Updated: May 3
Are you a trailing spouse? Do you feel lonely and isolated due to the frequent traveling and relocating associated with your partner's job? If so, you are not alone. Many trailing spouses experience depression due to the pressures and challenges they face. In this blog, I will discuss the various causes and symptoms of depression for trailing spouses, as well as the strategies and tips for coping and thriving.
What is Trailing Spouse Syndrome?
Trailing Spouse Syndrome (TSS) is a term used to describe the emotional and psychological distress that can occur when a spouse follows their partner to a new city for work. This can be due to a job transfer, military assignment, or any other work-related relocation. The trailing spouse often experiences feelings of loneliness, isolation, and loss of identity, as well as difficulty adjusting to their new environment.
The term was first coined in the early 2000s, but the phenomenon of trailing spouses has been around since the dawn of time. As more and more couples move away from their hometowns to pursue their careers, the issue of TSS has become increasingly common.
Causes and Symptoms of Depression for Trailing Spouses
The causes of depression for trailing spouses are usually related to the sudden change in lifestyle and the lack of a sense of belonging in the new environment. A trailing spouse may have difficulty forming relationships and building a social network in their new location, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In addition, the trailing spouse may feel a lack of purpose and meaning in their new life, leading to a sense of emptiness and despair.
The symptoms of depression for trailing spouses can worsen over time if left untreated. These symptoms can include persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Tips for Coping with Depression
The first step in coping with depression is recognising the symptoms and seeking help from a mental health professional. A helping professional can provide support and guidance to help you manage your symptoms and work towards recovery. In addition, there are a few simple tips that can help you cope with depression as a trailing spouse.
First, make sure to stay connected with family and friends. Even if you are far away, staying in touch with your loved ones can help you feel less isolated. You can make use of modern technology such as video calls, social media, and messaging apps to stay in touch with your loved ones.
Second, make an effort to get out of the house and explore your new city. Trying new activities, going on walks, and taking up a hobby can help you adjust to your new environment and give you a sense of purpose.
Third, set realistic goals and challenge yourself. Focusing on specific goals can help keep you motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Strategies for Overcoming Negative Thoughts
If you are struggling with negative thoughts and feelings, it is important to remember that these thoughts are not your fault. Negative thoughts can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, and the changes associated with being a trailing spouse. To help you manage these negative thoughts, try the following strategies:
First, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts and emotions without judging them. Taking a few moments each day to practice mindful breathing and meditation can help to reduce stress and negative thinking.
Second, reframe your thoughts. When you notice yourself having negative thoughts, try to reframe them in a more positive way. For example, instead of thinking “I’m so lonely”, try to focus on the positive aspects of your current situation, such as “I am getting the opportunity to explore a new city and make new friends”.
Third, practice positive self-talk. Be kind to yourself and focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Remind yourself of your worth and recognise that you have the power to make positive changes in your life.
The Role of Support Networks
Having a strong support network is essential for coping with depression. A supportive network can provide emotional and practical support, as well as guidance and advice. In addition, having a strong support network can help you feel more connected to your new environment and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If you are having difficulty forming a support network, try to reach out to friends, family, and neighbours. You can also join online support groups or local clubs and organisations.
Additionally, if you are a member of the military or expat community, there are often organisations that provide support and resources to spouses.
Self-care is an important part of managing depression. Taking time to nurture yourself can help you to feel more in control of your life and reduce stress. Self-care can include activities such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in hobbies or activities that you enjoy.
In addition, it is important to make time for yourself. Set aside at least a few minutes each day to do something that you enjoy, such as reading a book, taking a walk, or listening to music. This can help to reduce stress and give you a sense of purpose.
Finding Meaning and Purpose
Finding meaning and purpose in your new life can be challenging, but it is essential for overcoming depression. When you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, remind yourself that you are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to. To find meaning and purpose, try to focus on the positive aspects of your new environment and recognise that you are in control of your own destiny.
In addition, try to think of ways to make a difference in your new home. Volunteer at a local charity or organisation, take up a new hobby, or start a business. These activities can help to give you a sense of purpose and fulfilment, and can also help to build your support network.
Seeking Professional Help
If you are struggling to manage your depression, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide guidance and support to help you cope with your symptoms and work towards recovery. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your symptoms.
In addition, there are also a number of therapies that can be helpful for managing depression, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), and interpersonal therapy. A mental health professional can help you to find the right therapy for your needs.
Recognising Spouse Resentment
It is not uncommon for trailing spouses to experience resentment towards their partner due to their frequent traveling and relocating. This can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness, which can worsen symptoms of depression.
If you are experiencing resentment towards your partner, it is important to recognise and acknowledge these feelings. Talk to your partner about your feelings and try to find ways to work through the issues together.
Building Resiliency and Coping Skills
Building resiliency and coping skills is essential for managing depression. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficult situations and adapt to change. Developing resiliency can help you to cope with the challenges of being a trailing spouse and give you the strength and courage to face the future.
To build resiliency and coping skills, try to focus on the things that you can control. Acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses and recognise that you are capable of making positive changes in your life. Additionally, practice self-care and look for opportunities to challenge yourself.
Being a trailing spouse can be a difficult experience, and depression can be a common side effect. If you are experiencing depression, it is important to seek professional help and remember that you are not alone. With the right strategies and support, you can learn to manage your symptoms and thrive in your new environment.