Major life changes are hard on mental and emotional health. Something like divorce or child custody cases can really be a trigger for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Court personnel can be insensitive and aggressive and use your emotions against you. Do not let them!
Courts have pathologized women's emotional responses to prolonged exposure to abuse, separation from their children, and custody/divorce litigation itself. The actual source of depression is often overlooked. Some judges have gone so far as to deem a mother unfit because she cried in the court room. Be determined to not give them any ammunition to use against you! Be able to keep yourself calm and prepared to deal with stress. It is good for you, your case, and your children!
Below are suggestions to help keep your sanity. It is a time to be good to yourself! Think about what makes you happy. What are your interests? What gives you joy? What have you always been passionate about? Is there something that you've always wanted to try and just never got around to doing?
Find something that is perfect for you and just do it!
Here are my suggestions and what have helped me through my time in my custody case:
Do something nice for yourself daily.
Little things can have a major impact! Maybe buy yourself something small like a "Fancy Coffee" or a new book. Cook yourself breakfast. Take a relaxing bath. Paint your nails. Eat that Candy bar! Write affirmations and hide them around the house.
Learn something new.
It doesn't have to be an expensive college course. There are plenty of classes and tutorials online that are free or very cheap. You're reading my articles now; teaching yourself about what you're going through or about to go through. Teach yourself a new skill. Learn how to cook a new meal, learn how to play tennis, learn how to do that cool craft you saw on Pinterest!
Find something that gives back. You always get a boost when you do something nice, it keeps you busy, and you are very likely to meet nice and interesting people!
Get active with your children's school or daycare.
It helps the school, your kids love it, other kids love it, the teachers love it, and it is good for the community. If they don't live near you, get in touch with school personnel and set up a system to receive school and class newsletters, progress reports and report cards. Find out the methods your child's teacher prefers to communicate--e-mail, fax, phone, snail-mail.
Invite others you meet to exercise with you. There are always people wanting to lose weight, reduce stress, improve their lung capacity and heart rates, get generally fit, etc. It doesn't have to be an expensive gym--walking qualifies as exercise. Often others are just waiting for someone else to give them a push.
Look through your local newspaper for clubs and activities that interest you. Your local community calendar in the newspaper is a good source for a variety of free or low-cost activities and events to attend. Are you religious? How about singles groups at a church or other activities at your church? In this way you find people with interest common to yours. Considered Parents Without Partners? I checked into it--never used it, but am always getting e-mails about family activities that you can bring your kids to and not have to feel odd because you're single--because everyone else is too.
Consider your strengths.
You might feel like you need others to entertain your kids, but what your children will enjoy is quality time with you--the relaxed and confident you. Work on being the best you that you can be. The rest will flow naturally. Its nice to have friends along but not necessary for the kids to enjoy their outings with you.
If you work, are there social activities there you could join in? Some of the best friendships can be found through work or work-related activities and networks.
Reach out to others.
Keep in mind that other people may need you as much as you need them. Take the initiative with people you might meet through the above ideas--casually ask them to join you for coffee, spur-of-the moment lunch, maybe later invite them over to dinner, or to a movie. Sure, you might encounter some rejection--so what? You also might not!
Read relevant books.
Browse your local library for books that will help you in any or all of these categories: healing from abuse, parenting, child development, empowerment, mothering/importance of mothers, divorce/custody, etc. Some days you will find you don't have the strength to read books on certain topics. Be kind to yourself and do what you can.