Coping with Depression While in Transition
Life's transitions are difficult for most people. We get comfortable and stuck in our ways. Comfort is something that keeps negative thoughts at bay; we tell ourselves over and over "it's okay, you know how to do this, you've done this a million times."
What happens when the comfort of routine is pulled from under us? For people who work through life with anxiety and/or depression, transition is especially difficult. We are forced to change what keeps our anxiety from flaring and what keeps our depression from kicking in to the fullest.
I have recently endured multiple transitions within the past year so, I understand the stresses of transition. My transitions include multiple changes in career; ending a relationship, starting a new relationship, getting married without my family knowing, then telling my family about the marriage almost a year later; and relocating from St. Louis (my childhood home) to the middle of nowhere for my husband's new career position.
This post will highlight some background of my transitions and then will give different ways that I have come to cope with the changes in my very busy life all while keeping my anxiety and depression from running to the forefront.
A little background of my anxiety and depression
Full transparency right now. I first started feeling overwhelmed with life at around 8 years old. Before 8 years old, I was very comfortable. I grew up in a large family consisting of my mama, brother, four aunts, and five cousins. My mama and three of her sisters were raising us (cousins, brother, and myself) in a four-family on the north side of St. Louis. Down the street was my aunt and uncle and another cousin. This was comfortable for me. I always had someone looking out for me (I was the youngest). I always had my aunts and I always had my mom and brother. Two things made this living situation even better: my family occupied the entire block besides a church, and my paternal cousins even came around often (even though my parents were divorced) because they lived around the corner and had grown up with my maternal cousins. This was utopia for a young girl. I had plenty of friends at school. I had plenty of love and friends at home.
Above: (left to right) older cousin, me (the little one), big brother, two older cousins on Christmas morning in our childhood home in St. Louis
Then - transition #1: my mama married my step-dad.
Then - transition #2: my mama, brother, step-dad and I all moved in under the same roof.
Then - transition #3: we moved into a house far away from the only foundation and home I'd known, and into a majority white neighborhood.
Then - transition #4: I started a new school - traditional school - whereas my old schools were Montessori style (kids move at their own pace and the teacher is basically there to make sure you know how to use materials and that you're being safe)
All of these transitions were triggers. I know it seems like these would be small triggers but, taking a small child from a village and moving her into a strange, far away, foreign land is definitely a trigger.
What mainly triggered my anxiety and depression is the new living situation, seeing my dad a lot less than before (I don't think he was willing to drive that extra time) and going from feeling safe and loved by a big, close family, to having zero friends at all.
When I tell y'all it was only one black girl in my neighborhood other than me when we moved there, I'm not exaggerating. Then , when I went to school, teachers would judge me based on where I'd come from (I came from the hood but I was pretty gifted with a mix of pretty bad behavior - I wasn't used to this type of school setting). I threatened a girl in a note and was enrolled in weekly counseling with the school's counselor.
What made it worse was that I had always been very close to my big brother. He was undoubtedly my best friend up until we moved. Then, he was in middle school and he was suddenly really cool and I was a third grade dork that followed him home all the time. He was no longer interested in his little sister being his friend because he'd made actual friends.
So, there I was. Completely stripped of my young comfort zone and thrown into suburban life - and I did NOT transition well. I probably spent most of my 3rd and 4th grade year crying to my dolls. Then my mama gave my cat away. I swear, she was out to destroy me.
Throughout high school and college, I struggled with depression, anxiety, and even attempts at suicide. I started drinking a lot in college. I lost my job because of depression. I lost my car, my boyfriend, my friends. I was just a downward spiral.
Until I moved back to St. Louis, back into my childhood home, and I owned it. I got hired in as a teacher in the city schools, I started my music career, I had some bank saved up, I was cooking, losing weight, new friends, new bae(s) - I was straight glowing, y'all.
Then I met my husband and I guess I felt like I was so g that I could shake it up a little bit. I ended up shaking too much and found myself in a space of continuous transitions in careers, living situations, and relationship status.
This time is different, though. This time, I've vowed to myself not to allow these transitions to turn me into a messy ball of anxiety and depression. This time, I refuse to allow myself to think of taking my own life - this time, I'm taking control. So, how am I doing this? Here are five of my tried and true, proven ways to cope with depression and anxiety while in a transition phase in life.
***Disclaimer: I am NOT a mental health professional in any way, shape, or form. I have dealt with anxiety and depression throughout my life and I am just sharing ways that I have coped with the duo.***
How to Cope with Depression and Anxiety While in Transition
I know this is something we do all the time and involuntarily BUT there is something extremely peaceful about controlling your breath when anxiety tries to rear its ugly head. When you start to feel a little overwhelmed or like you are no longer in control, control your breathing. I think of it as a reminder that I'm the pilot - not my situations.
2. Try a new hobby
So we're already in transition limbo, why not add something else to make more transition into our life. Right? Yes. Finding a new hobby is something that, again, can help you regain control of your life. It allows you to explore life on your terms, even if the previous transition was not in your complete control. Hobbies are always your choice. They aren't something that's forced upon you.
Tell someone about your feelings. It is never a good idea to keep emotions bottled up - especially anxiety and depression. It is way too easy for those two to turn into suicidal thoughts when they're bottled up. They have no escape and begin to wreak havoc upon their host. Find someone who will listen without judgment. If you don't know someone, personally, who will be this person for you (or you don't feel comfortable allowing someone into your realm that knows you personally), try an app or therapy. I, personally, like TalkSpace, but, if you're tight on coins and need therapy on a budget, try out apps and online platforms like 7 Cups where you can post to message boards and forums and real people reply.
4. Imagine your perfect life.
This one is my second favorite method of coping with transition. A few months ago, I found myself envisioning what I wanted. Then, I decided to do something with that vision - set goals and write about it. I bought a new journal and a cork board. in my journal I wrote EVERYTHING. From business matters to personal hardships to letters to myself. It is a GREAT release. Then, my cork board became a vision board. I started using magazines and old photos to post what I wanted in life. I listed goals, wants, and my "perfect" life. I even documented steps I'd taken to reach my goals. This was beyond therapeutic. Every time I start to get overwhelmed by my transitions, I pop into my office and stare at my vision board full of mantras and things that are going right. It's so much easier to fight anxiety when I can take away a feeling of uncertainty.
5. Last but, DEFINITELY not least... find something beautiful.
I am a natural explorer. I like finding new places to eat, shop, walk, think, etc. Finding something beautiful is a reminder for me that, even if my anxiety tries to tell me the world is an ugly and dark place, it's not true. The world has so much beauty to offer us. Depression is just something that tries to convince you that there is no beauty in life and that you should give up. Actively working to find something beautiful is what will prove that there actually is beauty in life. After moving to a small town so my husband could work his new job as a research chemist, my something beautiful is a state park that runs along a creek and is a monument to the Trail of Tears in Missouri. Your something beautiful could be a park; or, it could be a new pet; or, maybe a redecorated room in your basement. You'll know it's "something beautiful" because, as soon as you see it or experience it, you'll feel that anxiety melt away into the background. Find something beautiful.
I am still on my mental health journey as my transitions have only just begun but, these are some tried and true ways that I have overcome my anxiety and depression in the past. Remember, transition is inevitable - at some point, we have to face it and conquer it.
Please, comment some different ways that you cope during transition and change. Let's build up one another. We could be one another's "something beautiful".
Peace and love,