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Adjustment Disorder: The Mental Illness We Don't Talk About

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I’ve always said that I often have difficulties adjusting to life changes, but I figured that was just part of who I was. I am a creature of habit. I love routine, schedules and having everything planned out. I enjoy familiarity, my comfort zone and feeling safe.

When something in my life drastically changes, it takes me a while to adjust and oftentimes, I experience extreme anxiety and/or depression during this period, depending on the circumstances.

Who knew there was such a thing as an adjustment disorder though? I certainly did not! When I was diagnosed with “adjustment disorder with depressed mood,” I literally had no clue that was a thing.

We moved from Tucson, Arizona to a small town in Texas. I went from a big town with diversity, amazing food and plenty of things to do to a small town with hardly any diversity and hardly anything to do. I did not know a single person and struggled to open up to people because of the anxiety I was already dealing with. The job market is not great here, especially with the industry I am in, so I couldn’t find a job. I barely left my house not only because there was nothing to do, nowhere to be and no one to see, but also I just did not want to. The first five months of me living here consisted of waking up, letting the dog out of his crate and hanging out on the couch for the entire day.

There were times I would get a surge of motivation to go to the gym or do something that was not just sitting on the couch watching Netflix, but that would often disappear almost as quickly as it came on. I no longer enjoyed doing the things I used to do back in Tucson. I was utterly miserable and I felt so alone.

I tried to read books, but could not concentrate. To be totally honest, I rarely paid attention to the things I was watching on television. My mind was literally everywhere but at the same time, I was totally numb. I would try to clean during the day while my husband was at work, but I literally felt like a snail and when I would finish one chore, I would feel so exhausted so I just went back to the couch.

Thankfully, the great news about adjustment disorders is they are highly treatable. I began therapy and was also put on a medication (mainly for my anxiety and depression). I began teaching spin classes at a local studio to get myself out of the house. I also do some other volunteer work and I have made some friends. In therapy, we often talk about why I have struggled to adjust to life here in this small town and the answer is simple: I just miss Tucson and I miss my old life. My “normal” has changed. Back in Tucson, I was working 12 hours per day and even when I wasn’t technically working, I was still working because my clients would text me at any time, day or night. I had a schedule and my mind was stimulated.

Through therapy, I have learned to adjust to this new normal and find ways to keep myself busy. I still hang out on the couch and watch television, but I am able to turn it off and focus on things like reading a book, doing my homework or working on my new business.

I think it is important to bring up adjustment disorder because many people do not know it exists. If you have recently gone through a stressful life event and are having a hard time adjusting to the aftermath, it might be time to see a doctor or therapist to find ways to cope with the adjustment period. There are a few different types of adjustment disorders and they can really take a toll on your mind and your life.

Unsplash photo via Eddy Lackmann

Originally published: May 7, 2018
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