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.)
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’dwe’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.
The crazy thing is, I don’t think anyone other than my husband could tell much was wrong. On the outside, the depression wasn’t too hard to hide. I still smiled, meandered through the motions, and (mostly) stayed involved.
But on the inside, depression’s lying accusations wouldn’t let go:
- “You’ve failed as a mom.”
- “What do you have to offer other teens? You couldn’t even save your own.”
- “Everyone’s tired of hearing about this. There’s nothing more to say, no story to tell.”
- “You’re not strong enough.”
- “You’re broken.”
- “You’re replaceable.”
- “Nothing you do matters. In the end, none of it amounts to much.”
And the biggest lie of all, the one I really don’t want to admit:
- “Maybe it’s time to go. Maybe it would be better to no longer exist.”
Even though I felt helpless to change it, deep inside I knew my thinking was pretty tangled up.
First, because despite how true the thoughts sounded, they didn’t match who God says I am.
Second—this probably sounds small, but it was a ridiculously large red flag to me—because I’d avoided Christmas carols for five weeks. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the hap-happiest time of the year.” Ugh! Nevertheless, zero Christmas songs is abnormally weird.
Instead, I survived the season by replaying Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” possibly two hundred times. Yep. Because, in addition to the screamer, “Don’t you know that you need somebody!” at the end, there’s that one spectacular, hope-filled line: “Nothing lasts forever—even cold November rain.”
My husband suggested I talk with a counselor. It was wise advice, but my stubborn self-sufficiency—“I know everything he’ll say, so I’ll handle this myself”—kept me away.
“If you won’t go,” he said, “at least tell some friends.”
Tell some friends. Hmmm. That was a more difficult decision, because my people are some of my favorites on the planet—friends who accept me, love me, and want to step into my mess.
- Who talks about depression? I wasn’t sure ANYONE would understand.
- I didn’t have words for what I was feeling inside.
- Depression is an awkward, uncomfortable topic to bring up. Not to mention that I HATE to ask for help.
- Everyone has struggles and hardships. Pity isn’t something I want.
- I didn’t want to burden others or take up their time.
- Although I’ve had to battle depression since my daughter’s death, it doesn’t define me. At my core, it’s not who I am.
So, yeah, I didn’t reach out, didn’t send any texts, didn’t make any calls.
Thankfully, God pursues us with a relentless love that doesn’t give up.
He gets my foolish ways, so He sent friends to me who asked THE question—“How are you?”—that I couldn’t evade.
I put a damper (major understatement) on a birthday lunch date with one friend, wrecked lovely dinners with two others, and ruined some could-have-been-wonderful conversations with a couple more. But I don’t think any of them minded. In fact, I’m guessing they were glad they could be there—to listen, to let me talk, to gently speak truth to me that finally lessened the lies.
And from it came the understanding I’d asked for about what had happened to my sweet, vivacious girl.
- About how some incidents could create a perfect storm, trigger a downward spiral, and cause Jenna to replay her life through a clouded lens.
- About why she said in her suicide note that she’d felt depressed for a few months (after being blindsided by a
peer’s crushing words) despite the lack of outward signs.
- About how true the lies can sound once they’ve grown in the dark.
- About why Jenna kept the pain inside . . . and how easy it can be to hide.
I’d give anything to rewind the clock. How I wish I would have better understood and recognized the false accusations coursing through Jenna’s mind. How I wish I could have held her tight, looked into her eyes, and reminded her of this:
Depression is real . . . but it LIES.
Life is hard, but there is real hope. Bright moments will come that you won’t want to miss. (As if right on cue, when I typed that a Panera manager walked to where I was seated and asked if I wanted a free pastry. Heck yes!)
Most of all, no matter how dark the thoughts get, no matter how much depression you have to battle, please NEVER make the irreversible choice to end your life.
Instead, let’s talk. And listen. And, together, fight to live fully alive.
Because, despite the claims depression makes, no one can ever be replaced.
[Check out this powerful post, "25 Ways to Fight Back Against Depression," by Sam Eaton at Recklessly Alive.]
[And, while you're there, take a moment to read Sam's other thought-provoking link, "5 Things Christians Get Wrong About Depression." It's definitely worth your time.]
Beth, this is beautifully written. I'm so glad you recognized these truths. Thank you for reminding the rest of us.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lyneta. And, you're very welcome. I'm guessing I'll be re-reading the post more than once, because I need to remind myself too. :)Delete
Beth, this is powerful. I admire your tenacity to survive so much. Bless you, NanReplyDelete
Thank you, Nan, for reading and for saying what you did.Delete
Beth, you're not alone in dealing with depression. I'm finding that in my journey through grief, I believe that the more time passes, the easier it will get. While that's somewhat true, I think there are times when grief rears its head and we're just caught so off guard, that it feels like we'll never get out of it. But we will grow and keep on going. Making a difference.ReplyDelete
You know I'm praying for you. And, if you want to ruin a lunch with me, just call! :)
Well said, Mary. I think this is so true. I appreciate your friendship and have been blessed by your transparency. And, yes, of course I'd love to ruin a lunch with you! :)Delete
I am so very sorry for your loss. :(ReplyDelete
I related to much of this. Very different experience ... For me it was the loss of a baby through ectopic pregnancy -- but my grief also turned to depression and feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of self-harming. (thoughts I never acted upon.)
Thank you for sharing. Our loss was right before Christmas, and it has taken me a few years to actually enjoy Christmas again (not fully there yet.)
I'm very sorry for your loss, too, Rachel. (There really aren't adequate words, are there?) The loss of a baby--of a precious life you won't get to hold or see grow up--is painfully hard. I'm touched that you would share this. It reminds me that many parents have walked this heartbreaking road. I sure wish none of us had to. May you continue to hold onto hope as you heal.Delete
Grief is really never ending. Depression is really a heavy burden to bear. Sending prayers, gentle hugs and friendship. LoveReplyDelete
Sadly--even though the grief's sting lessens over time and there are still many moments of joy--what you say is true. Thank you, Sarah, for your sweet and caring words.Delete
Thank you for this post, Beth. It's the first I've come across that best mirrors the grief I've felt since losing my daughter seven months ago. I also lost a sister to suicide 12 years ago. Your words are comforting. God bless you and your ministry.ReplyDelete
Laura, I'm glad the post resonated with you and brought you comfort. My heart aches for you, though, and grieves with yours. The loss of a daughter and sister is so much to bear. May God give you peace that passes understanding and strength to walk this out one day at a time.Delete
As always powerful vulnerable and truthful. I'm sorry this is your story to tell but I know you have reached deep and spoken light into others dark places. I see the evidence in you of beauty for ashes.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Marcia. This post left me feeling exposed. Your outside perspective of what you see God doing never fails to encourage me.Delete
Depression is real. But it lies. Plaster that around. Yes! Yes!ReplyDelete
Yes, so I can remember too. :) Thanks, Mary. Your friendship is a treasured gift.Delete
Hi Beth. I'm friends with Nan Jones and I saw this posted on her page. I'm a counselor here in Greenville and I've also suffered with depression and lost family members to suicide. I do appreciate your voice, your story, your honesty, and the Truth and Hope you share. I'm sitting at Badaziki's and crying in my booth as I feel your loss and that sorrow that you must bear until all those tears, that have been collected by our Father, are wiped away. But He is bringing beauty through the ashes and I pray that you find His comfort and Peace that passes all understanding. Thank you for sharing. I am also going to share this on my counseling page, Created to Bloom so that others can share in your Hope. Bless you and your family.ReplyDelete
Kristi, I'm so sorry for the family members you've lost. But thank you for the words you shared here. I was deeply touched by them. It helps to know there are others who understand--even though I wish none of us did. I'm honored that you'd share the post and will pray that it speaks to those who may read it. Also, I'm glad that you saw hope in it. Trying to communicate the mix of emotions--depression, questioning, grief, and sadness blended with God's peace, presence, hope, and even joy--feels difficult to get right. Again, thanks. You have blessed me tonight.Delete
Hi Beth, you write so well and thanks for sharing that! Lately I've been thinking about lies and their affect on us. It seems that, fundamentally, depression is what our we experience when our minds are processing information that isn't true. The battle for truth is such a fight because we live our lives in a sea of lies and until we experience a trauma, we don't know how dangerous misinformation is to us.ReplyDelete
Truth certainly does have an opposite affect. Truth is a freedom maker! I love that you're listening to November Rain! Truth isn't just relegated to the four walls of a church building and only spoken by the pious bible thumping, Christian elite. Truth is everywhere but unless it can be identified under the proper light, it remains hidden.
I love what you said about lenses. Lenses process the light that is coming into the eyes and determine how we perceive it. The most difficult part is aprehending faith when the lense of truth hasn't yet been made available. Satans temptation for us to give up on the idea of truth and embrace his version of it ultimately leads us to actions that cause so much destruction. I wish you didn't have to be the one clean up such a miserable mess. None of us were prepared for an undertaking like that! I love your fierceness in fighting against the lies that are trying to spread like cancer!
I pray for you and your family to be protected from darkness and the life sucking lies that want to kill and destroy. I pray that truth will be able to grow unhindered into a tree of life where shallow weeds cannot take root. I pray that Gods true lense will reveal deeper hidden truths that will confirm that every fabric of your being was designed to revealed an amazingly beautiful creation that relfects a unique view of God that you, and your family, can serve as a lense to reveal.
Beth, thank you for your fight through this storm and THANK YOU for not giving up!
Bryan, where do I even start? I loved reading this! What you said here is so good--a balm to my soul. Thanks for sharing your insights; they're truths I want to hold onto and need to be reminded of. Thanks, also, for simply taking time to write. That means more than you probably know. There's more I could say, but maybe this says it best: I feel as if I just undeservedly reaped 100x what was sown many years ago at THS. How good and faithful is our God. It's a joy to know you as my friend and brother in Christ.Delete
I don't know you, Beth, but I've followed yours and Jenna's story since I stumbled onto one of your blog posts a couple of years ago on Cathy Baker's page. I can't express adequately how much it means to read what God keeps prompting you to write. <3 Thanks for pushing through your pain to the page.ReplyDelete
What touching words, Kim. It good-way wrecks me whenever I hear that someone who doesn't even know me reads and cares. Thanks for the encouragement!Delete
Beth, your words and wisdom need to be wider spread. There is an epidemic of depressed veterans with statistics way too high compared to society in general. With your permission I'd like to share this among some groups with vets. They will likely know exactly who needs to read it. Still hoping to see you on a Sunday.ReplyDelete
I apologize for taking so long to reply to your insightful comment, Warren. Please feel free to share the post with any groups you'd like to. The stats for veterans are staggering. It's heartbreaking to think that, after all they've given to serve our country, they don't always have the support they deserve and need to fight the emotional battle at home which arises from all they've seen and endured. I appreciate your willingness to reach out. Please let me know if there's more I can do to help.Delete