I Survived My Suicide - Part 1
At age 17, Kristen Jane Anderson survived a suicide attempt. Today, more than ten years later, she has a powerful message for those who find themselves in despair.
FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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Life in Spite of Me
Day 1 of 3
Guest: Kristen Jane Anderson
From the Series: On the Edge of Hopelessness
Bob: Kristen Jane Anderson was 17 years old and was ready for life…to be over. When she heard a ‘Freight Train’ approaching at the park where she was sitting; she decided to lay her body across the tracks.
Kristen: When the train stopped I wasn’t sure if I was alive or dead. I remember just opening my eyes and unclenching my fists and starting to look around because I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what it was like to die! Obviously I just had no idea what to think.
When I was looking around, I looked behind me; to my right…and I saw my legs about 10 feet behind me on my right.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife and I am Bob Lepine. Kristen Jane Anderson joins with us today to share a remarkable story of survival and of faith.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today! Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We are going to hear a remarkable story today. A story of where there is hope! Actually to start things off, I want to read a Bible verse. This is one of my favorite Bible verses.
Dennis: I would feel better if you had a real Bible opened; I mean, instead of reading it off your iPhone.
Bob: I love carrying this around.
Dennis: You do! You really do! You get a grin on your face when you scroll down to the passage
Bob: It is a little awkward when I am up front in my church reading from my iphone, but it is….
Dennis: You do it there too?
Bob: Yeah! This is the way I read my Bible now. And I love it!
Bob: 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen race a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession …. ‘(And this is the part that I love)’ …….that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
I think the story we are going to hear about this week is one of those out of darkness into marvelous light stories.
Dennis: I think you are right, Bob, and I think that our listeners; regardless if they are dealing with something troubling or challenging in their lives right now or rather if things are going well, they need to hear this story. It is the story of a young lady who joins us on FamilyLife Today, Kristen Jane Anderson, joins us today on FamilyLife Today. Kristen, welcome to the broadcast!
Kristen: Thank you for having me on.
Dennis: Kristen is a graduate of Moody, almost; right?
Dennis: Almost a graduate of Moody Bible Institute! She is a popular speaker to college students and women’s events all around the country. She has been featured on Oprah, which we had some fun talking about before we came on the air here.
Bob: She was comparing you and Oprah …wasn’t she?
Dennis: She was! She was! She was…. And you actually asked her, “which was a bigger treat, to be on our broadcast …… or her (Oprah) TV program?
Bob: And let’s move on shall we?
Dennis: She has written a book called, Life In Spite of Me. I am just going to cut right to the chase here. Kristen, I am going to ask you to take us to January 2. You were in a park and it was dark and it was icy cold there and it was the most dramatic day of your life.
Kristen: Yes! I was at the park and I was there because I didn’t feel like I could go home. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to get in trouble and I thought I was going to disappoint my parents again. I was at the park just kind of trying to waste time and to figure out what I was going to do next and I was swinging on the swings and as I was there I started to think about why I was there.
Why did I feel like I couldn’t go home? Why did I feel the way that I did inside? I was struggling and then I remembered that in the park that I was in that you were supposed to be out of the park after the sun goes down. I knew that the police come and patrol the park and if you’re in the park after dark they make you leave.
The reason I was there is that I didn’t want to go home, so I looked around to see where else I could go and I saw that there had been a set of train cars parked on the edge of the park. I knew that they had been there for about 3 weeks. I walked over to the train cars and I sat on one of them. Then I started to think about a thought process that I had had about 3 months beforehand. It was after one of my friends had taken his life. He had taken his life by hanging himself in the cemetery.
Dennis: You were 17 years of age?
Kristen: Right! I had no idea how to handle it and I didn’t understand it. I remember thinking, “I don’t know how he could ever do that. How could he ever take his life?” And then I thought, “I don’t know how he could do it the way that he did it, especially that way.”
But then my thought process changed and I started to think, “Well if I was ever going to do it, how would I do it?” I went through a lot of different things in my mind that I had heard about in school or on TV; different ways people try to end their lives and none of them seemed like they would work or be good enough, until I heard the train go by my parent’s house.
I heard the whistle blow and I felt the house just kind of shake. I could feel the power of the train and I thought, “That is one way that I would never live through it.” It just kind of snapped in my mind and I never thought about it again until sitting on the train that day. And that is when I started to consider suicide, by train, as the answer to my pain.
Dennis: So, at that point what did you do? I mean, how long did you have in advance warning that the train was coming?
Kristen: Oh! I saw it coming; I probably had a minute before it got to me. I didn’t know how long it would be before the next train came and it was freezing out and I knew I couldn’t stay outside much longer. So, right before it got to me, I made the impulsive decision to lay down on the tracks. It wasn’t something I had decided before it started coming. I made the decision right before it got to me to lay down on the tracks. I got off the train that I was on. I walked down the rocks that those tracks were on. I walked up the tracks that the other train was on. And I laid down right before the train …got to me.
Dennis: How did you lay across the track?
Kristen: I lay between the tracks. My head and my body were between the tracks and my legs were hanging over. I closed my eyes. I clenched my fists and I turned my head in the opposite direction that the train was coming. I just tried to push down all the fear and the shame and I just laid there. I mean, it was only a fraction of a second … before it ran over me.
Bob: So, you could see it coming and you just laid down on the tracks with it coming?
Dennis: So, I have got the picture in my mind at this point… Here is a 17 year old girl who is hopeless. Who has really lost hope about her life and you are going to end it in, as you said, an impulsive decision; to lie down on the tracks in front of a train. Was the ground shaking as it …?
Kristen: Yes! I felt the ground shaking. I felt the tracks shaking. I felt the wind of the train and I heard it roaring over me. I felt it begin to suck me upward almost into itself which is really what should have happened, because 33 Freight Train cars went over me at 55 MPH. So, I should have been sucked up into the train and basically torn to pieces.
I guess that’s what happens normally when a train is going that fast with the way that I was positioned. I felt my body begin to rise upward and I then I felt it begin to be pushed down into the ground; like there was this tremendous weight or force or wind beginning to push me down.
Dennis: You know…I have 4 daughters…., I know that as a teenager, young ladies can; as Bob said earlier, can believe those voices. And that there is really a battle going on for the souls and for the lives of young people today. I have never, ever talked ….to a young lady, however, who… acted on those and obviously, today is alive ….to be able to tell the story of what took place.
There is more to this story that we want to share, but I want to take our listeners back to the home you grew up in. Just talk about the spiritual condition of that home, what you learned about God, what you believed about God, and your relationship with your parents.
Bob: Yes! How you got to where you got. I mean, was there any spiritual background in your home growing up?
Kristen: Yes! I grew up going to church. I remember going to youth group and things like that, but I didn’t know the difference that God can make in my life. When things started to go wrong I had lost about 3 friends and my grandmother within a year ½ of time. I lost one friend in a motorcycle accident. I lost one in a car accident. I lost one to suicide and I lost my grandma just because of her age. Also, in that period of time I was being stalked by 2 young men and I was raped by another.
Bob: Oh man!
Kristen: So, I had no idea how to handle that. I had a really hard time believing it. I kind of tried to forget about most of it, I just didn’t know how to handle any of it and I felt like everyone else was handling everything fine. My family, my friends, they just all seemed fine. I remember asking my mom one time, “How do you do it?” I remember her telling me, “You just do it;” because I didn’t know how to handle it.
Dennis: There was also something occurring in your family that you have not mentioned here that was adding to your despair; and that was what your dad was going through. I mean from the time you were a little girl, your daddy was under a dark cloud of depression. Can you comment on that?
Kristen: I was in about 5th grade when I found out that my dad was diagnosed with depression. He was grateful when he found out because he knew something was wrong with him. He was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and depression, but I did not know what that meant. I remember thinking, “Well you are not sad all the time, why are you depressed?” I remember thinking, “Even being sad a little bit, why he would be sad, because he had us – we had our family.”
But I didn’t understand the struggle that he was in. I remember in high school I would come home and he would be sleeping; I remember that he just wasn’t there for me. I knew that he loved me and that he was present, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with him. I had a very close relationship with my mom, though.
Dennis: And you know I am listening, Kristen, to the emotions that are coming back that are a decade old. This was a traumatic time in your life and having to deal with trying to sort through… suicides, deaths, rape, and even your father’s inability to connect with you.
Bob: Did your family know about the rape?
Kristen: No! They didn’t! I didn’t tell anyone.
Bob: So, you are processing a lot of this just locked down inside yourself?
Kristen: Right! That is one of the things my mom mostly talks about; she wishes she would have known. They were trying to get me help. They knew something was wrong, but they didn’t really know what had happened or what was bothering me so much. They asked me, but I wanted to be tough; I didn’t want to have problems, so I didn’t talk about my problems. I tried to be the person that helped everybody else ….and I kept all my problems to myself.
Dennis: You were how old at the time?
Kristen: I was 16! It was the summer of my 16th birthday.
Dennis: And your response to that; I am sure you have found out now after sharing your story on college campuses, is not out of the ordinary. There is a lot of this occurring, and there is a lot of secrets being kept in the closet.
Kristen: Yes! There are!
Dennis: Because of shame and fear and what might happen.
Bob: But to stuff all of that inside a 16 year old soul and with all that you were going through, it is no surprise that it erupted. I mean, looking back on it now, and I mention the demonic influence and we can’t discount that, but the life’s circumstances and again, it all getting kind of compressed and pushed down. You can see where somebody gets to a point where they go, “why stay?’
Kristen: Yes! It just ate away at me. I had held on to hope, but it was getting less and less and less. And, that one moment was the moment that I had lost hope.
Dennis: You didn’t have a faith in Christ at that point to process all the evil that was occurring to you and around you and to your friends. So, there was no ability to interpret and to make sense and to have understanding at that point.
Kristen: Right! I wasn’t even trying to do it myself because I couldn’t make any sense of it. If I would have had a relationship with God, I know that I would have went to Him for understanding. I didn’t even know that He offered understanding or comfort or wisdom or strength in difficult times. So, I just tried to stuff it down and to handle it all myself.
Dennis: And to the parent, right now, who is listening and they are saying, “Man, I wonder if this is taking place in my daughter or possibly my son?” What would you say to a mom, a dad; who has maybe sensing something is up, something has happened, but can’t break through.
Kristen: I would tell them to talk to their son and daughter and actually specifically if they have had suicidal thoughts. Ask them on a scale of 1 – 10, how much hope they have. Ask very specific questions because when you ask kids how they are doing, they are usually going to tell you they are fine. Or they are going to tell you on a surface level, but if you ask the tough questions they will tell you how they are really doing.
I think that it is really important that parents listen and they don’t judge them and they don’t react in an extreme way. They need to be very, very understanding. I know that most of the adults and youths that talk to me; talk to me because they know that I understand. I think kids need their parents to understand, they need their grace and they need them to pray with them and model a relationship with Christ for them. Help them know how they can go to God for strength and for comfort and for understanding in difficult times.
Bob: Kristen, as you were laid out across those railroad tracks, your legs dangling out off the tracks, train is coming; did you remain conscious through the entire point of impact? You said it was 33 cars at 55 mile per hour; there must have been a couple of minutes that the train …..
Kristen: Yes! I was conscious the whole time. I remember it all completely!
Bob: Were you thinking, “Well, I must be about to die soon?”
Kristen: Yes! I was waiting to die. I thought it – “Any minute now…” Actually when the train stopped I wasn’t sure if I were alive or dead. I remember just opening my eyes and unclenching my fists and starting to look around because I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what it was like to die! Obviously I just had no idea what to think.
When I was looking around, I looked behind me; to my right and I saw my legs about 10 feet behind me on my right. I knew they were my legs because they have these brand new bright white tennis shoes on them that I had just gotten for Christmas. But, it just seemed like it wasn’t real, this couldn’t be happening, this had to be a horrible nightmare – and this couldn’t be happening. I kind of tried to gather myself and I crawled out from underneath the train.
I looked down at my legs to see if they were actually gone.
In that moment this tremendous peace just came over me and I started hearing this song, “Amazing Grace,” playing over and over in my head and I just thought, “I must be dying! I must be going to heaven! That could only be music from heaven!”
What I feel like God was doing is just meeting me in that moment and showing me, “Kristen, you don’t need your mom, you just need Me! You don’t need your mom, you just need ME! I am the only ONE who can help you in this circumstance!”
So, I remember just resting in that peace though. I think I might have started to lose consciousness because the next thing I remember is feeling a Firefighter take my hair off of my face and pull it behind my ear. I had not heard him come up to me, but when he did that I opened my eyes and looked up at him and he kind of stumbled back because he…. wasn’t expecting me to be alive.
I remember just feeling anger and fear rise up in me because I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. I didn’t want anyone to help me or save me. I was embarrassed too! I just didn’t know what to think or feel or do, but he radioed to all the other medical personnel of my location, my status, and they tried to call …Flight-For-Life.
But they couldn’t bring in Flight-For-Life… because the weather was too bad, so they did something that they had never done since; that wasn’t protocol that they had never done before. They blocked all of the intersections and roads from where I was to the closest hospital that could take me. That was normally a 45 minute drive, but the police report says they got me there in 8 minutes.
Kristen: So, I think, I can only attribute that kind of speed to God! I definitely see Him in those details! When I got to the hospital, the doctors and nurses were kind of in shock because I had lost 8 pints of blood; and scientifically you are supposed to die after you lose 5. Not only was I alive, I was talking. I knew my mom and dad’s phone number and my sister’s phone number; things like that and they were writing them down so they could tell them what had happened to me.
I remember looking up to the man in the white coat next to me who I assumed to be the doctor and asking him if he thought I would l live. I remember him telling me, “he didn’t know.” He says that he said that because he knew that I needed to fight… I could die… but that to live I needed to fight …because I shouldn’t have been alive and …..Nobody knew how much time I had left.
Bob: Were you still thinking at that time, “Well, I guess I will die soon?”
Kristen: I was hoping that I would die in surgery. Or something like that.
Dennis: I am listening to your story here and I am seeing you smile; I am also seeing you cry. And it is because in the midst of this trauma you found …the God of the universe and you found… redemption and you found that personal relationship with Christ and instead of hearing a song about, “Amazing Grace,” you now sing it!
Dennis: Yeah! And you have found the ONE who did bring hope! We want to share more of that story later with our listeners. I am just wondering, Bob, if there is a person now, who doesn’t know Christ and where they are. I would just encourage them to give us a call and let us put some literature in your hands so that you can come into a personal relationship with Christ. There just may be somebody listening right now who may be on the precipice of what you were doing and I don’t want them to have to go through the trauma that you went through to find Christ.
Bob: The reality is that there are circumstances that come in life that lead us to despair. I think Dennis, about the book of “Psalms” and the times that David the psalmist found himself in those moments where he cried out with the kind of desperate anguish that you described, Kristen. The kind of hopelessness that he felt and that you felt. And yet, the message of the gospel is a message of hope in the midst of despair; that the circumstances of this life are not the defining reality that shapes our existence.
I just want to encourage listeners if you are at a point of hopelessness and despair and you don’t have settled in your own heart the reality that there is God who loves you, who is in control of life, and who knows what He is doing; and who walks with you through the valley and brings you out on the other side.
If you don’t know that God; if you don’t have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you to call us at 1800-FLTODAY and ask for a copy of the book, Pursuing God. It is a book that we will send you, at no cost and that will introduce you to what it means to have a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
Again, call 1-800-FLTODAY and ask for a copy of the book, Pursuing God, and we will send it to you at no cost and we pray that God will use this book to bring hope and help in the midst of whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
And then let me encourage you to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; to find out more about Kristen’s book, Life in Spite of Me. It is her story and it is an extraordinary story of hope after of what she intended as a fatal choice!
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; for more information about Kristen’s book. There is also information about other resources that we have on depression and on suicide. You will find it on FamilyLifeToday.com; or if it is easier to call us toll-free, 1-800-FLTODAY. Do that, call 1800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. And we can make arrangements to have the resources you need sent to you.
Now, let me just mention to you that we have heard from many of our listeners over the last week who have gotten in touch with us to get more information about our Valentine’s week Love Like You Mean It cruise that we are going to be taking February 14-18, 2011. Dennis and Barbara, Crawford and Karen Loritts are going to be on the cruise with us; along with Kirk Cameron and Shaunti Feldhahn, Big Daddy Weave, Selah, Point of Grace. It is going to be a great week-long cruise for couples.
Last week and again this week we have been letting FamilyLife Today listeners know that you can sign up for the cruise ; and we have got a limited number of cabins still available, but you can sign up basically for half-price. It is Buy-One-Get-One free. Your stateroom is half-price when you sign up this week.
If you want to take advantage of this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, when you sign up you have to type, my name, “BOB”…in the promo-code box on the online registration form. Get more information when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link to the Love Like You Mean It cruise and then make plans to join us Valentine’s week, February 14-18, 2011 for the FamilyLife – Love Like You Mean It cruise; again more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
And, be sure to join us back tomorrow. Kristen Anderson is going to be here again, and we are going to hear about the hope that followed the despair in her life. I hope you can be here with us for that!
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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