Public Defender, Queens Defenders, New York City
Living with anxiety and depression

The anxiety that Mary Beth experienced in her childhood increased in her adult years. She “soldiered” through until 2005 when she slid into a major depression. It wasn’t until 2013 that she finally got the combination of medications she needed. Today, she is thriving. She has meaningful work, loves to travel, and has better relationships with her children and immediate family – which she calls her “greatest success.”

Mary Beth’s Story

What were your most difficult times?

Two come to mind. The first, after I attempted suicide in college. The second was years later when one of my clients died by suicide. I was crying all the time and unable to sleep. I began taking over-the-counter sleep medication. I added a glass of wine – then a second, then a third. My daughter, who was in high school, told me: “Mom, I know you are sad about your client, but I am worrying you are drinking too much wine.”

What helped you get well and move to stability?

After struggling to get my anxiety under control through diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, and therapy, I finally decided I needed to try medication. The first psychiatrist I saw didn’t listen to me and prescribed the wrong drugs. Happily, I found a very thoughtful psychiatrist who was able to find the right combination of medications that worked for me.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

In addition to medication and therapy, I have found great benefit from yoga and meditation and have recently taken up tai chi. I find swimming and walking therapeutic. I joined a Moderation Management women’s group, which focuses on the use of alcohol in moderation. I also do a fair amount of “self-talk” – telling myself that I deserve to be happy and healthy; that I am smart and have expertise in my professional life. (It took me five years of my wonderful therapist making me practice that last part to really believe it!) I also have returned to the faith of my youth, as it provides my life with additional joy and meaning.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

Mental health conditions are physical health conditions. Seek out treatment. It is not a failure if you cannot achieve optimum recovery on your own. Don’t be afraid to try different doctors, therapists, and treatments. What works for one person may or may not work for you.

If you could go back and do something over, what would it be?

I would try medication much earlier. I would tell those people who labeled me “crazy” that “crazy” is not getting help when you have a health condition.