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Dealing with Depression After Divorce*

* guest post

Divorce was probably not remotely in your thoughts when you were getting ready to take your vows. ‘Till death do us part.’ Well, that’s usually the intention when you walk down the aisle. But realistically, divorce is a huge risk factor of marriage. Sometimes it’s civil and uncomplicated. Other times, it’s complex and downright painful, particularly when there’s a battle over custody of children or marital assets.

No matter how you twist it, everyone hurts, including men. However, there’s a general belief that men dust their sleeves off and move on quickly. The ending of a marriage is a stressful event and a loss for men, too. The more stressful it is, the greater the chance of depression and other mental health problems.

This post delves into the challenges men face after divorce, how men can deal with depression, and when to get help.

What Is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. For the diagnosis of depression you need to experience symptoms for at least two weeks

Incidentally, depression is also one of the five stages of grief experienced over the death of a loved one or the “death” of a marriage.

How to Know I’m Depressed?

Depression symptoms persist for more than two weeks, almost every day, and most of the day. Common signs or symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Loss of interest in your hobbies or enjoyable activities
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Feeling guilty, helpless, hopeless, or worthless
  • Changes in appetite, eating patterns, or weight
  • Trouble remembering, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Oversleeping or difficulty sleeping
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feeling physically unwell, such as aches, pain, or headaches

Depression and Divorce

People have a tendency to withdraw socially and go into isolation when their marriage falls apart. That’s expected and normal. It’s an avoidance or distancing strategy people use to cope with the plethora of emotions swirling around their divorce. They include sadness, anger, grief, and pain associated with the loss of a marriage.

You may also engage in emotional isolation where you detach from your emotions or bottle them up instead of talking about how you feel. Both types of isolation after divorce affect men’s physical and mental health. Isolation is a risk factor for loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Challenges Men Face After Divorce

Men face physical, mental, emotional, and financial difficulties in the aftermath of a divorce. In addition to depression, you may encounter these other issues:

  • Difficulty processing your feelings
  • Loneliness
  • Low self-esteem
  • A sense of loss of identity
  • Greater loss of financial resources
  • Insecurity or loss of trust in romantic relationships
  • Separation from your children or limitations on seeing them
  • Excessive alcohol drinking or substance abuse
  • Reduced physical health, e.g., high blood pressure or heart problems

These challenges often increase stress and may lead to depression. Luckily, knowing how to care for your mental health in the aftermath can help you to create a happier life.

Tips on Dealing with Depression After Divorce

Divorce is a major life event and sometimes a devastating loss. Only you can truly understand how it affects you and the emotional pain you feel. Mental health experts agree that grief caused by divorce is similar to the grief experienced over the death of a loved one. The death of a marriage is similar and it’s important to properly process and grieve the loss in a positive way without disconnecting.

Below are steps you can take to help manage depression at such a crucial time in your life.

Avoid Blaming Yourself

It’s common for men to feel guilty about divorce. You may feel as if you failed your former spouse and children or you didn’t do enough to make them happy. Taking responsibility for any part you may have played in the dissolution of the marriage is often empowering. But self-blame can lead to insecurity and a low sense of self-worth. Remember, the survival of any marriage takes two people who are mutually interested in remaining together. Avoid blaming yourself totally for the breakup. You only had control over your actions.

Choose Self-Compassion

Self-compassion refers to treating yourself with kindness, empathy, and love. It’s similar to how you would try to cheer up someone you care about or make them feel better about a situation. Sometimes, humans forget they deserve the same kind of treatment from themselves. Instead, you may judge yourself harshly, blame yourself, or conclude that you deserved what happened. Realize that divorce can happen to anyone and it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you.

Stay Connected

Staying in touch with supportive loved ones is another way to cope with your emotions. We tend to feel connected, accepted, understood, and happier when surrounded by people who make us feel good. Isolating yourself for long periods of time invites loneliness. And there’s a connection between loneliness and depression. In addition to being an underlying cause of physical illness, loneliness is a catalyst for trouble sleeping, personality disorder, and alcohol abuse, according to a review on the psychological aspects of loneliness.

Talk About Your Feelings

Talking about your emotions is a natural therapy that makes you feel relieved and hopeful. The important thing is to choose people who you trust to hear you out, without judging you. You’re not looking for someone to take your side necessarily, you just want to feel heard and understood. Alternatively, writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal is also considered talking about your feelings. Journaling is a healthy way to purge emotions such as regret, guilt, anger, resentment, sadness, and grief.

Accept the Loss

Grief over the loss of their marriage is partially why depression sets in for many divorcees. Accepting the loss can alleviate depressive symptoms and help you to let go. Acceptance is the final of the five stages of grief. Experts encourage people not to rush the grief process. However, each person’s timeline to accepting the loss is different. You give yourself permission to live again when you finally accept it’s over.

Remember to Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine,” one that is non-invasive and drug-free. Laughter is therapy just like processing your emotions through talking or journaling. Laughing can help you heal from depression because it releases the hormone endorphins responsible for that feel-good sensation. There’s also a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, making you feel calm. When you laugh, you release anger, reduce anxiety, soothe emotional pain, and improve your mood. You’ll probably notice an increased sense of physical and emotional well-being, as well.

When to Seek Help from a Professional

Depression can be beneficial if experienced temporarily. You’re able to process, heal, accept, and continue with a new outlook on life. M. Scott Peck talks about the healthiness of depression in The Road Less Traveled. Staying stuck in the depression stage of grief may lead to clinical depression.

Namasté,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @wholeparent

How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women in 1 x 1 zoom or facetime calls. I work in monthly blocks (4 sessions). We establish a relationship. I become your wingman in navigating and sorting through the bullshit of dating and relationships. If you are here, you’ve probably already read some of my opinions. If we’re a fit, we will both know on our first call.

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