29 Sep Interview with Kristen Anderson
Pretending we’re not hurting isn’t the way to deal with grief. On today’s broadcast, Kristen Anderson talks about looking to God in times of darkness.
About Kristen Anderson
Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook on life. Once a happy child, Kristen’s world darkened after three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a depression that didn’t seem to have an end. Then, on a cold January night at the age of 17, Kristen attempted suicide by laying down on a set of railroad tracks near her parents home. She was run over by 33 freight train cars at 50 mph, and both of her legs were severed, but miraculously, she survived!!
EASLEY: We’re in studio today with Kristen Jane Anderson. You got married since the last time I saw you.
ANDERSON: I did, but we still use Kristen Jane Anderson.
E: That’s quite alright. Just for our folks who don’t know you yet, we met in Chicago in, what year was that? 2000 and?
E: I saw this beautiful young woman come down into the chapel in a wheelchair and I thought, “Interesting,” because we didn’t have a lot of disabled students at Moody. It was not a friendly campus for wheelchairs, was it?
A: Not exactly.
E: I said, “I’ve got to get to know that young woman.” One thing lead to another and you have quite a story. You are seventeen years of age at the time. Pick a story line from when you’re sixteen, seventeen years of age, and you’ve had some trauma in your life.
A: When I was sixteen years old, I went through a lot of difficult things where I lost four of my friends; I lost my grandmother and on top of the friends that I lost, I was being stalked by two of the young men that I knew and I was raped by another. So this sent me spiraling.
E: This happens in what span of time?
A: In about a year and a half’s time.
E: Eighteen months.
A: I had no idea how to handle it. I didn’t know that I could go to God for comfort, wisdom, strength, understanding. I grew up going to church, but I just felt like I had to handle it all on my own. I didn’t realize how personal or real God was,so I just kept it all inside. I put a smile on my face; I pretended like everything was okay; I tried to hope and believe everything would be okay, but it felt to me like things were just getting worse and eventually New Year’s Eve of my senior year came. I agreed to come home when my parents wanted me to, but left the house deciding I actually wasn’t going to come home at all that night.
E: Alright, I’m going to stop you right now. Sixteen year old mindset, death. Were you close to your grandmother?
A: Yes and no, that’s part of what made it difficult is that I didn’t. She had a stroke eight years earlier and she couldn’t communicate so part of it was that I never got to know her.
E: How does a sixteen year old Christian handle grief? Put the rape aside for a second. How did you process this? And you work with young people today. How do teenagers process that kind of grief? Or do they?
A: I personally think that I had no idea of how to process it and I think that most teenagers are very similar where they just want to almost pretend that it didn’t happen, pretend that they’re not hurting, pretend that it’s all just going to go away on its on. They don’t know how to really process through it in a healthy way, how to sit there, and then move on with their lives.
E: When those deaths occurred, were they shocking to you? Was it numbing to you?
A: It was very shocking. With every single one it was a shock. I never dealt with death before so it was just very difficult for me especially with having a pretty easy childhood. It made anything difficult that happened in my teenage years that much harder because I never had to deal with anything. I had no trials in my life as a child so as a teenager, it felt like it was all happening at once. I was becoming aware that there were real wars going on in the world, that sexual abuse was a real issue, that homelessness was an issue. It just all kind of hit me at once. With people dying, that was kind of just the exclamation point! This world really, really, stinks.
E: So it’s New Year’s Eve.
A: I was seventeen at this point.
E: You were seventeen and you’re supposed to come home and you say, “I’m not coming home.”
A: Well, I told them I was coming home, but I decided in my head when I left that I actually wasn’t going to come home that night. I called my parents that night while I was out and told them I wasn’t coming home and hung up before they could respond to me. I made a lot of good decisions that night I felt.
E: Time out. No cellphones in those days? No texting in those days? or were there?
A: I had a pager, but I wasn’t, you know.
E: You weren’t responding.
A: No. I remember that I didn’t smoke then. I didn’t drink. I was driving for my friends who were drinking. I wasn’t doing anything with boys. I felt like I was making a lot of good choices and to be honest with you, the reason that I stayed out that night is because I was really trying to make myself feel better, to just cheer myself up. I wasn’t trying to be rebellious, I was just trying to get by day to day at that point. When I got home the next morning, my parents were beside themselves. They didn’t really know how to handle what I did by staying out all night. They were always very loving, protective, and they wanted to do something to get my attention. They didn’t know everything I’d been through. They didn’t know how deeply my friends deaths had affected me. They didn’t know much. They didn’t even know about the rape, actually.
E: You didn’t tell them about being raped?
A: No, not at that point.
E: You didn’t tell an authority about being raped?
A: No, I didn’t tell anybody. So that obviously ate at me and affected me in bigger ways than I ever expected it would and my parents thought I was just being rebellious. They didn’t know all these things that were happening in my life and how they were affecting me. They gave me a punishment and told me I would be grounded until further notice and that all the things they got me for Christmas, they were going to return and give them to somebody who would appreciate them.
E: Oh. Ouch!
A: For me at that age, it’s very hard because I was very materialistic and I found a lot of my value in the way that I looked and the clothes that I had. My friends were my world. If I was living for anything, I was living for my friends so to be grounded until further notice was really, really devastating for me.
E: Is that true of teens today?
A: I think very many. Very many. I didn’t know where else to turn. At this point in my life, I knew that a lot of the choices I was making weren’t the right ones, but I wasn’t sure what the right way for me to live was. I wasn’t sure what the right answer was. I just had no idea where to turn. After I got that punishment, I slept all day, I slept all night, and then the next morning we got up and went to church because it was a Sunday morning and that’s something we did my whole life. Every Sunday we went to church. I went to Sunday School as a child and as a teenager I was involved in the Youth Group, but I went to church that day and left church that day the same way really; just lost, broken, disillusioned, empty, and as I went home from church that day, my mom took a nap on the couch because she was tired from waiting up the night before. My Dad went to buy a new washer and dryer and I put in some Christmas videos of my nephews, who were very young at the time, opening their Christmas presents. I thought that would cheer me up a little bit and it did. It put a smile on my face, just to watch them giggling, opening their presents.
Then my best friend called and her name is Kelly, and we’ve been friends since we were in second grade and it was our last day of Christmas break before we were supposed to go back to school. So she wanted me to come and make Gingerbread Houses and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be going anywhere because I was grounded until further notice, but Kelly and I didn’t make the best decisions together and I decided I couldn’t get into any worse trouble if I left. So I wrote a note very dishonestly to my parents, said I was going for a walk and I went to Kelly’s house. My friends picked me up down the street because they didn’t want to get in trouble for taking me and dropping me off down the street and again five few hours later, because they didn’t want to get in trouble for taking me. As I walked I just didn’t feel like I could go home. I didn’t feel like I could handle my life or my parents, but more importantly my life. I was just overwhelmed, so I walked to the Pizza Restaurant I’d been working at and got my paycheck, I got a pack of cigarettes and just tried to waste time as best as I could. After about a half an hour I knew that I needed to go home. My parents were always loving, very protective, very involved and I knew they’d be very worried about me again and I didn’t want to worry them anymore than necessary, so I started to walk home and I almost feel like my legs wouldn’t take me there. I just didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t have anything left in me at that moment, so I walked to the park that I grew up playing in.
Do you want me to continue?
A: So when I walked into that park I started swinging on the swings that I grew up playing on and as I started swinging on the swing, I started contrasting these like happy childhood memories that I had as a child, and of how I was feeling now as a teenager. I was very confused by that because I had such a happy peaceful childhood and I was so broken, lost, confused, disillusioned as a teenager and I didn’t know how to go back. I didn’t know how to go forward. No matter what I did I felt like I was going in circles. Nothing was getting better. Things just seemed like they were continuing to get worse and I was becoming more and more discouraged and then I remembered in that small town that I grew up in you’re not supposed to be in the park after dark. It’s about an hour north of Chicago, and just for safety sake they want to keep everybody to be out of the park after dark. The police will patrol the park to make sure nobody’s in there. I knew if they found me they would make me go home, but if you remember the reason I was there was because I didn’t want to go home. So I looked around to see where else I could go, and I saw a train that had been parked on the edge of the park, and I figured for about three weeks, because I’d driven by the park, it hadn’t moved at all so I figured it wasn’t going anywhere. So I walked over to the train and sat on it. I was just looking for a place to gather my thoughts and my emotions before I went back home, but as I was sitting there a thought process entered my mind from about three months beforehand. This was as I was grieving through my friend Brandon’s death; his death was the hardest for me because he’s the friend I lost to suicide and I just didn’t understand how he could ever take his life. Why he would ever take his life. I didn’t understand any of it. As I was grieving through his death, I remember thinking, “I could never do that. I could never take my life, especially the way that he did it.” Then my process started to change and I thought, “Well, I would never do it, but if I ever did it, how would I do it if I would never do it the way that he did it?” A number of things went through my mind; things that I had heard about, read about, or seen on TV, and none of them seemed like they would necessarily work or be good enough until a train went by my parents house. I could feel the power of the trains shake our home. I could hear the whistle blair through the windows and I just thought, “That’s one way I could never live through it.” It sort of snapped in my mind and I never thought about it again until three months later when I was sitting on the train that day. That’s when suicide started to enter my mind as an option, or as an answer. I didn’t really believe it was the answer; I just didn’t know what the right answer was and so I was very back and forth in my mind I remember thinking, “There’s a reason I’m here,” and then I would think, “There’s no reason I’m here.” I would think, “It’s going to get better,” and then I’d think, “It’s not going to get any better.” I’d think, “There’s something I’m supposed to do here,” and then I’d think “There’s nothing I’m supposed to do here.” I would go back and forth like that for probably about an hour and a half.
E: So it’s what? Midnight?
A: No, it was like eight, or eight thirty at night. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t realize that, that was probably a spiritual battle going on in my mind. I just thought that I was really confused about what to do with my life. After an hour and a half of going back and forth like that, a train started to come and I hadn’t made a decision. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to make some sort of decision because it was eight thirty at night; it was the middle of winter; I could see my breath; I had a winter coat on and I had these thin gloves, but my hands were getting really cold. I knew I had to make some sort of decision or go somewhere because it was so cold out and as the train approached, I made the impulsive decision to lay down on the tracks. I didn’t really think through it very much beyond that. It was very, very impulsive, but I remember that as I got off the train I was sitting on, I tried to push down the fear, and the shame, that I felt on the inside because I just knew this wasn’t the right thing for me. I just wasn’t sure what else to do. I pushed down the fear and the shame as best as I could and right before the train got to me, I laid down on the tracks. As I laid down, I remembered I closed my eyes, I clenched my fist, I turned my head in the opposite direction than where the train was coming from and I really just laid there trying to brace myself for what was about to come.
E: Was this surreal? Did time stand still?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely. I felt like it was a dream, a nightmare, some combination. It could not have been really happening. It didn’t feel real for a long time, but as I laid there trying to brace myself for what was about to come, it was only about a split second before the train started to go over me. I felt the train started to go over me, and it started to pull my hair, my head, my shoulders, and midsection up. My whole body started to rise and then very quickly I felt something push me down and hold me into the ground and I remember hearing the train roar above me. I remember hearing and feeling the breeze of the train as all the cars passed above me. The police report says that thirty three freight train cars went over me at fifty five miles per hour. What I believe was happening, when I felt something push me down and hold me into the ground, was that God mercifully,lovingly was protecting my life because I didn’t know that He had plans for me. I didn’t know how big or how real He was, but He was starting to reveal Himself to me in a way that I had never seen Him do before and as I laid on those tracks and as the train came to a stop I just opened my eyes, unclenched my fists, and started looking around because I had no idea what to think. I didn’t know if I was alive or dead; I had no idea of what had just happened; I did feel like this was just a terrible dream, a nightmare. It couldn’t be my reality and so as I looked to see if I was alive or dead, I looked behind me and at about ten feet behind me on my right I saw my legs and I knew that they were my legs because they had these bright white tennis shoes on them that I had just gotten for Christmas. But again, this was just like a terrible nightmare. This could not have been happening. So I gathered myself emotionally as best as I could. I called out from underneath the train using my arms, and as I looked down at my legs, I couldn’t see anything where my left leg was because it was so dark out and it had been severed so high, so I turned my attention to my right leg and it looked like it had been severed below the knee, but I’d never seen my leg like that before. I never honestly, had ever seen an amputated leg before so I took my hand and I ran it below where it looked like it had been severed and when I did that, I unintentionally brought the blood up to my face because I was running my hand upward at the bottom of my leg. When I saw all the blood, is when I felt much more pain than I had before. When the train was going over me, I felt pain but it was sort of a dull in the background sort of pain and now that I knew my legs were gone, and I was still alive it was a much more loud in your face, sort of pain. I don’t know why,but something just clicked.
E: You’re in shock and the brain does crazy things when we’re in shock.
A: Exactly. I was in terrible pain obviously, the worst pain I’d ever been in my life. I started crying harder than I’d ever cried in my life, even the way that a small child would. I was crying for my mom and that’s a difficult part of the story for my mom because she was actually out looking for me. She always just wonders if she didn’t hear me, but even if she could have heard me, I know there’s nothing she could have done to help me in that moment.
E: So how long are you now lying there before help arrives?
A: It was very quickly. The police report says it was eight minutes before the Paramedics got to me, but even before that as I was crying harder than I ever cried in my life, and the worst pain in my life, and crying for my mom, all of a sudden a tremendous peace started to cover me. I started hearing the song Amazing Grace playing over and over in my mind. I just thought that could only be music from heaven. I didn’t really know what to think of it. People have asked me, “Did you hear that song in church that morning? Was it a favorite song of yours?” And it wasn’t, but it was just playing over and over in my mind and I thought that could only be music from heaven. I laid there hoping, waiting, and praying to die. I didn’t know what it took to get to heaven. I just wanted to rest in that peace and hoped that maybe I could go there. Eventually, a firefighter came up to me and pulled my hair off my face and behind my ear and that’s when I realized I was still alive and people had found out about what I just did.
E: So eight minutes, obviously the doctors and the paramedics, you didn’t bleed out, you didn’t die, you lost a lot of blood, then what?
A: Yes. I lost eight pints of blood, actually. I found out once I got to the hospital that you’re supposed to die after you lose five. So they were talking about it as though I was some type of a miracle, and it was hard for me because I didn’t feel like any miracle. I didn’t really want to be a miracle.
A: I remember even the doctor as they wheeled me down to the operating room, wondering if he thought I was going to live or die, hoping he’d give me some type of assurance.
A: He told me he didn’t know. He told me that because he wanted me to go into surgery that night fighting, fighting to die, fighting to live. One way or another, he just thought me going to surgery that night would help. I was in surgery the whole night, and they did a number of blood transfusions, and actually tried to reattach my legs which is something they weren’t successful at doing. But I woke up the next day at about two-thirty in intensive care.
E: So you wake up in intensive care, and you’re probably on Delotta or morphine or something to try to dull the pain. And the first thing that crosses your mind?
A: First thing I saw when I opened my eyes, is I saw my mom, my sister, and my brother, and my brother in law, all in the room with their arms crossed and their heads looking down at the floor. My first thought was, “Wow, something really bad must have just happened.”
A: Because I just didn’t remember the events from the night before right away. My mom’s eyes met with mine and she ran to the side of the bed and she said, “Honey, we’re so glad you’re okay.” All of the memories started to flood back and I said, “Mom, they cut my clothes and they cut my coat.” She said, “That’s okay, we can get you new ones. We’re just glad you’re okay.” I just sort of fell back asleep and rested in that medicated state that I was in. The next thing I remember was just waking up because the doctor came to tell me what my injuries were and I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I wasn’t ready at all. I remember he came in very nice and I think he was just trying to encourage me by telling me that my left leg was severed well above the knee and my right leg was severed directly below the knee, but that I might be able to walk with the use of prosthetic legs one day. I just wasn’t ready. He came in and I didn’t say hi; I didn’t say bye; I stared out the window; I didn’t say thank you. I just stared out the window the whole time because I wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. He left very kindly and the next thing I remember was waking up and just feeling icky because it had been a few days and I hadn’t showered. I’m sure I had blood, sweat, and tears on me. I asked my mom if I could call my friend Kelly to help me get cleaned up a little bit, so she called Kelly for me and when I got on the phone with her she asked me how I was doing. I just didn’t know what to tell her. I knew something pretty big had just happened, but I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew I had to tell her something because she’d been my best friend since we were in second grade. So I looked down at my legs to see if they were still gone and as I laid there in my hospital bed, I had a sheet over my legs, but even with the sheet I could see that my legs weren’t as long as they used to be, that they were ending much shorter than they had before. So what I said to her was, “I’m okay, but my legs are cut off.” So when I said that, tears just streamed down my face, because that’s when it became real to me, that’s when I realized my legs were really probably gone. They probably were not coming back; this probably wasn’t just a nightmare; this wasn’t just a dream; this probably was my real reality. I had no idea what to do with that, but what she said to me was, “It’s okay honey, you’re going to be fine. You don’t need your legs.” Sometimes people have said to me, “That’s so simple; that’s so trite, how could she just say that?” For me, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
E: From a friend like that.
A: I needed to know that my best friend thought I would be fine, with or without my legs. She thought I was going to be just fine. In the coming days, weeks, and months, I was still in the hospital, but a lot of my friends, and all of my family just surrounded me and loved on me like crazy. One of the things they told me over and over again, was “Kristen, God kept you here for a reason. There’s something you’re supposed to do here.”
E: Did that sound trite at first?
A: It did. It felt to me like they would probably say that to anybody, you know? But it was also kind of comforting, because to be honest with you nobody told me that before. Nobody told me there was a plan for my life, that God wanted to do something with me personally in my life. I kind of thought maybe He had a plan for special people, not that He has a special plan for all people, so I just didn’t know how to take that. I remember I heard it so much that I almost got sick of it because I didn’t understand yet what His plan was for my life, or why He would keep me alive, or why He would keep me here, especially without my legs. I eventually got out of the hospital and the first weekend we got out of the hospital, just for the weekend, we went back to church. While we were there a woman came up to me who heard about what happened to me, and who I didn’t know, and she told me that, “If I died I would have went to hell.”
E: That’s helpful, isn’t it?
A: It’s something I would recommend saying to somebody. (Michael laughs). But in spite of that (unfinished thought).
E: In Spite of that God uses strange things, doesn’t he?
A: God still used that. It sent me searching in a way that I hadn’t really started searching yet because everybody else around me told me, “It was a miracle that I survived,” and when I asked people if “They thought I would have went to heaven or hell if I died,” they would always say, “Oh, Kristen, you would have went to heaven. Don’t worry about it,” especially my mom. When she said that to me, I realized I didn’t want to just know the feel good answer. I didn’t want to just know what my mom wanted to believe or what anyone else wanted to believe. I wanted to know if I would have been in heaven or hell right then. Everybody said it was a miracle that I survived, so I wanted to know where I would have been, in heaven or in hell. So I started praying about it and not long (unfinished thought).
E: This is one week out of the hospital?
A: This is the first weekend we were out of the hospital. We had to go back.
E: How long were you in the hospital?
A: Initially for three months.
E: Three months, okay.
A: Then I went back several times for surgeries.
A: Very shortly after, I started praying about whether I would go to heaven or hell, a couple came to have dinner with our family,just about a month later and they were friends with my sisters. They were just coming to encourage us after everything we’ve been through and I found out after dinner that the husband of the couple was in seminary to be a pastor so I figured that he knew the Bible more than anyone else that I knew. I asked him after dinner if he thought I would have gone to heaven or hell and very lovingly and very sensitively, he just told me that every single one of us are created to be in a personal and intimate relationship with God and because of our sin we are separated from Him both relationally and eternally, but that’s why Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can be put back into a right relationship with God so that we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. But we have to choose to accept Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and choose to let Him lead our lives. When he told me that I felt like I knew what he was telling me was something more true than I’d ever heard in my life before.
A: But I didn’t want to just take his word for it, so I asked him to show me it in the Bible. He showed me a lot of different verses, but the verse that stood out to me the most was John 14:6, and that’s where Jesus said, “I’m the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through me.” I just felt like Jesus could not have been more clear. He said, that He was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I knew that night especially after trying to take my own life that I had to be forgiven for this. I suspected that this real relationship with God was what was missing in my life. It felt like something very special and important, so I suspected maybe it was having a real relationship with God. I knew I hadn’t made any choice or decision to accept Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. I knew that my eternity in heaven wasn’t secure until that moment, so sitting on the floor of my parents dining room, I just prayed the most simple little prayer. It was after everybody left. I was all by myself. I just asked God to forgive me for everything I’d ever done wrong, even the sin of trying to take my own life. I realized that night that my life wasn’t mine to take, that God alone gives and takes life. I asked Him to forgive me for that, for everything I’d ever done wrong and I asked Him just to give me a new life, to help me know Him and to follow Him. I remember as I went to sleep that night, I felt just a little bit different. I felt some weight had been lifted off of my shoulder and I didn’t need to worry about my life so much anymore. Sometimes I wish I could tell people that everything changed from that day forward, and in a way it did, but it was a process. I was on a journey just like most of us and I still struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression for about three years after.
E: Did you get help during those three years?
A: Yes. I was in counseling. I actually think my struggle with depression after my suicide attempt was much harder than before. I was in and out of Psych Wards, usually on the anniversary of my suicide attempt because I would just kind of take inventory of my life. I would be like, “I’m not this, I’m not that; I’m not done with college; I’m not working full time; I’m not walking on my prosthetics,” whatever it was, and I would end up back in the Psych Ward because I was struggling so much with suicidal thoughts on the anniversary. I was also in and out of school, and in and out of jobs, but I had an amazing Christian Counselor that I wasn’t even seeking. She just happened to be a Christian Counselor and didn’t even advertise that, but an amazing thing happened through her because when she found out I had given my life to the Lord and I had accepted Jesus, she helped me realize that even though I didn’t have my legs I was a whole person, with or without my legs, as long as I had Jesus I had everything that I needed. She also helped me realize that even though I accepted Jesus I needed to forgive myself. In many ways I was punishing myself for the way that I had forever changed my life by losing my legs and she had me memorize Romans 8:1, which is where it says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. I remember the more I repeated that verse to myself, Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus over and over again, the more it started to sink into my heart, and into my mind, and the more I realized that if God can forgive me there was no reason for me not to forgive myself, and that by me not forgiving myself, I was really just hurting myself and punishing myself and the more that I started to let myself forgive myself, the more I started to find freedom. At that time I started going back to church, because when I had first became a Christian, I was still going through all my surgeries so we weren’t really in church, so I realized how important it was for me to be in church finally. When I started going to a new church, I started reading my Bible more regularly and I realized that something I didn’t realize the first few years I was a Christian, is that there is a spiritual battle; that satan wants to destroy my life and that probably had a lot to do with my depression, so I realized that I needed to fight him. I started volunteering at church and I really just took off spiritually. I had like-minded friends who were following the Lord, who loved Him and wanted to know Him and really, really did know Him.
E: During those three years of being in and out of treatment, was there the turning point that was big for you?
A: Yes, I was just talking to somebody about this. So this is what happened: I write a little bit about this in the book. I was in the Psych Ward for the last time and I was hung over. It was right around New Years because that’s when my suicide attempt had been and they diagnosed me as bipolar that morning when I was hungover. I remember thinking nobody ever told me that before. I never felt like I was bipolar before. I had actually been studying psychology and it just didn’t line up with what I knew about myself. I found it concerning, a little bit devastating because somebody who didn’t even know me told me that. He saw me for like five minutes and I remember just kind of looking around because at this point, I wasn’t in the Adolescent Psych Unit anymore, I was with the adults. If I didn’t do something differently I was going to end up like some of the adults, in the Psych Unit who were heavily medicated, drooling, just walking around basically empty inside because they were so medicated. I was like, “I don’t want to be one of those people. I need to do something differently.” After I got out of the Psych Ward, I was in Outpatient Therapy. Every single day I had to go from eight to three. One of the things we did when we were in Outpatient Therapy, we had to draw our road to recovery and it was like Art Therapy. I hadn’t done anything like that. I kind of laughed at the idea of doing it, but I smile at it because I found that little piece of art that I drew recently, and I wrote on there that I needed to go back to church, that I needed to start reading my Bible, that I needed to have Christian friends. These were all things that I knew I obviously needed to do, but I wasn’t intentional at doing them until I realized those things were a really important part of my recovery in coming out of depression. While I was still in Outpatient Therapy, I started going to this church; I started making Christian friends; I started reading my Bible; and I started understanding it. It was just a really special time in my life because the more that I walked toward God and just trusted Him at His Word, the more I felt like I was walking straight out of my depression.
E: Is there a part of it where it becomes a little less about you and a little bit about others?
A: Yes, that was in there. I started to volunteer very shortly after I started going to that church with the high schoolers and I remember they asked me to do that and I thought I was the least qualified person after what I had done, but they were like, “No, you’re perfect.”
E: You can fog a mirror, you’re perfect, right? (Laughter).
A: So, and I think I just realized the more that I opened up my life to others and the more they could learn mistakes, and God was bigger. He had bigger plans than I had and the more that I focused on Him, and on others, the less I had to worry about my problems. I did still stay in counseling for about a year. I waited till she told me I didn’t need to come back anymore.
E: Fastforward. You have a ministry, Reaching You Ministry. You go all over the country. You speak to all ages, all kinds of groups. Give us a demographic of the person that comes out to hear your story, Life in Spite of Me, your book, as well as this beautiful young woman, who tried to take her life, and survived it and has a candid journey of depression and setbacks and so on. Now God uses you in ways, who would have thought?
A: Definitely, not me. Even the people that come, I’m amazed at how many people read the book or hear my story who feel like they’re reading their story. I never, ever, expected that. I didn’t expect it could touch so many different lives. I would guess that it touches more women than men, or young women than older women because of my insights on Facebook, but I get emails from people of all ages. Suicide is actually a big problem with senior citizens and sometimes I get emails from them, or I have good conversations with them, and men in their forties as well. Young people, teenagers are probably my initial target audience. It’s just touched a lot more people than I ever expected. It’s actually in eight languages now.
E: Eight languages! Wow! And you’re working on another one? Yet to be titled. You can’t tell us the title yet. (Laughter). It’s a secret. Kristen, how does somebody get a hold of you?
A: If they want to find out more, they can go to Reaching You or they can go to the Contact Us page and they can send an email right through there.
E: There’s a young person listening today. They picked up the podcast; they’ve found it on itunes; they’ve found it on soundcloud; they’ve heard your story and they’re depressed; they’re discouraged; maybe they’ve been raped; maybe they been betrayed; maybe they found out they’re pregnant; maybe fill in the blank, what do you tell them?
A: The most important things that I want to tell you is just that God has a plan for your life. He doesn’t just have a plan for special people, He has a plan for you, just like He did for me and there’s a purpose for your life. There’s so much that you can do here and the pain that you’re feeling right now, the confusion you’re feeling is not going to last forever. There is always going to be hope for every single one of us and that hope comes through Christ. So I just seriously want to encourage you to seek Him with everything in you. If you’ve never given Him a chance before, or even if you’ve given Him fifty chances before, give Him another chance and go deeper with Him than you’ve ever gone before. The pain of this life isn’t going to last forever. There is so much that God has in store for you so I just encourage you to hold on. Don’t let suicide be an option or an answer because it never will be. It will always take more from you than it can ever bring you.
E: When you said that, you’re wringing your hands, you’re brow was kind of furrowed. You’re still talking to yourself a little, aren’t you?
A: Yes, I’m still thinking about what I need to hear, what I needed to know. I’m also thinking about what God was trying to tell me that I wasn’t hearing at the time.
E: Thanks for being on inContext.
A: Of course. Thank you so much Dr. Easley.