accept the love of that wonderful man and he was able to forgive me my faults. We went to therapy together and learned how to communicate our needs. Most of all, I started to find happiness in myself. I stopped hating everything I was and started to love the possibility of who I could be.

It was hard work. I had to force myself to keep looking for the good in my life, even when I was overwhelmed by the troubles of everyday life. One year later, I still struggle from time to time with the same dark thoughts I have always faced. Each day is a new challenge, but I face it with a different mindset and I have managed to keep my head above the black whirlpool of self-destruction that had always consumed me before.

Not only was I finally able to really accept the love of someone else, but only six months after he was shot, I married that beautiful man. Each day he helps to remind me of who I am, and what I am capable of. But it wasn't until I was content with myself that I was able fill the hole in my life. No love from even the best man, no friendship, not even the best family could touch the sadness that used to nest in my soul.

I was the only one making myself unhappy. Who would have thought that my dad knew the secret to life all along?   

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My Own Unhappiness
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