Divorce, life after divorce and your mental health

Divorce is never a picnic.  Every divorced person knows that but the divorce experience is different for each person and has different impacts upon the lives of divorced people.

At one end of the spectrum the experience can be an all consuming firestorm burning the flesh on your back and sucking the oxygen out of your life.  At the other end it can be a highly stressful process but ultimately a good thing leading to a better life after divorce for both of you.  The vast majority of divorces are neither of these but fall at some point within this spectrum.

Divorce is rarely a threat to your physical (but not necessarily financial) wellbeing.  However, it can very often be a severe threat to emotional and mental health.  Physical illness is always easier to identify and to treat than mental illness which can have a far greater and lasting impact on your life. 

beautiful mountainsProblems of the mind are more difficult than problems of the body
Maintaining your mental health during your divorce and life after divorce is vital to survive these difficult times.  A mental illness is no less real than a physical illness or injury.

A chest infection or a broken leg is easy to diagnose and to treat.  The effects of divorce, a potent mix of stress, anger, guilt, resentment and fear are not so easy to diagnose and can be far more debilitating than a physical illness or a broken bone. 

The medicine or the leg plaster is easy to prescribe and will be effective.  Dealing with mental illness is not as simple or often as effective.  However, the solution to your problems should start by going to see your doctor.

Depression or what?
After a brief consultation your doctor will probably diagnose depression.  That's pretty standard and possibly true.  However, you may feel that you are not actually depressed but "really pissed off with being divorced and having your life totally trashed by someone who once loved you."  That's true and that's what making you feel so bad.

Talking or drugs or both
There are two strands to possible treatment, talking therapy and antidepressant drugs.  The current flavour of the month in talking therapy is CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  CBT can help you to change how you think "Cognitive" and what you do "Behaviour".  Changes in thinking and doing can help you to feel better.  Unlike some of the other talking treatments, it focuses on the here and now problems and difficulties.  Instead of focussing on the causes of your distress or symptoms in the past, it looks for ways to improve your state of mind now.

Antidepressants have come a long way since the early days when their effects were a bit random and in some cases more addictive than our friends in Big Pharma were prepared to concede.  They are now much safer and more consistent in their beneficial effects.

The best way ahead
Start with counselling as recommended by your doctor.  See how this goes and then if you are not happy with the progress then combine counselling with a low dose of antidepressants.  They will never solve your problems but they may help you to feel better about them.

If the drugs can make you feel less desperate and the counselling helps you to understand and deal with the aftermath of divorce then this is an approach that can deliver positive and lasting results.  If you can take regular exercise that will a great help too.


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