Life, In Spite Of Me: Extraordinary Hope After A Fatal Choice, by Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer
[Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. This did not affect my review in any way.]
With Life, In Spite of Me, Kristen Anderson has shown herself to be an honest and sympathetic writer about the struggle of teen depression , full of hope and with a powerful story that will be greatly relatable to many readers. Her story is organized in a very effective way: beginning with her abortive suicide attempt at the age of 17, then detailing what led to her suicide attempt, and then looking at her long spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental recovery, to the point where she was no longer dependent on others but was able to help others overcome their own struggles with depression. Her final chapters including how she developed her own ministry in dealing with this problem, are richly rewarding and demonstrate how disaster and evil can be turned into godly service to others.
As a fellow author who has struggled deeply against depression and even suicidal feelings, and who has devoted a great deal of my own life to helping and serving others and sharing my own faith in God and in Jesus Christ, I was very keen to look at parallels between my own life and that of the author. As I have read quite a few books that deal with the same general topics of people struggling from the aftermath of abuse , I have noticed some alarming and troubling patterns. For one, there appears to be a very close connection between the sort of people who are driven to write memoirs and autobiographies to share their life stories with others and a stuggle against depression resulting in large part from rape and child abuse.
The author herself, who has a ministry called Reaching You (which can be found at http://www.reachingyouministries.org), has precisely the sort of personality makeup that one would expect to be an effective counselor as well as someone who struggles with depression. She has a family history of depression (as do I). She is a sensitive soul with a deep desire to make the world a better place who from childhood deeply suffered from the evil and darkness that she saw around her (the same is true for me). Traumatic experiences (in her case, the death of a close friend followed closely by acquaintance rape, and then her suicide attempt) led to fierce nightmares from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the attempt to kill her emotions through drinking. Later on the attempts of doctors to medicate away her emotions left her feeling emotionally numb and hindered her abilities to develop proper emotional control. In looking at her own life and struggle, I see a great deal of similarities to my own, and no doubt many people will find such similarities.
Included in the book, which will be welcome to many readers, are short notes at the end of a few chapters where the author includes some of the things she wished she had known when she was struggling with depression and suicidal feelings. Overall, the tone of this book is hopeful and appreciative, but also open and honest and straightforward, and full of gentle encouragement for the readers, as the book assumes that its reading audience is made up of teens and young people in general struggling with depression. Also included in the book is an afterword from Kristen’s mom, who details her own feelings about the growth and struggles of the author.
In reading this book I was struck by the fact that there is such a great need for more awareness and consideration among the community of believers as a whole towards those young people (and older ones) whose lives have been greatly marred by abuse and trauma. The large number of books I have seen recently and the large number of people I know (myself included) who have been driven to speak out about our own experiences is a demonstration of the immense brokenness that is found in our world. The problem of evil is far too great for any of us to eradicate it, especially in our own efforts, but a recognition of the scale of the problem, and of its widespread nature in our own society (much less around the world) gives us an understanding of the need of this world for people who are willing and able to bind up the wounds of God’s broken children, and to help them receive the wholeness that God offers, and to in turn help others as they have been helped. Hopefully this book will contribute to that noble and difficult effort.
 Here are a few of the more recent ones: