Coping with depression due to divorce is incredibly common. The acute phase of a divorce means an acute experience filled with high-intensity emotions. The energy it takes to walk out of a relationship usually isn’t accompanied by a simple handshake. Even when it is, the emotions that follow tend to get ramped up. Which is why it can be confusing when the heart and mind begin to balance and a sense of feeling depressed comes over you. You’re not alone. Whether you were the one who wanted out or were the one who was left, loss and trauma are real and intense. Anger balances depression. Excitement balances feelings of loss and sadness. If you’re coping with depression due to divorce, here are a few ways to help.
Coping with depression due to divorce
The Mayo Clinic says, “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.”
Anyone going through a divorce is experiencing some if not all of these “mood disorders”! One of the major reasons why depression occurs (not including age, changes in hormones, inherited traits, and general brain chemistry) is ‘trauma or stressful events, low self-esteem, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or financial problems.’
You are in good company!
Shame causes people to pull-in and isolate themselves. This contributes to the sense of being unworthy of friendship or being loved. It causes us to second guess ourselves and to be self-critical. The cycle feeds upon itself and the more you feel bad about yourself – what you did or didn’t do (what you could or couldn’t do!) – the more you want to pull-in and hide.
When you’re coping with depression due to divorce, it’s difficult to reach out for help.
Most people are willing to see a therapist. Therapists are great because they’re trained to help you understand what you’re going through, how you’re feeling and can help you come up with ways to shift your mood. They truly help define the kind of relationship you had in the past so you can make some room amidst the self-criticism to understand what you were up against.
I found my therapist truly helpful after my divorce. My sessions gave me a place to vent, talk-through, and grasp what had been going on during my marriage. But then, at a certain point, it was up to me to move my life forward.
Self-disclosure, I am prone to depression. Not to the extent that I want to end my life, but enough to know how it feels to want to stay in bed all day or to overeat or to cry a lot. I think I have a genetic propensity towards depression. So over the years, I’ve had to learn a lot of coping skills to deal with who I am…. my brain chemistry and genetic makeup.
I have found that what the experts suggest really helps me cope with my low-grade depression.
- daily exercise
- being outdoors
- eating well
- avoiding things like alcohol or drugs
- having good social connections
- finding meaningful work
- understanding my purpose for being here
When coping with depression due to divorce, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Know where you are on the scale.
If you’re unable to get out of bed some days (especially the days when your kids are with their other parent) understand this is pretty normal. But if you’re unable to get out of bed and feed your kids or go to work, please reach out to a professional and get yourself some help.
If you’re overeating or maybe under eating, know that both those practices are pretty normal when coping with depression after divorce. But if these practices continue for weeks or months, even years on end, please reach out for some help. Your health and stamina will be seriously impacted. No one is worth hurting yourself over!
If you’re using or drinking too much, and you’ve had a history of coping with trauma with drugs or alcohol, you don’t need me to suggest you stop. There are millions of people who use to avoid feelings afraid of what those feelings mean about them. So get some help with these practices too.
If you’re crying a lot or angry with everyone, you may want to speak with a therapist or a coach because that anger or those tears may be hormonally related (which would make sense) but could also be a sign of self-esteem issues. However, being angry or crying a lot after a traumatic loss makes sense! Those feelings are normal! But, when they interfere with your work or your familial relationships, you’ll probably want to get some support and perspective on your divorce.
There will be times during your divorce when you may feel life isn’t worth living. Those are the super dark moments most of us go through. (If you didn’t go through them while married and filled with disappointment and fear.) But if you’re suicidal, then for sure a therapist or MD is needed – again, I do not believe for one minute that any human being is worth hurting oneself over even though I understand the pain of a big loss!
You’re not alone. Coping with depression after divorce is incredibly common and surrounding yourself with support is part of that solution.
I started my doingDivorce™ classes precisely because of how isolated and alone I felt during my divorces. When I was a child, we were the only family in my community who were divorced. My sister and I were pulled from our private school. My outside classes were stopped, my mom was kicked out of the Catholic church. We stopped having Sunday dinners with my dad’s extended family. It was a very isolating time.
As a young adult going through my first divorce, I had the luxury of age on my side even though when I was dating, I stood out like a sore thumb having gone through a divorce so young. Those days were more hopeful but equally difficult. There were many dark days. However, fortunately, I didn’t have to carry the additional burden of not becoming a parent at that time.
People without the kids they wanted, have loss compounded by the losing their marriage and not becoming a parent. The grieving is hard and acceptance seemingly elusive. Coping with depression due to divorce without having had the family you wanted is particularly difficult to handle. Be sure to find some support for this sort of pain.
As a parent going through a divorce, one would think I had it all. My children have their father in their lives, he takes care of them, pays his maintenance, and stays out of my life. But the cost was five years of litigation and a trial, loads of money, no relationship with his family, the loss of friends from the social circle we once shared, and a significant cut in lifestyle.
The loss of my friends and family were particularly difficult to deal with initially. I had to overcome my ego and reach out and meet new people. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to put myself into uncomfortable situations and risk being seen in order to have a new group of people I could lean on for support and friendship.
At times the shame and stigma of coping with depression due to divorce are very debilitating yet, I have found we’re the only ones who are truly in our own way.
It feels almost impossible to risk being seen when we feel down. We’re afraid of being ostracized and criticized (for good reason). Sometimes it seems easier to stay hidden in our homes than it is to reach out and get the help we need. We forget we can feel better about ourselves. Risking being seen as imperfect isn’t more difficult than pouring a glass of wine, but it does require courage.
I encourage you to find a mentor, a coach, a therapist or a group you can join that will help you move away from your pain toward a better future. You’re worthy of being happy (no matter what may or may not have happened in your family). Try to stay away from people who continue to stir the pot and have you feel bad about yourself. Do your best to get a big perspective on where you are.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce™ School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.