When my partner dumped me in an abrupt way in 2011, I found myself a few days later in a psychiatric hospital. Similarly, in 2001, with my graduation of college only a few weeks away, I couldn’t see a future for myself. Already depressed and hurt by a relationship that ended poorly (see a pattern here?) I tried to take my life.
I don’t deal well with change. In fact, it’s the thing at which I am the worst. It’s different if I take it up on my own: changing a job or moving. Yes, those are stressful activities, but I’m in charge. It’s the unintended changes; the times when I am struck with a life-altering event over which I have no control. Those are the ones with which I don’t fare well.
These big life changes are often the points in time that cause me to head in a downward spiral. For much of my life my base foundation is one of depression and anxiety. Thus, I find that an unintended alteration of my life trajectory compounds my situation. I crumble, I get scared, I see walls closing in. Nothing feels as though it will work out for good.
In the midst of these experiences, how do I find solace? Where do I go to find some stability? Well, to be honest, I’m still not the greatest at this. I have to work hard to make sure I’m on a good path. I have to stay focused and use all the coping mechanisms I’ve learned. It is very difficult, but I know that often my life may depend on it.
That said, here are a few things I do when I am undergoing changes that have a negative effect on me.
1) Reach out
Even if we feel very lonely, when we are honest with ourselves we can admit that we all have a few people in our lives to whom we can turn when we’re in trouble. When you feel your life spiraling downward due to change, reach out to those whom you know you can depend. Even if it’s that roommate you had five years ago whom you don’t speak to much, or that cousin you like but aren’t super close to—use that opportunity to reach out and fill them in on what’s happening with you. If you have close family or friends, that’s even better.
2) Create a plan
Creating a plan may be one of the last things you feel like doing when you’re suffering from unwanted change. But coming up with ideas of what you are going to do can provide focus. Having a routine and developing ideas to keep yourself occupied is a great way to fend off ruminating on a situation you find to be negative.
3) Become more involved
Let's say your change is due to losing someone or finding yourself in a new environment. Meeting new people can sometimes help ease that transition. Making a concerted effort to take part in new activities and making new friends can help in two ways. 1) It helps develop a new community with whom you can find connections. 2) It helps you not spend as much time thinking of the change that may be causing you pain.
Do you have any other suggestions you’d suggest for when you’re undergoing big life changes? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? And did you know there are some good things that can come from change?
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.