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Web site offers haven for those with troubles | heart support
Web site offers haven for those with troubles
Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2008, 8:51 PM Updated: Wednesday, January 09, 2008, 9:05 PM
In spite of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder that have nagged her since she was a teenager, Krissee Danger is determined to keep the self-destructive manifestations of both conditions in check.
It hasn’t been easy, says the 20-year-old Northwest Grand Rapids resident.
“To this day, I still want to do it,” she said.
“It” was pulling out her hair, a strand at a time until she was essentially bald.
“It” also was self-injury. She used a razor blade or X-acto knife to slash her forearms and legs.
Growing up in Frankenmuth, Danger — who asked that her real last name not be used — remembers a happy childhood, but one that was tinged with feelings of low self-worth.
As the feelings persisted and her anxiety grew, she pulled out her hair and eventually started to cut herself as a way to cope, she said.
“I had this amazing buildup of stress, and this was a way to release that, a physical way to cope,” Danger said. “I couldn’t always hide what I did, so I’ve got to believe I wanted somebody to know I wasn’t OK.”
Her parents tried to find her help, she said, and a “parade of every sort of counseling, therapy and medication you can think of” brought some good results.
But it didn’t make her invincible.
“I needed a safe place to talk,” she said.
Then a friend told her about heartsupport.com, and Danger volunteered to be one of the first to share her story with a new online community whose organizers want to be a source for hope and healing for those who are hurting.
Source of support
She posted a video testimony of her experiences on the Web site, and today serves as a live-chat moderator.
“The main thing is, you’ve got to talk about it,” Danger said. “When I finally talked about it to the people I loved, that’s when the healing really started.”
Heartsupport.com is a new ministry for those with substance abuse or self-injury issues, eating disorders, depression or suicidal thoughts.
The ministry was started in October by friends Jon Bell, 24, brother of Mars Hill Bible Church teaching pastor Rob Bell; Web designer Clint McManaman, 27; and Craig Gross, 32, an ordained minister and former youth pastor perhaps best known as the founder of anti-pornography ministry XXXchurch.com.
McManaman, a drummer for former Christian rock band Sub Seven, said he had heard stories from fans about their personal struggles while on the road touring.
From the backseat of the band’s tour van, he used his talent for design to come up with a logo to express his concern — a heart with a line underneath.
“I thought I could sell
T-shirts and raise money to give to the organizations that are helping people with some of those issues,” McManaman said.
Eventually, the trio of friends decided they wanted to do more.
Heartsupport.com includes features such as live and
e-mail support with licensed counselors, chats and message boards where posters can share their experiences and the chance for people to upload their video stories.
The idea behind heartsupport, as described on Bell’s Web site bio page, is simple: “Sometimes the most important words for a person to say are ‘Me too.'”
An addiction to porn was how McManaman connected with Gross. For Bell, it was a struggle with drugs and clinical depression that led to his involvement with heartsupport.
“I realized I was depressed in seventh grade,” Bell recalled.
Instead of seeking help, he said, he numbed his pain with drugs.
“I didn’t feel like I could let my parents or siblings down, and I didn’t feel like church was a safe place to talk about what I was going through,” Bell said.
“I think that’s common, the feeling that people will think ‘What do you mean, you’re not doing OK? You’re in church.’ I think a lot of people feel a need to have everything together.”
After having “a really bad weekend” of drug use and being so depressed he couldn’t get out of bed, a friend called Bell’s brother to let him know what was going on.
“Rob called me, and I remember it clear as day,” Jon Bell said. “He asked me ‘Are you living in hell?’ And I said ‘I absolutely am.’ All I needed was to have someone say ‘If you could get out of where you’re at, would you?'”
Admitting that he had a problem led to treatment and counseling, and allowed those closest to him to pull him up and out of his misery.
Had someone recommended an online resource, he probably would have used it, Bell said.
“It’s a safer conversation to say ‘Go to heartsupport’ than ‘You should see a counselor,’ even though what they’re really saying is ‘You should see a counselor.'”
Bell blogs on heartsupport’s depression page.
“We believe everybody’s story is important, and that nobody should struggle alone,” he said.
“People who are struggling put up walls. We’re trying to kick down as many walls as possible.”
In its first month, heartsupport.com had 10,000 hits. Visitors to the site typically range in age from 14 to 40.
The trio largely relies on word-of-mouth to promote the Web site. They also speak to church groups and at conferences, and starting this month, Bell will take part in a 37 U.S.-city concert tour that will include a heartsupport booth, where concert-goers can film their own stories to be uploaded to the web site.
Bell also will speak at 9 a.m. Sunday at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville.
“If they don’t have anyone around them they feel they can talk to, now they have somewhere to go on their own time, in privacy,” McManaman said. “Maybe this is the step they need in talking to someone face to face.”
For Danger, the word “accountability” comes up a lot when she talks about healing, particularly when it has to do with sharing her story.
“It’s part of learning to cope, and it’s about finding people you can be completely honest with,” she said.
“Having so many people know what I have been through and what I still think about, that holds me accountable to not slide.
“It’s like I have a whole team behind me.”
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