Like everyone else, I was heartbroken to hear about the death of Robin Williams. I remember first falling in love with him when he played Mork on Mork and Mindy. I remember playing with the other kids in 5th grade saying, “Na-Nu Na-Nu.” Hearing of his death was hard enough, but to find out he died by suicide made my heart ache.
For many years I didn’t understand the pain of depression, and then I had an opportunity to write an amazing story of a seventeen-year-old girl.
Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture-perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook: 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 seemingly bottomless depression.
One January night, the seventeen-year-old decided she no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.
Here is a short excerpt from Chapter 1 of Life, In Spite of Me.
Numb. The cold Illinois wind chilled my body.
Numb. My mind, my heart.
At just past 6:00 p.m., the sky was black, and the icy January air hovered over the ground as a thick, misty fog. Snow clung to the dirt in patches, and my heart felt as dead as the wintry world around me. Silently, I trudged through the park and tugged my knit gloves tighter. I wanted only to be happy and for life to be a little easier, but everything seemed to be getting worse.
On one side of me, the park was dark and silent. Once full of life and laughter, my soul was the same. Play equipment, empty and laced with frost, sat motionless. In the other direction, lights from the town attempted to penetrate the fog. The idea of going home caused a heavy weight to sink in my stomach. I didn’t want to face my parents.
Or my life.
Cold seeped through my jeans and coat as I sat down on the hard wooden seat of a nearby swing. Frozen chains creaked softly, and my thoughts took me back to all the times I’d played at this park during happy childhood days—too many to count. Now I was seventeen; those days were long past.
Why does life have to be so painful?
I turned in the swing, twisting the chains above my head tighter and tighter. Then I released. My body unwound in a slow turn. If only the invisible chains wrapped around my heart would free as easily.
A car drove by, and my body tensed. The park closed at dusk. Policemen patrolled the area, and I knew if they found me they’d send me home.
I don’t want to go back… I just can’t do it.
I’d never hung out in this park at night before. I didn’t like being there, but I had no idea where else to go. I just needed time—time to figure out what to do next.
My gaze turned to the two sets of railroad tracks at the edge of the park. The first set of tracks was empty. A cluster of six cars sat on the second set. I knew the cops wouldn’t be able to see me there.
Sluggishly, I made my way over to the line of railroad cars. My eyes zeroed in on the last car. I climbed up the side of it and sat, dangling my legs. I’m not sure how much time passed. Maybe an hour, maybe two. The danger of sitting on the train car put me on edge. After all the years living so near the railroad tracks, I’d never ventured this close.
I blew warm air into my hands, trying to thaw them, but it did little good.
What’s wrong with me?
Everyone else seemed to be able to handle the burdens, the struggles of life, better than I could. All I wanted was to be happy. To have the perfect life I always thought I had when I was a kid. But my arms had grown tired from trying to hold my fantasy world together.
Lately, it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. I wasn’t there for my friends and family when they needed me. I was doing horribly in school, and I’d become a worry to my family. Now I was “grounded until further notice.” I pushed the most recent argument with my parents out of my mind. And then there was the pain that ran even deeper than that. Memories too painful to think about. I pushed them back below the surface, as I had for months. In the past year I’d started smoking, drinking, and partying with my friends on the weekends, futilely trying to escape the pain.
I looked down at the railroad tracks and remembered a time I’d realized the power of a train. A train would kill anyone in an instant. No one could survive that. If I ever wanted to take my life, if ever…that’s the way I’d do it.
That night, Kristen laid down on the tracks, and the train went over. She lost her legs, but amazingly her life was spared. And months after the suicide attempt she found a new life in Jesus Christ.
Today Kristen is a wife and a mom. She loves sharing the story of how her life was spared, but she’s also quick to talk about the pain of depression. Kristen remembers being in such a dark, painful place that she just wanted the pain to end. I don’t think anyone can understand that unless they’ve been there. I’ve never been there personally, but I understand it better after writing Kristen’s story.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with depression—consider getting a copy of Life, In Spite of Me.
Also, here is a prayer for you:
Dear Lord, be with my friend today. I thank you that you have known my friend from the moment you created her in her mother’s womb. I thank you, Lord, that you go before her. I thank you that—even if she cannot feel it—you will never leave her or forsake her. I pray that you will hear the cries of her heart, even when she cannot utter a prayer. I pray you will lift her out of the pit of destruction and set her feet on solid rock. Lord, be her shield and give her courage. Heal the broken places of her heart like only you can.
(Based on the verses Psalms 139, Deut. 31:8, Psalm 34:17, Psalm 40:1-3, Psalm 3:3)
With every book, I choose to write it because a story has captured my heart. With this book it’s amazing to see how lives have been changed. It’s my prayer that God will use Robin’s passing to help others reach out and find the help and hope they need.
Now, I’d love to hear from you:
How has depression impacted your life?
Which of Robin William’s roles did you enjoy the most?