Mental Health Awareness Month: Ronja’s Story—Breaking Through the Brokenness

“Depression is an incredibly hard journey to walk through. It breaks us in ways we cannot quite understand, as it steals our worth and twists our perspective all wrong. It leaves marks on us that are hard to remove.”

I get asked this a lot: How do you continue when there is only pain? When the depression and anxiety take over, and the whole world is colored gray—the shades of pain—painting the walls of one’s heart. When it feels like it would be easier to give up, to end here now. When there is no hope in sight.

Whenever I meet a person in this place, my heart breaks for them because I know exactly how they feel.

It has taken me a long time to be comfortable with telling this story. Mainly because no matter how I spin the words, this story is to me a broken one. It still causes my heart to bleed from time to time. But also this story is not just a story of depression and years of struggle, but it holds another story—a story of a dysfunctional family. Though I love the ministry of present, the one that shows us we are all learning and growing and failing here—it is still difficult to talk about one like this, that reveals the parts where we are hurting big.

Ours is a dysfunctional family, you see. I come from a family of unbelievers, and the more years pass by, the more I see how desperately my family needs Jesus. Just like I needed Jesus—and still need very much every day. The darkness that I lived in, the family situation that I was in, eventually led into depression and a suicide attempt. And that is the part of the story that I often do not want to share.

But the thing is, the thing that I want to share here today, is that today, I am glad I went through what I did. I have come to find this: that life is a thousand times better now than I ever would have hoped for it to be. Yes, there have been so many seasons of brokenness and hurt, use and abuse—all these that I would not want any person to have to experience. But the thing is, we grow through these hard seasons. We find hope because it can always be seen: God is here. Because eventually I found Jesus. I found a church family that has loved me through the good and the bad. I have friends who love me more than I could have ever dared to ask. And I would not want it any other way.

So here, is my story of depression and suicide—and hope.

I have the kindest and most patient father in the world, and it is no secret that I am a Daddy’s girl through and through. My relationship with my mother, however, has been a rocky one at best, broken and fairly messy for most of my life. By God’s grace, we have taken giant leaps in the last few years, but this story, this relationship—still leaves raw wounds on my heart even now.

The year I turned five, my little sister was born and we soon learned that she was allergic to many, many things. (On a side note, today she is allergic only to a few foods, praise God.) My parents struggled to get her to eat enough. That same year, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. My parents are doctors and they had thought their children could not get sick—and so they were devastated. Then, postpartum depression took over my mother. When she was at home, she would only sleep and the little of her attention went to the baby.

It was easy to feel forgotten. It did not take long for me to start believing that I was a burden. That I was an unwanted addition to every other battle that was going on in my parents’ lives. That I was altogether unwanted. That I was not loved. I learned to earn good grades and be perfect—to earn the slightest bit of attention from my mother. Still, she was rarely present. She was demanding, and I could not meet the standards. I felt like I was not good enough to earn her love, no matter how hard I tried.

At the age of 12, I started sinking into depression, the world turning into deeper shades of gray as the days went by. My wrists started to show the pain that I held inside—it was easier to deal with physical pain than the piercing echo in the walls of my heart, telling me I was not worth loving. My parents never commented on any of this, though they noticed the bleeding cuts on my wrist. I felt like they did not care.

The year I turned 13, I tried to commit suicide. I survived, but woke up to an even more painful reality: one where my parents still did not say anything, never commented on anything. The depression took a stronger hold of me, as I was now convinced I was not loved. That I was not worthy of being loved. A couple of months later, with the last bit of strength I had, I begged my father to get me help because otherwise I would not live to see many more weeks. I saw a psychologist, and it did not take long before I was admitted to a psychiatric ward, declared too dangerous to myself.

I stayed there for six months.

When I finally got home, I soon learned that my mother was angry at me. Needless to say, we had some hard years. In fact, only in my 20s did I feel the first time like my mother loved me. So I continued to look for love, even though I was fairly sure there would be no one who would actually love me. But God was there.

Two months before I turned 18, Jesus called me to follow Him. In Him, I found the love I had been looking for. In Him, I found the grace to start building my life on a different foundation—one that told me there was grace for the bad moments, that there was no need to earn love or be perfect. That I was loved as I am. I found a family who stuck by me through everything—and to this day, I absolutely love my church. I found friends who have loved me more than I could have ever asked, in ways I could have never imagined.

Depression is an incredibly hard journey to walk through. It breaks us in ways we cannot quite understand, as it steals our worth and twists our perspective all wrong. It leaves marks on us that are hard to remove. But in every story, there is hope—because we have a redeeming God. He knows the brokenness and pain, He knows every wound and lie that has come our way. And He can take it all and turn it into something good, something beautiful. This life is not easy. But Jesus is worth it all.


Friend, if you are here today, struggling and feeling like you are drowning because of the storm of depression and anxiety—please know that I would love to pray for you. I would love to talk with you. I would love to hear about your heart and your struggles right now, so that I can pray for you. So shoot me an email ([email protected]) or leave a comment on Facebook to let me know how I can pray for you.

Ronja Oksanen
Ronja is a follower of Jesus Christ, working on a Master’s degree in Speech & Language Pathology and blogging at Abounding Grace. She lives in southern Finland, is fueled by coffee and grace, and is always looking for glimpses of God’s grace in the midst of the mundane. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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