Dear Dr. Norquist:
I just broke up a three-year relationship, which I can’t do anything about. Can you let me know what I can do to relieve the anxiety attacks and depression that I’m getting? Thank you.
Dr. Norquist responds:
A period of heightened depression and anxiety is normal after a major loss. You need to allow yourself time to grieve. I would be more worried if you had just lost a major long-term intimate relationship and you were going on with life as if nothing had happened. The human psyche needs time to adjust to such a major loss. This means feeling the pain, moving through it, adjusting to the changes this loss entails, and then moving on. This is a natural process. Problems occur if you deny the pain, or alternatively if you get stuck living with the pain and do not move through it. The pain should gradually decrease over a 2 – 12 month period, depending on the depth of the loss.
In the meantime, allow yourself to feel your feelings as they come up, reach out to friends and family for a sense of connection and support, talk about your feelings with friends and family, or a professional, and engage in activities you enjoy. Walk through the gray days knowing your heart will eventually heal and the sun will shine in your life again. Make sure you are living a balanced healthy lifestyle (enough sleep, nutritious food, little to no alcohol use and no substance abuse). Rescue Remedy (a Bach Flower homeopathic-type remedy) can be helpful for your anxiety (with your medical doctor’s approval). It is available in most health food stores.
Observe your thoughts when you are feeling anxious. Do not allow your mind to subconsciously feed you negative, fear-inducing thoughts. Either correct or detach from harmful thoughts.
If you are questioning whether or not your life is worth living, or if the anxiety or depression is interfering with your daily functioning, then you must consult with a professional.
We cannot love deeply without being vulnerable to the pain of loss and hurt. It comes with the territory. But, as many a poet and songwriter would tell us, it is better to have loved and lost then to never risk loving. Walk yourself through this time period, and you will eventually find love in your life once more.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist invites you to write to her at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating stress. Ó 2017 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center