A 21st Century Journalism Project

Working with love

In People on May 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm

By: Enid Lindenberg

For Melanie*, being a graduate student at Edinboro University is hard enough. She has to balance her classes, reading, and schoolwork as well as her graduate assistantship. She works 18 hours a week to lower her tuition costs.

Melanie also works a second job at a local veterinarian hospital, milks cows on a local dairy farm every morning during the week, and is a single mother of a precocious four-year-old with Down’s syndrome. On top of all of her responsibilities and commitments, she suffers from anxiety and depression.

Teen with depression

In Melanie’s position, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to develop anxiety and depression on top of such a busy life. Yet for her, it started about 15 years before.

At 13, most girls are struggling with the onset of puberty, school and the pressure by society to be “popular”. All teenagers feel this pressure in one way or another; it seems to be a part of adolescence, accompanied usually with braces and acne.

“I was 13 when I first started having anxiety and depression problems. They were both culprits when it came to academic and athletic achievement. Depression when I didn’t achieve desired results, thinking I was not good enough, etc. Anxiety that I would be punished if I didn’t get good grades or achieve other high standards.”


This isn’t completely uncommon, as a result of the influx of hormones from puberty. Though for Melanie, it seemed to get worse once she was 17 and 18, instead of better. She met her (now ex) husband around that time and shortly thereafter, began seeing a psychologist weekly.

“I went weekly for a long time because it was difficult to keep everything in. The stress from everything I was dealing with would really drag me down, give me panic attacks or spells of sadness.”

Around the age of 22, Melanie and her husband tried for a baby. Nine months later, a healthy baby boy with Down syndrome was born. A blessing to their family and a promise of new experiences, not only did they have a baby but one with a chromosomal difference which makes him a little slower in learning than other babies.

Baby with Down syndrome

Baby with Down syndrome

“It’s a challenge sometimes but he’s the best thing that has happened to me. He’s had seven surgeries in his four years and it took him longer to walk, talk and tell me he loves me but every day is a new experience and I love him so much.”

Melanie lived happily for a handful of years with her husband, raising her son but around the time she was 26, things became rocky with her husband. Eventually, the choice was made to file for divorce, which became official last summer.

“My ex still is very involved with our son, which makes me happy. The stress of our relationship wasn’t worth it. We [Melanie and her son] moved back into my mom’s home because things became tighter but it could be worse.”

The loss of income from divorce and supporting a child were driving factors in her move back home, though her mother babysits is a willing baby-sitter, an added perk which also allowed Melanie to take another job to combat costs.

“I was so blessed to get the grad assistantship at Edinboro though it is a lot to juggle- being a single mom, being a student and working all week. But if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Once her divorce was finalized, Melanie slowly stopped her weekly visits to her psychologist, going more on an as needed basis. Although she still deals with anxiety and depression, she is able to better cope with it.

“I am in more control of my emotions now, due to eliminating some negative life circumstances and anti-depressants. If anxiety occurs, I can manage with anti-anxiety meds, but if I am depressed, it takes longer to try to work through the negative feelings. I can sometimes lose drive and focus, while other times, I maintain both to keep my mind off the negatives.”

*Name has been changed


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