Surviving The Iran-Iraq War Helped Me Conquer My Demons & Stop Being A Victim

By Sahar Paz

It started as a whisper, the first time I took responsibility for all the garbage that happened.

It was February 2005 in Denver, Colorado. The brisk winter air at 2 a.m. penetrated my pajamas, all my hair standing on end. I had climbed up some kind of pine tree that left sticky splinters. That, and the fact that I had no idea how to tie a sturdy knot, gave me time to digest my impulsive decision of trying to kill myself — again.

Just a week ago I was at St. Vincents psych ward in Manhattan. They upped my Paxil from 20 to 60 milligrams – the side-effects include making your suicidal thoughts more clear. I was using all ten fingers to point blame at my life experiences for my low self esteem, lack of love, nurturing, and even money.

Cue the violins, it’s about to get dramatic (I can make this joke now because this story no longer owns me).

Before my tongue knew how to form my first word I was silenced.My thoughts, wardrobe and existence as a girl were discounted, shamed and shushed. In my early life I did not have the emotional vocabulary to release the negative energy I was digesting in revolutionary Iran.

Being born in Iran, and surviving the Iran-Iraq war for the first 9 years of my life left a fearful, shameful and confusing imprint on my young mind.  It was 16 years later and all that I had blamed from this experience ganged up on me. So, there I was, 6 or 7 feet in the air, tips of my nose and fingers numb, my wisdom warm and inviting when my aha moment arrived. Living, understanding and overcoming the effects of these experiences on my automatic reaction towards myself, relationships, and work took me over 15 years, 3 states, 1 island, several failed attempts at partnership and suicide.

Nothing is permanent. It doesn’t have to be this way. Figure out how to not be like this anymore.


At this point I was on my 4th suicide attempt. Even the nearly-fatal overdose experience and swallowing a charcoal shake didn’t bring to focus a way out like that night in the tree. I enrolled into my pain like I was getting a PhD in Soul Healing. I voluntarily admitted myself into two different mental health facilities for the next four months.

I put myself in the shoes of my father, who was once abused himself. I put myself in the place of my mother, who survived his abuse and was just trying to keep afloat. Her favoring my brother was not intentional. I detached myself from the slavery of my chador. Taking value in my voice. Not being ashamed for my brains, opinions or sexiness.

I even created a company (in one the most challenging places in the world, New York) to fill the void of being literally and figuratively abandoned by my parents. Although that was one of the most difficult times in my life, it also enriched it the most.

Our backgrounds are probably not that much alike, you and I. What we most likely have in common is that we’ve blamed an experience, person or repeating message for our lives limitations and frustrations. It’s time to quit playing the blame game girlfriend. We have to take responsibility for how we choose to feel. Yes – what you feel.

The negative experiences that impacted you on a deeper level will not disappear overnight.  Especially the ones that happen with no explanation –  those are the toughest to gain closure and take responsibility for. This is a process that should be respected.

So why is it your turn to take on the responsibility? Because YOU are the only one shaping your life. The negativity you hold onto shapes how you speak to yourself internally. These messages lessen your value inside, which spills out in your words and in every part of your life. Then you wonder, why does a particular pattern of negativity keep repeating itself?

It is now your responsibility to accept what happened. Acknowledge that you have a choice now, in the words you use, the decisions you make. Positive affirmations are awesome, and can be very powerful, especially when mixed with a physical exercise like yoga.


But, if you find yourself automatically rebutting your affirmation: “yea right, that’s a load of crap,” then come up with the facts for a realistic approach:

I am smart enough to make a career move.
Rebuttal: I definitely don’t know enough to move up.
Fact: I’m pouring a glass of wine and looking up job descriptions & resume’s online to figure out the facts

What is the source of your blame game? Is it a person? Is it an experience? A repeating message?

Spend time figuring out the source and make a choice to stop repeating it internally and in conversations.

Listen to your gut feeling.  We get used to our blame game becoming our automatic reaction. So when you’re diving into your brain you may find old negative experiences deterring you from your original goal. If you have a craving for change in whatever area of your life, it’s because you instinctively are drawn to it.

In “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, M.D., she breaks down our gut feelings like this:

“The relationship between a woman’s gut feelings and her intuitive hunches is grounded in biology. The insula is an area in an old part of our brain where gut feelings are first processed. The anterior cingulate cortex, which is larger and more easily activated in females. It is a critical area for anticipating, judging, controlling, and integrating negative emotions.”

Respect your process of taking responsibility. Treat yourself like you would your best friend. Be patient, forgive yourself, take into account how long this negative feeling has been there. You cannot expect these patterns to go away overnight. There will be rough days.

Don’t be afraid to nurture yourself without the guilt.You need to be okay with being stagnant here-and-there. Just being there in that moment with your emotions. Detox them in your own way: writing, running, drinking wine with friends, crying, a warm bath, or playing with you dog. Trust your wisdom. You are only held back by what you hold onto.


My name is Sahar Pazirandeh, I found my voice, and I’m using it. I used to resent the life I was given, the country I was born in and the one I was brought to. Today, I am filled with gratitude for all of the hardships I’ve encountered. I adore all of my emotions, now that I have met them, learned their language, and know they are gifts, not burdens. The work I do with Free Your Star Foundation will always be a part of my purpose and vision. I created the company to teach urban youth business fundamentals.

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram: @saharpaz, and my website:

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