Jennifer's depression was deep and at times debilitating. For years, she tried various treatments but success was always temporary.
Something changed on the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 2013. It was, Jennifer says, “a turning point” in her life, but not in the ways you might expect.
As a marathon volunteer stationed a block from where the first bomb exploded, she witnessed the confusion and terror that ensued, and played an important role in helping one scared runner reunite with his family.
After the ordeal, Jennifer felt lucky to walk away alive. Her life goals changed that day and she says she now feels it's her responsibility to help others. She continues to find concrete ways to do so.
Listen to Jennifer here:
She had already signed up to participate in a program at the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital the week following the bombing. Primed by her experience during and after the race, Jennifer devoured the class, which focused on relaxation techniques. It deepened her sense of self-acceptance and gave her skills to manage her own depression, but also strengthened her resolve to help others. She ultimately went on to become a peer counselor at the institute.
Now, her central message is this: while we can't necessarily control what happens to us in life, we can control the meaning we make of our experiences.
Jennifer says she's determined to make the events of April 15, 2013, mean something, and to translate this meaning into action. As far as her depression, she has come around to recognizing “some of the good things about depression” — namely her appreciation for the small things in life, and her increased sense of empathy for others. “It’s like any other illness,” she says. “It doesn’t have to limit you. It’s all about making it mean something.”
Dr. Annie Brewster, M.D., is founder and executive director of Health Story Collaborative, a nonprofit in Boston.