The last five years have been hard for me. I went through a divorce, moved across the country and back again, and I’ve just been demoted at work. My current relationship seems unstable and there’s always drama with my ex-wife and kids. I’m stressed out and depressed. I just can’t seem to pull myself out of this negative place. I’m afraid that I’m losing sight of who I really am. What can I do? Please help.
Stressed and Depressed
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Dear Stressed & Depressed,
The good news is that you recognize that your current state of mind doesn’t represent who you really are. You’re asking for help to pull yourself up out of the temporary hole you’re in.
So begin by seeing things for what they are. You’ve been under enormous pressure, and are struggling beneath the weight of a life currently isn’t supporting you. That’s not an “excuse” for bad behavior or a bad attitude, but it sure makes it difficult to feel good. All of us, when faced with enough difficulty, will eventually be brought down.
Therefore, know that you’re still a good person in there, looking for a way to be happy again. You can begin to restore yourself, but begin with small, simple steps, and make it OK for it to take time.
It’s important that you recognize that you’ve been through a lot in the past few years. Take a moment to mourn your losses and acknowledge your mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and that you’re working to fix them. Negative self-talk is a never-ending spiral, so start monitoring the way you talk to yourself, and correct yourself when you’re thinking negative things.
Making a conscious choice to be kind and loving with yourself can help you be more sympathetic with others too. Your ex-wife and children have had a rough few years as well. It’s possible that they are dealing with some of the same problems you are, so lend them some extra patience.
Start small and simple. Begin a list of things in your life to be grateful for, put it on your fridge, and add just one thing to the list each day.
Also, begin a journal about what kinds of steps you can take, even if they are very small steps, to get your life back on track. If you try to fix it all at once, you’ll get overwhelmed and will just get knocked back down again. So, small steps. Try to make those steps things that you can actually do. So, if for example, part of it means getting a new job, break it down to steps like, begin re-writing your resume. Then begin checking online. Then doing just one interview a week.
Also, look for support resources in your area that would afford you the opportunity to talk to someone. If money is an issue, look for affordable counseling at the local college or university where there are counseling interns. Finding someone to talk to on a regular basis can make all the difference.
Even though you’re divorced, you and your ex-wife must work together to take care of your children. A little extra kindness toward your ex might help making co-parenting easier. Remember that your most important job as a parent is to provide your children with a sense of love. That’s easier to do if you’re not fighting with their mom.
If your current relationship isn’t giving you the stability you need, you may want to consider ending it. You might not have the energy to support anything beyond your current obligations. Now might be a time for you to consider being on your own as you work through this difficult period.