Divorce is an extremely emotional and anguishing experience for everyone, but for a person who struggles with depression and mental illness on a daily basis, divorce can feel even more unbearable. When it feels like your life has come crashing down around you where are you to turn?
I have dealt with depression and anxiety for most of my life. During my first marriage, my Ex husband never took mental illness seriously. When I would go through moments in life where my depression got bad he would say things like, “I’m a happy person, it’s hard to be around someone who is so pessimistic” or “There is no such thing as depression, you can choose to be happy if you want to be”. This kind of ignorance alienated me and made me feel lonely and even more sad.
I was seventeen when we had first started dating and I spent eight years of my life with him. Our marriage became my world and he dictated everything that happened in it. When he filed for divorce I no longer knew who I really was or how to live without him telling me how to live. As I stepped out on my own for the first time in my life, I was terrified and consumed with anguish.
My depression reached the worst low of my life during that divorce. I couldn’t eat and when I did I would get sick. I forced myself to go to work every day because I had no other choice if I wanted to have a place to live, but the second I was done with work I cried the whole way home. I remember walking into my studio apartment each night and falling to the ground by the front door, where I would cry myself to sleep on the floor until the cycle would repeat itself again the next day. I contemplated killing myself on a regular basis, but thankfully, I never was able to actually go through with it, because my fear of death far outweighed my grief.
So, how did I finally treat my depression and come to a better mental state and what can you do to deal with depression during your divorce? I am not a health professional, but I can give some ideas of things that helped me.
Let me preface this by saying that although medication did NOT help me, it does work for some people, which is why I am bringing it up. I talked to psychologists who recommended that I go on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication during my divorce. My body has never reacted well to medication and I hallucinated on everything I tried, so I decided that it wasn’t for me. I’m not a huge fan of medication in the first place, because the list of side effects always seem much worse than the symptoms of mental illness in the first place. Once again, this is just my experience and I know that there are many people who have had a lot of success with the use of medication.
Although taking medication wasn’t helpful to me, I did find that just talking with a professional was healing. I discovered underlying issues that stemmed from childhood experiences were still playing a large role in my life. Through talking to a psychologist I was also able to realize that my marriage was extremely unhappy from the start and that my ex-husband was not just unsupportive and controlling, but he was also emotionally abusive, which only caused my depression to worsen over the years. Therapy helped me to see that everything wasn’t my fault and that although I had made mistakes, I wasn’t a bad person.
It is extremely beneficial to speak with someone who is unbiased and doesn’t have an emotional connection to you or your experience. Talking about what you are going through can help reveal things about yourself and your life that you may have never even thought of as being an issue or trigger for depression. I highly suggest finding a professional whom you mesh with and feel comfortable talking to because even if it doesn’t heal you completely, it will at least feel good to vent in a non-judgmental environment.
I had never tried meditation or even considered trying it until I went through a divorce. Unlike prayer, for me, meditation wasn’t a spiritual experience. I used it as a time to try and quiet my mind and not think about the things that were bringing me pain. I would find a sunny place to sit outside or near a window and focused on breathing. If I felt an annoying thought creeping in I would tell it to shut up and would readjust my mind again. I found that each time I did this, I would feel calm and a little happier. It didn’t completely solve my issues with depression but it effectively eased my worries for a while and helped me to reconnect with myself.
I have always heard that burning sage is to keep away bad spirits. I’m not sure if I really believe that, but I did find that when I smelled someone burning sage I fell in love it. I have always loved the smell of campfires and burning sage is very reminiscent of that. I started burning sage inscense during meditation, but quickly learned that each time my anxiety was getting crazy, if I burned it I started to feel calmer and more centered. For some reason, the smell lifts my spirits and helps me to feel better mentally and emotionally.
The powerful effects of exercising are quite amazing. It can be difficult to actually get yourself up, dressed, and in the moment, but once you are there, exercising really does help with depression and relieve stress. I had never been too excited about exercising. I was a runner for years, but I had always hated doing it. I ran to keep my body in shape, not because it was fun. I found going to the gym or running around outside to be extremely boring and torturous. After years of forcing myself to run, my knees finally decided to give out and not allow me to continue (Oh darn!)
While trying to conquer depression during my first divorce I decided that exercise was going to be the best thing for me. I found a Jazzercise Groupon and decided I would give that a try. I fell in love with the classes. Not only was it a great stress reliever but it kept my interest and I had a blast doing it!
No matter what kind of exercise you enjoy: running, walking, dancing, swimming, biking, etc. It is important to get out and move your body. Exercise isn’t just healthy for your body, it is extremely beneficial to your mental health as well!
Fresh Air and Sunshine
This may seem too easy but getting fresh air and sunlight can be very healing to your soul. If you are feeling depressed, get outside and just breathe! I’ve always felt very connected with nature, but I have also discovered it has amazing healing benefits. At times of great distress, sadness, or confusion I have found that if I go walk around at a park or sit near a pond and just feel the breeze on my skin, that my mind calms down and my body relaxes. Some of the best decisions I have made have come from allowing myself the opportunity to be alone to think outside.
If you can afford to make acupuncture sessions a regular part of your life, I highly recommend them for assisting with depression. I was extremely leary of acupuncture when someone had first suggested I give it a try to help with depression. If you haven’t heard of this before, Acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles to specific acupuncture points on your body to restore balance to the body’s energy, stimulate healing, and promote relaxation. It is said that acupuncture can help with many issues such as back pain, arthritis, migraines, anxiety, depression, etc. I had heard of other people having success with it helping their depression, so I was interested in learning more.
At first, I was scared that the needles would hurt or that it would be a giant waste of time and money. Once again, I was able to find a Groupon for a local place that does acupuncture, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to try it out for a lower rate. I have only had a couple of experiences with it, but I did find that after both sessions I felt immensely better! Not only did it not physically cause pain but it did seem to help ease my depression for weeks after. I’m not sure if it works for everyone, but after my first session I didn’t feel depressed for quite a while. I definitely suggest giving it a try if you are willing to try anything in your fight against depression.
Laughter is the best medicine! Surround yourself with the people who love you and do things that make you laugh. The endorphins released by laughing are extremely healing to the mind. I have found that the more time I spend laughing, the less time I feel like I am heading towards a depressive state.
Discovering New Things To Love
FInding new activities to occupy your mind can be another great way to help with depression. During my divorce I decided to find new hobbies and reengage in activities I hadn’t been involved in for a long time. I started to paint, write, and knit again, and found healing through these activities. While focusing on creating, I was no longer thinking as much about the things that were going wrong in my life or causing me sadness. Once you are able to put your energy into positive things, rather than energy-draining emotions, you will find a mental shift in the right direction.
Depression is not something that can be cured. If you struggle with depression, you will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. The good thing is that once you find ways to cope with it when it flares up, you can manage it easier and live a fairly normal life. These are the things that I have found to help ease my mind and take me out of a dark place, so I hope that they can bring you some comfort as well. If you are feeling suicidal please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8245. I know that things may feel hopeless during divorce but take it from someone who has felt the same exact way, you can make it through this time in your life and make a better life for yourself! Please seek a professional if you are experiencing severe depression or suicidal thoughts!!!
Divorce is one of the most difficult things you will ever endure in your life. Thankfully, this is just a bump in the road and it is possible to find happiness and even love again, when and if you ever feel ready for that. Just know that you are not alone in this terrible time of your life. I have been through it twice and I can honestly tell you that if you give yourself time to heal, you can have a really good life again! You will get through this and be a much stronger person because of it. Your main priority is yourself right now! Focus on finding ways to ease your depression and remember that you can’t help or love anyone else, until you help and love yourself first!
Good luck and best wishes ❤