Life in Spite of Me is a riveting account of one young girl's incredible journey from the jaws of death to another chance at life.
Kristen Anderson grew up your typical all-American kid. Her family attended traditional church. She considered herself a good person. As she was soon to find out, being a good person or attending church wasn't enough to help her withstand life's trials. The first strike against her (maybe the first two?) was that her father's family had a history of depression. Her grandmother suffered from it and her father suffered from it. As Kristen entered adolescence it soon became apparent that she, too, would be battling those “black demons” that sit on our shoulders and whisper futile thoughts into our ears. All it took were a few triggers. These triggers came in the form of the death of her grandmother and the death by suicide of a dear friend.
These two losses in her young life were were hard for Kristen to cope with. She couldn't stop brooding over them. Especially the suicide of her friend. Over and over she questioned, “Why did he do it?”
Then, one night at a party, Kristen found herself alone with an older man. Taking advantage of Kristen's youth and their solitude, he raped her. Not date rape. Not statutory rape. He forced himself on her like a thug in a back alley.
Kristen told no one about this. She blamed herself or tried to persuade herself that it was consensual. When this man later called her up and threatened her if she called the police, she shut down completely. Any feeling of self-worth or control over her life vanished. From that time forward Kristen's descent into black depression was complete.
Her family and friends saw things were wrong. They attributed it to defiance, rebelliousness, teenage angst, depression that needed medication. The psychiatrist, listened long enough to label and medicate her. When she glared at him in frustration, he called her a defiant brat who would end up working at McDonald's for the rest of her life.
So one night, on the way home from a party that her parents had forbidden her to go to, Kristen finally succumbed to the overwhelming sense of uselessness, guilt, and oppression. She wanted to release herself from a misery that wouldn't let her go.
In the distance she heard an approaching train. She walked up to the nearby railroad, lay across the tracks and waited.
She lay there listening to all thirty-three freight train cars running over her body at fifty-five miles per hour. Afterward, she was still alive.
When she looked up, she could see her legs lying far away on the other side of the tracks.
I know. Pretty big introduction. But the most exciting part of the book just begins. Kristen then relates to the reader her hard, physical and spiritual trek up a steep mountain. A rough one that she had to, figuratively speaking, rock climb legless.
Bit by bit Kristen starts a new life. One without legs. Still battling depression, still medicated-only now she has to take drugs for physical as well as mental pain.
One day at church, a lady she didn't know or had seen before approached her. “You're lucky you're alive.” She said. “Otherwise you'd be in hell.”
Stunned, Kristen sought her family for reassurance. Oh no. They all quickly rallied. You'd have gone to heaven. You're a good person.
The brief exchange with someone she had never seen before or since was the turning point for Kristen. The more she thought about it the more she wondered. This led to her truly surrendering her life to Jesus Christ and thus embarking on her new spiritual life.
I believe God works everything together for the good of those who love him.(pg136)
The rest of the book is Kristen's journey toward the one who saved her life on the train tracks. Not only did Kristen learn to forgive, she slowly learned to live life without anti-depressants or pain killers. Instead,she learned to live with joy, peace and a life that had meaning through the One who wanted all along to live with her and show her that He had a clear purpose for her life. She had to lose her legs before she started to truly live with, and for, Him.
This book is for those who battle depression, suicidal thoughts and need to know the One who loves them so much that He came to die so they could live.
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