Molly: Finding a Lifestyle That Supports My Mental Health
My name is Molly Snyder and I want to tell you about my experience with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
Looking back, I think I have always had symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even from a young age, I remember having worries and fears that my friends didn’t seem to share. These early vulnerabilities were compounded by a traumatic and chaotic family life. In order to survive, I escaped into books, dedicated myself to school, and just tried to avoid attention. I moved away from home to attend University of Colorado, Boulder. Those were some of the happiest years of my life. I loved my classes and the beauty of campus.
I graduated, got a job and got married by the time I was 24. I had some pretty dramatic lows in the second half of my twenties. I would have bouts of feeling sad and hopeless, even though my life was going pretty well. I remember feeling dread but not really knowing why. These episodes never got bad enough to keep me from going to work or carrying on with my life.
The year I turned 32, my life really changed. I had studied International Affairs in college and had always wanted to work for the U. S. Department of State as a diplomat. Finally, after several years of testing, background investigations, and interviews, I was offered a job as a Foreign Service Officer. My husband and I sold our house, quit our jobs, and moved from Denver to Washington D.C. We were in D.C. for eight months for training, and then we moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador where I started work at the U.S. Consulate.
Almost immediately after moving to Ecuador, I discovered I was pregnant. On top of moving to a different county, leaving my support system behind, culture shock, and an extremely stressful job, I had severe nausea and exhaustion from being pregnant.
My daughter was born in April 2005 and my heart broke wide open with love for this tiny human. Like all new parents, my husband and I spend the first few days and weeks barely sleeping and learning how to care for our new baby. At about week three I remember starting to have visions of terrible things happening to the baby. I just tried to shove these thoughts out of my mind. I was crying a lot and really worried about going back to work. I was the breadwinner, and I didn’t have any paid maternity leave, so I felt like I had no choice. I went back to work when my baby was just five weeks old. I had asked for an extension of my unpaid maternity leave, but was told that was not an option. So, I just forced myself to do what I had to do.
I made it several months until my mental health really fell apart. I went two weeks without sleeping at all. It got to the point I couldn’t get out of bed. I was wracked with anxiety, shaking and crying. I was so miserable. I decided to quit my job because there was no support for me. I couldn’t take any more time off. The State Department revoked my medical clearance, so I couldn’t stay in Ecuador. It was a heartbreaking decision but I felt I had no choice but to move back to Denver where my family could support me while I recovered.
It took about a year before I felt healthy again. I found and excellent therapist, a combination of medications that works for me, and a lifestyle that supports my mental health. That was about 13 years ago. I still work hard every day to maintain my health. I advocate for mental health, I get plenty of sleep and exercise. I nurture healthy relationships, go to therapy and continue taking medication. I want to share my story so that anyone else experiencing depression or anxiety does not have to feel so alone. There is hope.