Thursday, June 29, 2017

3 (or 13) Reasons Why Not: From One Left to Survive a Non-Fictionalized Suicide

by Beth Saadati

While perusing at Barnes & Noble, I noticed the girl on the swing. I picked up the prominently displayed novel, scanned the back cover, read the included author’s interview. Suddenly a single thought overshadowed everything else: I never want to read this book.

Not because it wasn’t relevant. Not because I wanted to bury my head in the sand and pretend you and I live in happily-ever-after land.

Rather, because Thirteen Reasons Why was, to its author, fiction. Truth be told, I wanted to fling the novel across the room, because I hated knowing this FICTION was my—and way too many others’—nightmare…my nonfiction reality.

Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of me—it was an international bestseller, plus I wanted to see what the YA literature had to say—and, well, I always want to muster up enough courage to face the hard in life. (That run towards the roar thing.)

So, a few days later I pulled the book off the library shelf, snuggled into a cushioned chair and, without moving save an occasional blink, read the story from beginning to end.

That was thirteen (pardon the irony) months ago. I’ve been processing it ever since. 
  •  Is Thirteen Reasons Why a page-turner? Obviously.  
  • Do I agree with the theme—we can go to school with classmates for years and never really know them—that Jay Asher shared when I briefly met him and heard him speak? Sadly, yes.
  • Am I glad the novel encourages a conversation about tough topics that have, for far too long, been silenced and stigmatized? Definitely.  
  • But…Was I emotionally wrecked and, admittedly, physically sick after completing the book? You can’t imagine the extent.
Why? Despite some positive aspects of Asher’s work, the message it, perhaps unintentionally, communicates about suicide—whether through the Netflix hit series or the novel—is severely wrong in three major ways.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

The 4-Word Motto I'm Choosing to Follow

by Beth Saadati

The quick glance out the window was innocent. Unintended. A lazy Saturday morning thing. But it was enough to view what I by no means wanted to see.

In the middle of my backyard stood an uncommonly large, Edgar Allan Poe raven-like crow. Beside it lay a coiled mound.

I squinted to focus my nearsighted eyes then called for my husband, Komron, and asked him to step outside. 

As we stood on the patio concrete, I pointed to the pile. “What is that?”

Part of me hoped he’d lie and let me live deceived. Instead, he minced no words.

“It’s a snake,” he said. “I’ll be back.”

A snake…take a deep breath…it’s just a snake. (For the record, “just” NEVER belongs in the same sentence as “snake” as far as I’m concerned.)

Needless to say, the internal monologue failed to persuade my scaredy-cat self. My heartbeat escalated to 200 beats-per-minute as I waited . . . paralyzed.

[A responsible blogger would insert a picture of the snake here. But was photographing that nemesis anywhere on my radar at the time? Heck no.]

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Confession I Haven't Wanted to Make: For Those Who Fight Depression or Know Someone Who Might

by Beth Saadati

The downward spiral started with a TV interview. At least that’s what I think. Not with speaking—an insane amount of grace covered that—but with reclining in the comfort of my home, seeing myself on screen, and hearing the story of a daughter’s death.

Everything about it seemed impossible. Surreal.

How can that be me? screamed a voice inside my head. That's not the story I EVER wanted to be given to share.

Or maybe it goes back to June. To all the graduation ceremonies—to celebrate my students, who were also my daughter’s friends—and seeing, at the final one, the chair marked with an unworn cap and gown where Jenna should have been. 
Then again, perhaps it’s about a prayer I’d prayed a couple months before. That I would UNDERSTAND what in the world had gone wrong four years ago. I know. That request is right up there with praying for patience. No Ph.D. degree required to know what happens when we ask to grow in THAT.

Regardless of what it was, depression set in. Big time. (Regretfully, I’d stopped doing several of the things that had previously helped me keep it at bay.) For the first time since Jenna’s death—where a wave of grief crests then recedes approximately once a week—it clung to me and refused to leave.

Call me blind, but at the time I had little idea why. Looking back—because hindsight is (sometimes?) 20/20—I can better see the triggers that encouraged depression to obnoxiously worm its way in:

  • The gloom of winter. Shortened days. Lack of sun. Less vitamin D. Trees without leaves. And women wearing scarves—the implement that ended my teenager’s life. Need I say more?
  • A guest speaker. His story was powerful. I hung on every word. But after the church service he told my husband it took eight years before the sting from his young-adult son’s suicide left. A counselor had told me it’s typically four or five. Eight years means I might only be halfway there. (And oh...oh, Bon Jovi, I’m livin’ on a prayer.)
  • Driving home with a former student/longtime family friend. Hearing his stories, stopping for ice cream, laughing, catching up. The drive back from Clemson University was, hands down, the highlight of my week. But I awoke at 2 a.m.—painfully aware that MY should-be freshman wouldn’t be coming back for Christmas break, that her collegiate tales wouldn’t be filling my home, that once again I’d we’d be missing out—and couldn’t return to sleep.
  • Christmas trees. I used to love them. Someday I will. But in my final memory of Jenna, she’s standing beside our tree and saying she’d be back soon before walking out the front door never to return.
  • A stack of Christmas cards. Talk about bittersweet. While I’m honored that friends would remember to send family photos when I no longer do--please keep sending them!--and I delight in seeing their beautiful families grow up, it’s one more reminder that my family will never (on this side of heaven) be complete.
  • The holiday season. Vivid memories of my final weeks with my first-birthed girl come rushing back each year—of singing carols and opening presents and life being happy and right…until, without warning, everything changed on that one horrific night. And I replay them all.

That’s all it took for things to get, well, dark. For my words—both written and spoken—to dry up. For bitterness to root. For hopelessness to overwhelm me. For that nagging question—how can God redeem this?—to mock the faith that’s carried me through.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Please Stay

by Beth Saadati

I never want to forget Jenna's smile that lit up my world for fourteen years. If you can spare a few minutes to watch and remember with me, I'm almost certain you'll be glad you did.

Choose to live. Hope remains.