There are some days when you wake up and have no idea your life is going to change. One of those moments was the day I first heard about a young woman named Kristen Anderson who tried to commit suicide by laying down in front of a train.
The first time I'd talked to Kristen on the phone, I knew I had to write her story. There was a time Kristen's life had sunk into darkness. She had four friends and her grandmother die, she started drinking and smoking, and then she was raped. Kristen felt like a zombie for about six months. She didn't want to die, but she didn't want to live with the pain, either. One January night she laid down in front of a train. Kristen survived, but lost her legs. For three years she struggled with depression and even went back and forth out of the psych ward. Kristen knew that to get beyond the depression she had to give herself to God completely. She started praying, reading her Bible, going to a dynamic church and she surrounded herself with Christian friends. Through the process of seeking Him, God changed everything. She's now one of the happiest people I know.
When I thought about writing the book, I knew that if people would see how Kristen's life did not remain in that dark place, they could have hope for their own journeys. My intentions were to help people “out there.” I had no idea that it would open up conversations within my own family.
When I first started working with Kristen on the book, I was intrigued. I'd seen Kristen on Oprah and I knew people were amazed how she survived. I was amazed too. There were numerous times in the interviewing process that I thought, “This is a miracle.”
As with all books, I often share what I'm writing with my family. I remember one afternoon when I was driving and my sixteen-year-old daughter Leslie was with me. I was talking about Kristen and Leslie looked at me, sadness in her eyes. “Mom, I have to tell you, I've considered suicide before.”
I felt my breath escape me. Tears sprang to my eyes. “What? When?”
Leslie went on to tell me it was when she was in junior high. She didn't have many friends and felt shunned at church. Worse than that, the girl she considered her best friend teased her all the time, telling her she wasn't pretty, wasn't smart, and would never have a boyfriend. “I was so sad inside. I didn't want to face that sadness anymore, but I didn't take my life because I knew how much it would hurt you and dad.”
Over the next couple of days Leslie and I continued to talk about how hard life seems sometimes. We also talked about how easy it is to pretend everything's fine when we're really hurting inside. It made me realize that as a mom there could be things my kids are struggling with that I have no clue about. How about you? Are there things you're struggling with that your parents don't know? I know it's hard to share sometimes ... but maybe you should tell them. It might be hard, but parents want to be there to help. They care.
When I talked with Kristen's mom, Jan, during the process of writing the book, she told me she'd been worried about Kristen's friends at time, but not about her daughter. “Kristen was the one everyone turned to for help. She seemed to be having a hard time, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.”
For Kristen, her story turned out to have a happy ending, but for so many others
it doesn't. Make sure you take time to talk to talk to a parent, a youth pastor or a mature friend about about sadness, depression, and suicide. Also be sure to have them tune in to FamilyLife Today September 8, 9, and 10 or pick up a copy of Life, In Spite of Me.
There is hope!