When Danielle Hark met her now-husband Adam, they were instantly attracted to each other but her undiagnosed depression kept her from dating him. Now the founder and director of Broken Light, a photography collective for people affected by mental illness, Hark told Cosmopolitan.com the story of how they found their way back to each other so many years later and now have a beautiful family.
Adam and I met on the first day of our Ithaca College orientation in 1998, when I was 17 and he was 18. We were in the same orientation group and instantly became friends when we found out we were both from northern New Jersey. Just a few weeks after we met, he wanted to start dating, but I was having a lot of issues with what I later realized were depression and anxiety. I hadn't been diagnosed yet, so I didn't know what was happening, but I knew a lot was going on and I felt like I couldn't be in a serious relationship. I knew if he and I got into a relationship, it would be serious because I cared about him so much.
He thought I was just brushing him off by saying I couldn't be with him because I had so many problems, but I truly felt like I had to clean up my own mess before I could get involved with someone. We stayed close friends for about a year because we still lived in the same college building and had classes together, but eventually I saw him less and less. After college, I didn't see him at all for the next four years. During that time, he was in a four-year-long relationship and I hadn't dated anyone seriously because I was still so preoccupied with my as-yet undiagnosed mental health challenges.
I went through a really rough time when I lost my dad to ALS in 2001 and that triggered another really low period for me. I realized the only person that I wanted to go to when things were tough was Adam, but we hadn't spoken in three years. I drew this photo of him at that time because I was thinking of him so often:
Around that time, I moved to Los Angeles to try and shake myself out of another depressive episode. Adam was still living in New Jersey, but in early 2003, he heard about an earthquake in Los Angeles and somehow had heard I'd moved to California, so he called to see if I was OK. The earthquake was really minor, but it was still very sweet that he cared enough to call and reconnect with me. He also told me he was coming out to Los Angeles to work on a film and suggested that I come check out the shoot. I found out later it was just an excuse for us to see each other.
When he arrived in Los Angeles, I picked him up from the airport and brought him to one of my favorite restaurants, and we were instantly very comfortable with each other like we always were. I don't remember how I found out he was no longer with his serious girlfriend, but I knew he wasn't and it just felt like it was the right moment for us to finally be together. We didn't even really discuss it; we knew it was the right timing and we were together at last.
When we started dating, it was hard for me to talk about my mental health, but being with him encouraged me to seek help, and once I knew how to communicate my feelings to him, I did. Oftentimes I felt like he knew what I was trying to say without me even having to say it.
We dated long-distance for the next year because he was still living on the East Coast, and in 2004, we drove cross-country together to move all my things back to New Jersey. We were married in 2007 and bought a house in a town with a good school, which was an important step toward us having children. Things were going really well with my mental health during those years, so it all lined up really well. We did face some difficulty trying to have a child, but after a year of trying, we were finally able to have our first daughter, Lillian Monet, in 2010.
After having her, I had an emotional crash. For the next two years, I was in a very serious depressive episode. I could barely leave the house or get dressed or shower, but Adam stayed with me even though I told him not to. I wanted to be with him but I also didn't want him to get hurt, so I pushed him away again. He was very supportive and was in touch with all my doctors, making sure we were all on the same page. He's been such an important part of me getting though my challenges.
I just had my second daughter six weeks ago, Juliet Sky. We always knew we wanted a second child; we just needed to find the right time. We decided to wait until I was in a strong place mentally. I started seeing a reproductive psychiatrist who saw us through the whole process, including fertility challenges, a very challenging pregnancy (including diagnoses of pseudotumor cerebri and gestational diabetes), and a challenging delivery (including so much blood loss I needed four blood transfusions). It was all worth it.
I'm so grateful our story ended up the way that it has. Even on the difficult days when I feel I'm not worthy of Adam's love, I'm so glad we found each other again. I feel like if I had dated him in college when we first met, we might not have made it to where we are now. It happened when it was supposed to happen.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.