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.
I was at a publisher’s brunch when I sat down next to a woman named Margaret McSweeney. We were introducing ourselves, and I was telling her about my writing. She turned to me, eyes wide.
“I think you’re supposed to write a book about a young woman named Kristen Anderson.”
The first time I'd talked to Kristen on the phone, I knew I had to write her story. Kristen was a beautiful young woman who, because of a series of events, entered the spiral of depression. Then one January night she tried to end it all by laying down in front of a train. She lost her legs, but amazingly she survived.
I'd seen Kristen on Oprah (http://fb.me/HfU6wxeE), and I was amazed, too. There were numerous times in the interviewing process that I thought, “This is a miracle.” My favorite part of Kristen's story is how she found Jesus afterward, and her whole life was transformed.
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. “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. “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.
Because of that, I've been more diligent to ask. If I sense something's wrong, I don't ignore it. Even when I think everything's fine, I check up with my kids just to be sure.
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 the time, but not about her daughter. “Kristen was the one everyone turned to for help.”
Like me, Jan wishes she would have asked more questions and had taken time to listen. 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 you pre-teen and teens about sadness, depression, and suicide. Also consider picking up a copy of Life, In Spite of Me. Your teen might need to hear this story of hope even more than you think.
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
Always talking or thinking about death
Clinical depression -- deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating -- that gets worse
Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
Losing interest in things one used to care about
Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
Talking about suicide or killing one's self
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye #
Need someone to talk to? Kristen Anderson's ministry has counselors you can talk to: http://www.reachingyouministries.com/
Tricia Goyer, TriciaGoyer.com
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