Since I began writing about divorce nearly five years ago, about six months following my own, I have received my fair share of criticism, especially lately, about why I am still talking about this topic so many years later. Although not apparent to some, the answer is actually simple: because it’s an important one.
Divorce marks a significant life change. Hell, it’s even a relationship status on Facebook. It’s everywhere; on TV, in books, on the Internet, in movies, in songs, and in stand-up comedy routines. But while the widespread attention divorce receives is a good thing, its pervasiveness also means that we as a society risk becoming desensitized to it and forgetting that there are real people behind the title, people who are depressed and suffering in silence, putting on a strong front for others. I know firsthand: the struggle for me has been ongoing.
If you have a divorced friend or a friend who is going through a divorce, here’s what you need to know about divorce-related depression.
Good divorce. Bad divorce. After all these years, I still don’t understand the labels people throw around because of how limiting they are. They do not illuminate the magnitude of divorce as a concept. Divorce is the dissolution of marriage, the separation of two people who vowed to become one unit until death do them part. It is colossal, both financially and emotionally, regardless of how amicable the process itself is. Working through it all is a process as well, and a complicated one at that. I have yet to meet someone who has gone through a divorce who hasn’t been touched by it.
Like other forms of depression, divorce-related depression creeps up on you with no warning signs. You may be walking down the block and notice a young couple with a baby, talking, laughing, taking pictures, and then you think about your ex who you separated from years ago now, who has just started a new family of his own, and boom! Everything has lost its color. You dissociate from the world around you. It has been years—you feel like you should be over your divorce—yet you’re falling into a bottomless void. All you want to do is go home, get into your sweats, curl up on the couch, turn off the lights, crack open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Crunch Bar ice cream, and watch “When Harry Met Sally.” Again.
We must remind ourselves we are all invaluable, we are all loved, depression isn’t permanent, life will get better, and we must never, ever give up.
Depression is overwhelming and confounding, unpredictable and ruthless. You may feel ashamed or even hopeless because you feel depressed over something that you believe you should feel nothing about at this point, but the truth is that divorce isn’t nothing. It takes a massive psychological toll on its club members, and all they can do is keep pushing forward, keep fighting, keep living their lives.
Recovering from a divorce is not a science. There’s no specific amount of time you should spend feeling depressed until the clouds part and the sun comes out, revitalizing you and granting you the power to move on. Everyone processes information differently, just as depression manifests itself differently in every person. It may feel frustrating or discouraging to have depression that seemingly won’t let up, but we must remind ourselves we are all invaluable, we are all loved, depression isn’t permanent, life will get better, and we must never, ever give up.
October is Depression Awareness Month. For more information, please visit www.mentalhealthscreening.org to find out how to receive a depression screening. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-TALK.
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