During my abusive marriage, I suffered with what I call environmental depression. I knew that I was depressed because of what was going on in my house. I felt extremely sleep-deprived, because my ex did everything possible to disrupt my sleep patterns. Everything was a constant battle. I went through a ritual of bringing my kids to school and crying, as soon as I was alone in my home. I knew it wasn’t normal to do that but it got worse when I couldn’t even wait until I was home to cry and I didn’t even care who saw me in tears because I wanted someone ~ anyone ~ to ask me what was wrong. I wanted to tell someone.
Finally, I told my doctor so that he would refer me to a counselor. I needed someone, in a professional role, to listen with a sympathetic ear and give me some coping skills. The instant I mentioned that I felt depressed, my doctor asked me if I wanted anti-depressants, which I declined. I explained that I knew my depression was a product of my environment. Although I had never taken anti-depressants before, I didn’t want to reach a point where my problems didn’t seem so bad. I needed empowerment rather than emotional numbness.
While I was married, I suffered emotional, verbal, psychological and financial abuse. My ex was a very cunning man who knew just how far he could push me without incriminating himself. He used a method of abuse called “gaslighting“, designed to make abuse victims feel as though they’re losing their sanity. As a result of the collective methods of abuse I suffered, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and experienced flashbacks and other symptoms, such as insomnia and feelings of anxiety. Although the triggers I experience are lessening, I still do have insomnia, which is probably because my sleep patterns suffered greatly while I was in that abusive situation. The flashbacks and nightmares are less frequent, thankfully.
After 2.5 years of counseling, a long period of soul-searching and nurturing my spirit, I managed to get away from the situation, first on a separate household level, then came the legal conclusion (when my divorce became final) and, finally, a more distant geographical level (when I moved an ocean away). My emotional health vastly improved and, while I still suffer from the occasional case of the “blahs”, I do know that my depression really was down to my environment. I also learned that, with the proper help, it can be overcome. Remember, it isn’t an overnight process and it certainly isn’t as easy as “flipping a switch” or “getting over it” simply because someone says so. Depression is a very real thing which requires a great deal of care, patience, understanding and constant support.
If you believe you’re suffering from depression:
- Remember, it is NOT something to feel ashamed of or stigmatized about.
- Do a personal evaluation about why you might be feeling depressed. This will help you determine what sort of depression it is, which will be useful in treating it. A journal or daily record may help you to recognize patterns, too.
- Talk to your doctor to make sure it isn’t due to a physical cause.
- Think carefully before deciding to take anti-depressants. Consider side effects and what you want the medication to achieve. Evening your mood is one thing; numbing you to your problems is not helpful in the long run.
- Talk about it with anyone you trust. The more people you tell, the more help you will receive. It’s important to surround yourself with people, rather than to isolate yourself.
- Find a good, sympathetic counselor (there are those who operate on a sliding scale fee system).
- Talk to someone faith-based or visit your church. Faith is a big healer.
If you need a mood lift:
- Exercise. Endorphin rushes are a natural way to make you feel uplifted.
- Soak up some sun and / or get some Vitamin D.
- Phone or visit a family member or friend.
- Watch a funny show or movie.
- Log onto a video/image site and watch/view funny videos/pictures.
- Listen to your favorite music and sing/dance.
- Go for a walk.
- Visit your place of worship.
- Have a makeover.
- Have a spa day / massage.
- Find a beautiful place, such as a park or beach.
- Visit a petshop, animal shelter or a friend with a pet.
- Read an uplifting book.
- Do something you love.
- Hug someone.
- Keep a journal.
- List the things you’re most grateful for, every day.
As always, we’re here to help.