A feature on Rebecca Brewster, a high school student who found Christ in the midst of her depression.
Depression is a serious and deadly mental illness, and for 17-year-old Rebecca Brewster, it has afflicted her for her entire life. Although some chapters of her life have drastically been dominated by the darkness that depression pulled her into, it hasn’t defined it. When only a senior in high school, Brewster not only survived a suicide attempt but triumphantly returned from the darkest depths of depression as a new daughter of light — a born-again Christian. Brewster’s story is not only one of hardship, trauma, and misery, but also one of perseverance, redemption, and hope.
From her earliest memories, Brewster recalls pain and suffering. “Since the time I was little, my parents’ relationship was rocky and dangerous, which greatly contributed to my struggles with depression. My father has anger issues alongside being physically, emotionally, and financially abusive,” said Brewster.
Brewster describes instances in her early childhood, beginning in the third grade, in which her father yelled, berated, and hit her out of anger. During this time, she also began developing self-esteem issues, explaining that “it was less about how I looked and more about the biological connection of my body to his, and I began to hate it.”
Despite her father not being the only parent around, Brewster explains why she and her mother were never able to leave.
“After I was born, my mom would come home to a scene where she believed he hit and yelled at me for refusing to eat and then ignored me to go to sleep,” said Brewster. “She stopped working because of this, but he would still threaten to kick her out and keep me to himself during almost every argument, no matter how small, using her agoraphobia and OCD against her as means to win a custody battle.”
However, it wasn’t until the sixth grade that she learned that, because her father was her own blood, it would be impossible for her to leave.
As she began seventh grade, Brewster was admitted into a mental hospital and finally diagnosed with major depressive disorder; this marked the beginning of the darkest moments in her life. “I was deep in depression by that point,” she remarked. “I was sleeping every hour that I wasn’t at school. I didn’t do homework, take showers or do anything because I didn’t have the energy. I lost friends, failed classes and lost interest in everything.”
It was also around this time that she began harming herself. “I used my new knowledge of self-harm and tried it as a way of control. If I couldn’t do anything about my father, I could control how I regulated my emotions about it. It was better to hurt myself than speak out and get hurt by him.”
No longer able to shoulder all the pain and hardship of her life away, Brewster attempted suicide by drug overdose in April of her eighth grade year. After throwing up at school upon having swallowed a large handful of Advil pills in the morning, she was quickly rushed to the hospital where doctors used activated charcoal and stomach pumping to save her life.
After her suicide attempt, she was prescribed a number of treatments. “I started taking treatment legitimately but I still struggled. I tried so many treatments to combat my depression but the one thing I struggled with was hope.” It wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that her life took a turn for the better due to a fateful encounter with myself.
I met Brewster when I was a senior in high school. When I first noticed her, she was sitting outside in the hallway, crying, while a faculty member attempted to comfort her. My first instinct was to mind my business and keep on walking, but my efforts were thwarted as I was pulled aside by the faculty member, asking for my reasons for attempting to leave school grounds early.
As the faculty member spoke to me, I felt an urge deep in my heart. A voice whispered in my mind to reach out and comfort Brewster. I immediately knew this desire to give comfort was from the Holy Spirit and I had no desire to disobey the Lord. What started from a seemingly chance meeting, and a preceding semi-awkward conversation, was a deep friendship.
Neither Brewster or I knew that meeting would be the door which opened the possibility of Jesus Christ to enter her life.
After multiple conversations, often involving deep discussions and debates about God, Christianity, hope and redemption, Brewster’s hesitance and reluctance to understand God became a growing curiosity and eventual desire.
In the article How Christians Can Fight Depression, there is a powerful message that sticks with me every day. “Not even Jesus avoided despair during His time on earth. He was tempted. He grieved. He cried out to God.” This message represents exactly what Brewster did.
“Eventually, in desperation, I read the Bible. I accepted Jesus in my life during October of 2020, my junior year of high school,” said Brewster. “I am still in this environment, but I have a choice between letting my past-present situation dictate my life or working to leave and create a new life just for myself on God’s side. God wishes for us to love everyone, regardless of what they’ve done and in turn that has helped me love myself. I can proudly say that I am now almost three years clean from self-harm, and while I still combat depression I am much more aware of what I can do to nurse myself back to a healthy mindset.”
“Today, I am working towards a career in software engineering, passing all my classes and living life in all the ways I couldn’t before. God and Christianity didn’t magically cure my depression, but it did give me the tools and hope to seek growth which have led me where I am now. It’s so much more than a religion, and while it took me so long to realize that, I cannot express how joyful I am to build a relationship with God today. I am much happier now and am able to look past what people have done to me, to focus on what I can realistically do to make life better for myself. “
When I think about Brewster’s story, I am often reminded of Psalm 13. Much like herself, David laments in the beginning: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?”
Yet, by the end of the Psalm, despite a lack of resolution to the conflict that surrounds David, he finds comfort and joy knowing God will take care of him: “But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”