13 Reasons Why: You Should Watch
For those of you who haven’t heard, there is a new controversial show on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why. The show has garnered a lot of attention, and much of it has stayed away from the objective of the show: to talk about suicide. Many have criticized the show and book as something that glorifies suicide, and teen suicides rate may be impacted. I watched the show, and after 20 years of hiding, I am here to share my story with you all, thanks to 13 Reasons Why.
Depression and anxiety know no stereotype
It affects men, women, children, the old the young, the rich and the poor. Hannah, the lead character is a beautiful young woman with endless opportunities ahead of her and parents who fiercely loved her. That was me, too. I was the girl in high school who had a lot of friends, a supportive family, and access to only the best of everything. I was the oldest of 3 girls, had solid grades and was never in trouble. But I was keeping a secret. I was dealing with depression and anxiety, and every day was a struggle. See, I wanted to be popular, but I also wanted to stay in my room and hide from the world. I was not the prettiest, I was not the smartest, I was not the most athletic.
When I was born, my left eye was injured, and it was during my teenage years when people started to notice that I became self-conscious. Some people made fun of me to my face. Some thought I was out of listening range. But I wasn’t. I ate a lot because my looks weren’t going to get me anywhere, so who cares about my weight, right? I know the last person I cared about was myself. My mom and my dad told me they loved me, they recognized the signs that Hannah also displayed, and a crisis was averted. I went to a therapist, I leaned on my family, and it worked for awhile.
Fast forward to college, when, seemingly out of nowhere, the depression and anxiety hit again. This time, I was away from home, from my safe place. My mom came to me. She linked me up with a psychiatrist and a counselor, and it seemed I was back on track. Then, came my first real attempt at suicide. I remember being in my bedroom at my dad’s house. He was not home at the time, so I looked around for whatever pills I could find. There weren’t many, as family history kept any of the heavy stuff out of the house. I don’t remember what I found, but I took a handful, got a glass of water, and swallowed them. I quickly realized what I had just done, and I called my mom. She answered the phone and came rushing over. We never talked about what happened.
Then in my twenties…
Throughout my twenties, I was in a few very serious relationships. One of them was incredibly toxic and unhealthy, but I was afraid I didn’t deserve anything else. My family and friends knew it was bad, his family and friends knew it was bad. I knew it was bad. He was an alcoholic. While traveling for work, one evening he was drunk and threatened harm to my dog. Well, that was it. It was over. My dog has been the love of my life, and I would die for him. To think of him being at risk of harm while I was so far away terrified me. The relationship may have been over, but the pain was just beginning…
Over the course of 3-4 years, I dealt with a level of depression and anxiety that I had not known before. Even though I knew I made the right decision, I was scared of facing adulthood alone. I was scared I was not lovable. I dated, and I did find someone who I still believe is my soul mate, but the timing was not right. A few times I almost settled because of that fear of being alone. Then, the rug was swept out from under me.
The day I got rocked
In July of 2015, I went through a break up (again, I knew it was the right thing but was terrified that I wasn’t good enough), and on the same day, my world was rocked by a family emergency dealing with addiction. My mom relapsed, again. The decision was made that she would enter an inpatient facility and come to live with me afterward. This was the first time in my adult life that I would address my mom’s addiction, and I would live with someone so early in recovery. I loved having my mom live with me. She was a tremendous support to me, but it was also an incredible stressor (this is no surprise to her, as we talked through this several times).
I made it worse
I stopped going out, I stopped talking to friends because I was always worried about her. My anxiety was overwhelming, and I suddenly started to need control over as much as possible. After a long and tear-filled conversation, my mom moved away. It was a good decision because it probably saved our relationship. Because of the depression and anxiety, though, I had alienated many of my friends and family. So, I was alone again.
I decided to see a therapist in May 2016. It was the best decision I could ever make because it saved my life. I was at the point where I was so low and in such a dark place, I couldn’t figure out how to get out. I couldn’t figure out how to make it stop, how to restart. It felt like everyone hated me, that the world was better off without me. It was terrifying to think the only way out of this darkness was to leave. I was so scared, I talked to my mom.
I checked with insurance and there were no psychiatrists accepting new patients. There were therapists. I found Amanda, and she saved my life. Finally, I had a safe place to talk and to process the things that had happened in my life. I forgave myself—I began to value myself—I began to love myself. Things in my life are far from perfect, but I learned how to manage my anxiety and develop healthy relationships with people. Did I lose friendships? Yes. Did I lose relationships with my family? Yes. But I also developed stronger relationships with people. I learned to trust again. I learned to communicate. And I am still a work in progress.
So, what does this have to do with 13 Reasons Why?
Watching this show struck a chord with me. It made me realize that we need to talk about suicide and depression, and how these thoughts impact young people. It is an incredibly uncomfortable subject. Until watching this show, I was uncomfortable sharing these details of my life with anyone. There are still some details I am not yet ready to share because I am not yet ready to open those ugly chapters of my life. It is important to talk about the uncomfortable and painful stuff because it will likely save someone’s life. If one person is saved because a parent, friend, or educator is comfortable with the uncomfortable, the show was successful. If one person can recognize those seemingly subtle signs that someone is hurting, the show is successful.
I am lucky enough to have those people in my life, and they asked those questions. I likely would not be here today. So, I leave you with my thoughts on this. 13 Reasons Why may not be a show for developing young minds, but it is a show for parents and educators. It is important to recognize the signs and open the lines of communication, and not be afraid of the uncomfortable. It is important to understand the depths of depression, and it is not something one can snap out of so easily. Suicide is not beautiful and it is not an easy choice. It is not a decision taken lightly. It is terrifying, and it is important to understand that when you talk with someone who is having thoughts of suicide.