I Survived My Suicide - Part 3
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.
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Life in Spite of Me
Day 3 of 3
Guest: Kristen Jane Anderson
From the Series: And Then God...
Bob: 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.
Kristen: If you’re struggling with pain in your life or with suicidal thoughts or with depression, I want you to know that there’s a reason you are here, that God created you for a purpose. No matter what you’re going through, it’s temporary. You’re not alone.
He has tremendous plans for us, every single one of us. Nobody is an accident including you. There is a reason you’re here. So, I just want to encourage you to hold on, to seek God with all of your heart, and I know that you will find Him. He will bring you out of the depths of despair like he has me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. Kristen Anderson joins us today to give a reason for the hope that is within her.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We’ve been hearing a remarkable story of God’s redeeming work in the heart and the life of a young woman this week. A young woman who attempted suicide by laying across railroad tracks, and miraculously, God spared her life.
But, I’m just thinking, here we are at a point in the unfolding of this story where all of a sudden, life has meaning and purpose, joy and hope. There’s just this one bummer, and that is, “I don’t have legs anymore.” I don’t mean to sound crass or trivial about it but…
Dennis: It’s the result of what took place.
Bob: Here is hope re-dawning but, I’m in a wheelchair with no legs. Life is going to be very different from here on out because of a decision I made—an impulsive decision—trying to end my own life.
Dennis: Well, that young lady joins us again on FamilyLife Today; she’s the author of the book, Life in Spite Of Me. Kristen Jane Anderson joins us again on FamilyLife Today, Kristen welcome back. I just have to tell you, I really appreciate your willingness to go back and revisit some very painful moments both emotionally and physically as you shared about that attempt at suicide.
Kristen: Thank you; I really appreciate you having me on.
Dennis: I wanted to ask you, just as you have processed the loss of your legs like Bob is talking about here, people who lose a limb experience what’s called “phantom pain”?
Dennis: Or they have the feeling, the phantom is as though their legs are still there?
Dennis: Do you experience that?
Kristen: Yes. I always feel like my legs are still there. It’s really interesting. It’s not like they feel normal or anything. But it feels like they’re still there. It’s very interesting.
Bob: Are there times you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and without stopping to think about it, think “I’ll just swing my legs out and get up out of bed”?
Kristen: Not as often as I used to. In the beginning I used to always be really surprised by my wheelchair next to my bed. But now I’m pretty used to it. Every once in a while I’ll think, “I want to go for a run.” Or something like that, that I can’t do any more.
Bob: The thing that I keep thinking about here is, at a point when your life experienced a radical transformation, you trusted Christ, you began to understand what it means to follow Him and to give your life to Him, and you’re a new creation in Christ. The thing is, the old you had legs, the new you doesn’t.
Bob: How do you process that?
Kristen: The thing that helped me the most was learning that I was whole in Christ, whether or not I had legs isn’t what made me whole. He was more than enough for all of me, I didn’t need anything more. The more that I trusted Him, and I put my faith in Him, the more I just felt whole. I realized I was going to fine without my legs. I was going to be fine as long as I had Him. I didn’t need them as much as I needed Him.
Dennis: You said before we came into the studio, that you’ve been working with—is it a physician who creates prosthetics?
Kristen: Yes, he’s called a prosthetist.
Dennis: You’ve been working with him for four years?
Kristen: Longer actually.
Dennis: Actually longer than that? Yet, it’s interesting to see your demeanor. You have some opinions about why they have not been able to fit you with legs at this point.
Kristen: Yes. I’m a difficult case to fit. But I think that everything happens for a reason, and I think there’s a reason I’m not walking now. As I’ve tried to think through that, pray through that and see what the reasons might be, I feel like, it’s just not God’s time yet. I think that He has used my story and me in a way that he had planned to use it with me in my wheelchair.
It has also taught me a tremendous amount of patience, and it has made me a lot more humble for me to be in my wheelchair.
Dennis: I’m listening to you say that, and I’m flashing back to the story of January 2nd, 2000, when you were draped across the railroad tracks and described something supernaturally, almost pushing you down as the train ran over you. Even though your legs were severed, you lost them. The condition of the young lady who had laid down on that track was without hope.
Dennis: … had no purpose.
Dennis: The woman today who has no legs has a mission. She’s on a mission. You’re smiling. There are a lot of people who would say “I don’t get that. How can you smile about that? Do you really believe that God has a purpose? Even in a self-described act of selfishness in trying to take your own life?”
Kristen: Only God can give me this kind of joy. Only knowing Him and having a relationship with Him. Nothing compares to knowing Him. I am on a mission now. You’re right. Because I want people to know that no matter what pain they’re going through, no matter what they’re feeling, no matter what they have in their past, or they’re doing now, God can help them.
He can heal that pain, he can bring them out of their situations and their disappointments and he can make them whole again. He can give them a purpose. He has a purpose for them. When He made them, when He created them he had a plan for their lives.
Bob: But, here’s my question for you. The joy that you’re talking about, the hope the purpose, do you have that because you know you’re supposed to, because you’re a Christian—do you know what I’m saying? It’s like…
Dennis: And she goes to Moody Bible Institute…
Bob: I mean, I go to church and they’ve been telling me, “You find your joy and your hope in Christ so I guess I need to, and I’m on a mission so I need to tell people that I have hope and joy…”
Dennis: I wish people could see her face right now.
Bob: “…because that’s my job now.”
Kristen: No, that’s not me at all. I will tell you what I think no matter what. That’s just actually how I feel. I tried to find joy in every other area of my life, and nothing else brought me joy. Seeing myself through His eyes, and seeing the world through His eyes and accepting Him into my life, and having Him at the center of things just make everything work a lot differently; it changes everything for me.
So, I’m excited because I know Him. I’m happy because I know that I’m exactly where I need to be. I have joy because He has forgiven me, because He gave me a second chance over and over and over again.
Bob: So you’ve got more joy with no legs than you ever had when you had your legs.
Kristen: Undoubtedly. I wouldn’t trade what’s happened to me, what I’ve learned to have them back.
Dennis: As you talk to young people around the country, are you seeing a need for them to find the same spiritual legs that you have found.
Kristen: Yes. Every time I share my story with young people or older people. They all come up to me—almost every single one of them—and tell me that they struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression at one time, they are now struggling or they know somebody who has. So, they want to know how to help them or they want to know how they can be helped.
Suicide and depression is an epidemic in our culture. Eight out of ten people think about suicide and one out of ten try. It’s the third cause of death of those between the ages of 15 and 24. I just want to make any difference that I can in the lives of those people, and those statistics. I know that they don’t have to choose suicide as the answer, it’s not an answer. It’s not a choice to even consider. I want people to realize that there is another way, there is a much better way, it is the only way and that is through Jesus Christ.
Bob: One of the ways in which you’ve seen God demonstrate what He’s doing in your life happened when you were baptized right?
Kristen: Yes. When I was baptized, I shared my story for the first time, and it really helped me realize His faithfulness through all of it. He did all of these little things to bring me into a relationship with Him.
Dennis: I want to just stop you for a second. I want to put a timeline on this. Your accident happened January 2, 2000. You began a relationship with Christ in March, right? How long before you were baptized?
Kristen: It was three years later.
Dennis: So you’d had some time to truly think about this decision you’d made, before you told your story publicly.
Kristen: Right. I didn’t even know that people were encouraged to get baptized after they accepted Christ until I started going to a church where I learned that. So, everything—you couldn’t have really seen the fruit in my life until I really started growing spiritually once I got to that church. But when I shared my story, at my baptism that day, I cried like crazy.
At the end of it, they gave an invitation for people who had not accepted Christ yet, who wanted a relationship with Him, who wanted a new life with Him, and wanted to know they would go to Heaven. My mom raised her hand that day at my baptism. That was just the beginning of God bringing every single one of us in my family to Him. It was an incredible time.
Bob: Did you know that? Did you see her out in the congregation raising her hand?
Kristen: I saw her. I was actually two people down from her at that time. It was at the end of the service.
Bob: What did you think?
Kristen: I just remember thinking, “Thank you God, thank you God” just giving Him praise. I saw Him doing amazing things in my family. I knew that the closer we all were with Him, the better our family life would be, and the more healthy we would be. I just knew the difference it would make in our hearts and in our lives. I wanted her to forgive herself.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Kristen: She blamed herself for what I did and I knew it wasn’t her fault. I knew it wasn’t my dad’s fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. I took full responsibility for it and I knew that if she could feel Christ’s forgiveness, she could begin to forgive herself.
Bob: Was she the first person in your family to come to faith?
Bob: Who was next?
Kristen: Then it was my dad, then it was my brother.
Dennis: Before you go on to that. Your dad had a special nickname for you.
Kristen: Yeah—How do you know this?
Bob: We do our research on stuff like this.
Dennis: What was that nickname?
Kristen: He called me “Speedy Two-Shoes.”
Dennis: Why did he say that?
Kristen: Because I would run around the house and up and down the stairs and everything, like crazy.
Dennis: But he came to faith in Christ, too?
Dennis: Was that dramatic for him to place his faith in Christ?
Kristen: It has been incredible. He is one of the largest encouragements in my life now. He loves Christian radio, he listens to radio all the time, he reads his Bible all the time, he’s always speaking…
Bob: Can we say hi to him right now? We just want to say hi to your dad if he’s listening to the radio.
Kristen: He’s just an incredible blessing. I cannot believe—he always says that he praises God for what He’s done in my life. He’s just so grateful for the way He turned my life around, for the way Jesus turned my life around and for the ways he is using me now.
Bob: What was the turning point for him?
Kristen: In Christian radio actually. He listened to Moody radio a lot and that was the biggest thing for him. He started reading his Bible. When I started going to church, I brought my mom with me, and she brought my dad with her. That’s when it all happened. Then, he brought my brother to a men’s conference and that’s when my brother became a Christian.
Dennis: I’m just thinking, Bob. You think back to the trauma of what Kristen has been through, the lack of hope that you had as a young person. If somehow we could have come to you and told you what was going to occur, would you have believed it as a 15, 16, 17 year old young lady? Would you have believed your family would be transformed by Jesus Christ?
Kristen: No. I wouldn’t have believed it.
Dennis: How are they more of a family today than they were back then?
Kristen: We’re more of a family because we talk about things now. We talk about real life. We talk about what’s hurting us, what helps us, what God is doing in our hearts and in our lives. We pray together and we support each other and we encourage each other. We did some of that before, but it was a lot more surface level, there were a lot more walls. Now we are just completely real with each other, and we have Jesus at the center. He just makes it all work in a completely different way.
Dennis: And it works perfectly. There is never any conflict or any disappointment or…
Kristen: No. It doesn’t work—nothing is perfect. But, it is completely different. It is a lot easier now. We know from scripture a much better way to handle problems and we know that God is with us. We know He’s going to carry us through whatever we face. We know that he commands us to forgive one another, so we do that. We mean it, and we love each other more.
Bob: You shared your story publically for the first time at your baptism. But then people started saying, would you come share your story with this group or with that group. Did that take you by surprise? Were you a little uncomfortable with that at first?
Kristen: It was very surprising for me. I wasn’t expecting that at all. But, because they heard me share my story at my baptism, they knew my story and they knew that it might help some young people. That’s why I decided to share it for the first time after my baptism. It was at a high school youth group in my church. I really just did it because I wanted them to learn from my mistakes, and didn’t want them to have to have anything like that happen to them before they had a real growing relationship with Christ. I just wanted to help them in any way that I could help them grow.
So, I shared my story and after I shared my story, almost all of them came up to me and told me that they were struggling. They were reaching out for help because they didn’t know how they could face another day or another year. They were all in different situations. I wanted to help them all, but I couldn’t do that. But, I began helping as many kids as I could. I began speaking at other churches and youth events where I was invited to speak.
Bob: You began helping them how? What were you doing?
Kristen: I was just talking with them, I was just being there for them. I was just loving them. They just needed somebody who understood and who could give them, godly advice. So I tried to do that as best as I could as I was growing spiritually.
Bob: We don’t realize how huge that is in the life of a teenager, for somebody to come along and say, “I’ll listen, I’ll talk. Just share whatever you want to share.”
Dennis: Yes, but what really gave you the credibility, is that you were willing to be authentic. I mean, you are a living testimony, a living illustration…
Kristen: I didn’t pretend like my life was perfect, or like it ever was. I told them exactly what it was, and what it is now.
Dennis: If I was a parent, listening to you right now, I think I might be a little afraid. No, seriously, for young people today growing up in this culture, why do you think young people today seem to be more susceptible to what you’re calling “hopelessness and suicide, and despair”?
Kristen: I think they’re more impressionable. I think they think more about what other people think about them. They are not content with who they are. They have all the pressures of media to look this way, or get this car or whatever it is. They don’t think they are ever good enough. They don’t think they’ll ever amount to anything. They think that they aren’t beautiful, they think that they’re not special, they don’t know that God made them, created them for a purpose or for a reason.
I think that, I would be scared as a parent for those reasons too. I think that the best thing that parents can do, though is to be authentic with their kids just like they want their youth leaders to. They need to be the first encouragement in their lives after Christ. Not the youth pastor, not the youth leaders, they need to be involved, they need to ask the questions, they need to have the real vulnerable talks, and they need to be open to whatever they are saying, whatever they’re going through, and whatever their friends are going through. They need to keep the lines of communication open, I guess, because that was one of the problems for me. I didn’t feel like my mom would understand. I thought she would think badly of me, or of my friends.
Bob: You started, not only speaking at youth group or some places around town, but now you are getting invitations to travel and speak. And you spoke at the chapel at Moody Bible Institute. You spoke in Christian colleges, I mean it started to just snowball for you.
Kristen: Yes, I was getting more requests to share my story specifically, than I could even go. I couldn’t go all the places I was being invited.
Bob: Then at one point, you got a call to come share your story in an unusual setting.
Kristen: Yes, I got a call to share my story on Oprah, and that was in 2006.
Dennis: There was only one condition that you gave the producers of Oprah, it was the condition that you would appear on the program.
Kristen: I told them that I would be on the show if they would let me share Jesus and my faith, because, that was the biggest part of my story. That was my story, I couldn’t change it.
Dennis: You didn’t have anything to say if you couldn’t talk about Him.
Dennis: I want to go to a bigger issue of your future. I have a feeling there is a listener or two wondering, “I wonder what her dreams are for her life.” Tell us what you’d like to do, and be long haul. You want to be a wife? A mom? Huh?
Kristen: I think that God created me to be a wife and a mother more than anything else. But I also think that He made me to help bring other people into a closer relationship with Him. So, that is my main focus, my main drive right now before I get married and have children.
Dennis: But if you meet the right guy, you are beaming right now. If you meet the right guy, you’re going to go to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. You’re going to go through the pre-married section.
Dennis: You already had some coaching on this. And she’s grinning. We’ll stop right there, Bob.
Bob: I think that’s wise of you to do.
Dennis: I think it is.
Dennis: Well, I just want you to know, I really admire you and your courage. I think it could have been very easy for a young lady in a hospital bed, waking on January 3, 2000, to have just, given up, and maybe gone ahead and died. But somehow God pursued you and gave you a flicker of hope. You didn’t give into hopelessness but took something that was really a wrong choice, a bad choice at the time, and you turned to Him.
I’m just thrilled to hear your story of redemption, Kristen, and, to hear of God’s work in your life. I hope you’ll not only share Jesus Christ with the hundreds of thousands of folks who’ll be listening to FamilyLife Today, but also millions through your book, and other speaking engagements that God gives you. Thanks for being on our broadcast.
Kristen: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to meet both of you.
Bob: I have to tell you, I think there are a lot of people who have heard you share your story this week who are thinking, “Boy, I’d love to read her story. But more than that, I know someone who could really benefit from reading Kristen’s story.” The book you’ve written is called Life in Spite of Me, we’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
Let me encourage you to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to order a copy of Kristen’s book. We also have other resources on depression and on suicide. You can find those when you go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com or if you need help, if you’re looking for something specific, call 1-800-FL-TODAY and talk to someone on our team about what resources we might have available, either online or something we can send out to you.
Again, the toll free number 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. Or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, I need to remind listeners, today is the last day that you can sign up for our FamilyLife Love Like You Mean It Cruise, that is going to be sailing from south Florida on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2011. Dennis and Barbara Rainey are going to be on board the ship, along with Crawford and Karen Loritts, Kirk Cameron, Shaunti Feldhahn, Mary Ann and I are going to be there as well. Music from Point of Grace and Selah, and Big Daddy Weave. It’s going to be a great week for couples and we hope you can come along.
I say today’s the last day to sign up, actually you can sign up after today, but two things are happening. First of all, the ship is starting to fill up, and secondly, today is the last day for the buy-one-get-one-free half price offer that we’re making to FamilyLife Today listeners.
If you sign up today, and you type my name, type “BOB” where you see the promo code box on the online form, you will save 50 percent on your stateroom costs. So, again get more information by going online at FamilyLifeToday.com, click the link to the Love Like You Mean It cruise, and get signed up today. Then we’ll see you Valentine’s Day as we set sail from south Florida.
And with that we’ve got to wrap things up for today. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday. Paul Miller is going to be here to help us unravel the mystery of prayer, and talk about what we can do to have a richer, deeper, prayer life. We’ll talk about that Monday, I hope you can be with us.
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 Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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