Kristen Anderson is writer of “Life in Spite of me” and founder of Reaching you Ministries. Her story has touched millions, she is a sought after speaker against depression and suicide. Here is her story:
She grew up with a very ideal childhood. Her parents stayed married, they were very loving, they grew up in church and life was care-free. In Junior high she started to become aware and burdened by the suffering in the world. She wanted to do something to make a difference.
Every Friday she started volunteering at the local homeless shelter. After a while, it became discouraging. She felt like she was not making any difference so she stopped with that effort. She then focused her energy on making those around her happy. Her friends all knew she was reliable, her boyfriend was the prom king and things were looking happy and care free again as they did when she was a child.
Then, her world started falling apart. she lost four friends—one had a brain tumor, two died in a car accident, and one hanged himself in a cemetery. Later, her grandmother died. She was stalked by two men and one of them raped her.
Although she didn’t realize it at the time she feel into a deep depression.
One cold January night at age 17 she was grounded in her room. Telling her parents she was going for a walk she made a few stops then found herself sitting on a parked train car thinking about her life. She kept thinking about her friend Brandon who had recently committed suicide. His death really shook her and she couldn’t imagine how or why he chose to do it that way. She then began to think how she would commit suicide. It was really just a hypothetical thought. How would it make people feel? How would she do it? She had this same thought process about 3 months earlier. She wondered if there was a reason she was here.
She didn’t want to go home because she knew she was in even more trouble at that point for being gone so long. She just didn’t want to deal with any of it! Then she saw a train coming. She knew she needed to decide something. On IMPULSE, she laid over the tracks.
“The police report says that 33 freight train cars went over me at 55 miles per hour. I remember at first feeling myself being sucked into the force of the train which is what I’m told should have happened but a few seconds after the initial pull I then felt a heavy push holding me down to the ground which I believe now to be the hand of God that saved my life.
When the train first stopped I didn’t know if I was dead or alive. I looked behind me on my right about ten feet away, I saw my legs. And I knew they were my legs because I had these new bright, white tennis shoes on them that I had just gotten for Christmas, and it just seemed unreal to me. It seemed like it was a horrible nightmare.”
She started to cry like she had never cried before. The only way she could describe it is like a child weeps for their mom. And then felt an amazing peace come over her.
“The song Amazing Grace kept playing in my head over and over. God was showing me how he is so REAL, so FAITHFUL, and so BIG. I was so at peace. I laid down ready to die. But God had other plans.”
Next thing she knew a firefighter was brushing the hair away from her face. She looked up at him which he didn’t expect. He thought she was dead. She was rushed to the hospital which is normally a 45 minute drive took 8 minutes. Every doctor and nurse stared at her like they were seeing a miracle. She had lost 8 pints of blood. Medically speaking you should be dead at 5 pints lost, yet she was completely conscious answering questions about phone numbers, names and addresses. After hours of surgery and an unsuccessful attempt to reattach her legs she woke up. Her family was all around her holding hands praying. She woke up thinking, something must be wrong! Am I dead? Her mom then rushed to her side and she realized she was alive and this was not all a bad dream.
Talking on the phone with a friend at the hospital she said, “I’m okay but my legs are cut off” Saying it for the first time was so hard. It made it real. Her family and friends kept telling her she doesn’t need her legs and she is supposed to be here. She later found out they were right.
After 3 months in the hospital a woman came up to her at church, who she didn’t know, who had heard about what happened to her. The lady told her that if she would have died that night she would have gone to hell.
This sent her searching for for the truth. She had grown up in the church, but God always seemed far-off. The concept of a “personal relationship with Jesus” and a loving God was totally foreign.
A family friend came over to dinner one night who was in seminary. She thought, “he knows the Bible and maybe he would know the truth of what would have happened to me had I died that night”. He told her we are all created to be in a relationship with God it is our choices of sin that separate us from him. He showed her John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
“In my parents dining room that night I prayed. I told God that i knew something was missing from my life. I know my sin had separated us and I didn’t want that any longer. I apologized, telling him I now realized my life wasn’t mine to take. That he is the giver and taker of life. That night i went to bed knowing that I was a child of God.”
One of the first verses she remembers reading after becoming a Christian is Romans 8:1 “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ” Reminding her that she is a whole person with or without her legs.
The more she sought after Christ the more she came out of depression.
“I learned that I really needed to let him be my best friend. To turn to him when I was hurting instead of turning to others. He cared about all the struggles in my life, large and small. The closer I got to Him the more in love I became with my Savior.”
She was able to get off all the anti-depressant medicines which she was told she would have to take the rest of her life.
At this point she was helping out with our church youth group. The youth pastor asked her to share her story for the first time.
“I was very nervous sharing such vulnerable things but I was overwhelmed at the people who came up to me afterwards saying they had struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression and my story encouraged them. That was the beginning of the ministry God was starting through my life.”
In 2004 she started Reaching you Ministries to help people dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. As she realized she couldn’t possibly go to all the places she was requested to speak, she wrote her story in a book. “Life in Spite of me” was published in May 2010.
Having the privilege of speaking to Kristen over the phone I can tell you she is truly in love with Jesus and is such an encouragement to everyone she meets. I love how she wanted to make a difference in the world while she was young trying to volunteer at the homeless shelter and now she is making a HUGE impact on the world sharing her story. God works in amazing ways! The book has so many more details about her amazing story that would not fit on a simple blog post.