I am so depressed and feel so worthless. I was struggling with a surprise heart condition and while I was in the hospital our neighbor put the moves on my wife. Needless to say they had an affair and I was devastated. I wanted to work through it but my wife wanted a divorce. It has been three years and I am still heart broken and have no self-esteem. There are no divorce support groups in my area and my friends are tired of being around me because of my depression. I feel isolated and want to give up on everything. I don’t know what to do or how to move on.
You are experiencing betrayal trauma, which creates feelings of hopelessness, despair, and depression. This isn’t something you’re going to pull out of alone, so I want you to find a mental health professional and work with your physician as soon as possible.
A mental health professional can work with your depression, help you find healthy coping strategies, and allow you to make sense of what you’ve been through. Additionally, the professional can help you rebuild a good support system so you can have the ongoing support you’ll need with these new transitions in your life.
Please be honest with your counselor with how serious your feelings of despair affect you. If you feel suicidal, don’t minimize those feelings and hope they’ll go away on their own. Open up to your therapist about these thoughts and ask for additional support and help. Suicidal thoughts are a serious indicator that you’re in need of a higher level of care.
Your physician can work with you to make sure your physical health isn’t adding more strain to your already difficult emotional challenges. You have enough hurdles to overcome in adjusting to life post-divorce that you don’t want your health creating more complications. There is no shame in asking for medication to help you with your anxiety and depression so you can resume a functional routine with your life.
Divorce is traumatizing for most people who go through it because they often experience a type of isolation they didn’t expect. For example, many of their friends may struggle to know how to connect, as they don’t want to take sides or are too busy with their own families. Men especially struggle after divorce because they don’t often have the strong social networks that come more naturally to women. Your friends may want to be there for you, but don’t know how. A good counselor can help you know how to interface with them so you can build a solid support system.
I encourage you to continue seeking a group you can attend. I think it’s a great idea to attend a support group so you can have other people support you in your struggle. Even if you can’t find a divorce-specific group, you can attend a group that offers support to family members of addicts, a grief/loss group, or other groups where you can connect with people who are struggling with unexpected losses. Even though the content may be a little different than your particular situation, the connection and empathy is the same.
Please don’t forget to connect with your bishop and other supports in your ward. Get involved in service activities in your community and look for ways to make contributions. Depression and despair tell you there is no hope and you have no options. This is simply not true and you have to actively work to engage yourself in activities that connect you to something bigger than you. This gives you connection to others, purpose, and a true sense of contribution.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently delivered one of the most hopeful and encouraging talks on depression I have heard in a long time. He gave the following counsel to those who feel there is no way out:
…Never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.[i]
I realize you’re probably struggling to get the energy to even initiate something like this. You’ve reached out to me, which is a great first step. You have a new life to live, even though you never anticipated having it turn out this way. Keep reaching out and don’t give up until you are experiencing more purpose and connection with others.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at email@example.com
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St.
George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
[i] “Like a Broken Vessell”, Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference October 2013