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.