I received a formal depression and anxiety diagnosis in the fall of 1999 when I was 19 years old. I had been struggling with it since the age of 13, but I never received help for it because I never had the words to describe what was going on. I also had some trauma in my past, so I arrived at college with PTSD as well as the depression and anxiety that I was trying to hide. My first year was really difficult for me, and everything came to a head in September 1999 when I had a breakdown that I just could not shake. I was crying all the time, I was having a really hard time sleeping, and I could not keep food down. I was put on medication, but it took a little bit of time before that kicked in.
My roommate had her own mental health issues and a situation was created where we were feeding off of each other’s stress. Eventually, we had a really bad fight one night, and she left the room really quickly the next morning without talking to me. I was feeling really defeated and I was in tears when I walked into the dining hall to find my friend Amy sitting at a table. She asked me why I was crying, and I explained that my roommate and I were fighting. She then said the magic words that bring me to tears remembering them 20 years later:
“Jen, do you want to pray about it?”
The reason those words made me cry harder and can still bring me to tears is that Amy was not religious. She was not a practicing Christian at that point, but she had been watching me silently praying over my food at communal meals with our group of friends. The fact that she asked me if I wanted to pray about it was her telling me through her actions that she knew that my faith was a huge part of my life, and she understood that praying about what was going on would be something incredibly meaningful to me. She closed her eyes and sat there quietly holding my hand while I silently railed at God about how anxious and depressed I was.
Amy and I are still good friends 20 years later. When we lived in the same apartment during our last year at UC Santa Cruz, she would always ask to say grace with me if we were eating at the same time, and she occasionally went to church with me. I have told her how much I appreciated her that day, but I really don’t think she understands the gift she gave me that day.
Gracious God, thank you for the amazing people you put in our lives that show us how much you love us and know us. Amen.