Archive for April, 2017

Strength for the darkest hour / 13 Reasons Why

I’m going to write probably the most honest thing I’ve ever written.

I’ve spoken too many times to count about depression and anxiety, but I’m going to go a little deeper here and extremely personal.

Have you heard of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why?

Spoilers ahead.

For context, it’s a series that follows the story of a perspective of the high school experience though a teenage girl Hannah Baker. In the opening scenes we find out she has killed herself and left behind cassette tapes for people in her life who influenced her decision to commit suicide.

The story covers so many topics: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, suicide, depression, anxiety, sexual assault, verbal abuse, rape, and the list goes on.

I have wanted to unpack what I thought about the growing popularity of the show and the show itself, this is my attempt.

This show is causing people to talk, which I think most view as a starting point for breaking down the stigma of mental illness but I feel for many it could be more damaging than helpful if you view the series.

I have seen the show be praised for its unflinching honesty, but I felt like it did this in places that didn’t make sense and on a whole it left some disappointing obscurity.

The scene where Hannah takes her life seemed basically like a “how to” and I felt immediate panic for any suffering youth that would happen to view this show and absorb it in that way. Parents, this is not a show for your children, your youth.

This is a good time for me to interject that I can’t recommend the series. At first I was compelled to, but the more I think about it – the more I’m not even sure who an appropriate audience would be. Even with parents watching along with their kids, I don’t think it’s a good idea. It’s too heavy. It’s not productive. You can facilitate conversation in other ways. Please, if you take nothing away other than this: this is not for your kids to watch. It is not for your teenagers to watch. It’s not even for some adults to watch. I wish I hadn’t watched.

At first I thought I enjoyed the direct nature of the show for exploring topics that are usually hush hush, but it did a horrible job of coupling that honesty with the appropriate resources to manage such heavy things.

The entire story seems to show Hannah as a hero, the viewer is continually shown person after person who Hannah wants to pay reparations for the things they did or didn’t do, and time after time she is met with that justice in her after life.

Suicide is not glorious.

Suicide is not heroic.

You will not be in a shiny Netflix series seeing if the people that hurt you are now understanding of their wrong doings. You will be dead.

I fear that this is sending an extremely unhealthy message to vulnerable minds that suicide will in some way give them some sort of peace or closure or redemption they’ve been waiting for and this is not only destructive that this is depicted, but it’s heart breaking.

Where the show spotlights suicide, it restrains on exploring more deeply the struggles of depression. I feel like there could have been some better use of the shows time to show more of the ongoing struggles of a person with mental illness internally, instead of all the external factors. We see these depictions of other peoples actions and how they lead Hannah to this choice yet we don’t see much of her processing and that’s a vital thing to talk about because you’re the only one who thinks your thoughts, you’re the only one responsible for your actions. I needed the show to give Hannah some more ownership of what she’s going to do with how she feels because that’s the entire struggle of being someone who is depressed.

You have to learn how to navigate your own darkness. It feels like a personal hell to walk through the shadows your own mind casts, even if other people are a part of lowering the light – but it’s a vital part of self care and recovery to be able to find the resources to deal with your thoughts and feelings and actions.

The show poorly depicts counselors and adults in general. Although I understand they are trying to make a point that adults miss signs or become lazy in their attempts to help people because they have their own lives to deal with – it felt damaging for the show to not bring in balance by showcasing what licensed professional counselors can offer to mentally ill (and mentally well) persons.

The show fell short here, as someone who continually battles depression – it made me feel misrepresented. Mental illness already makes you stigmatized, and I fear this show is only adding to that. Opening up conversation – sure, but maybe not a helpful conversation.

I think it’s really healthy to want to engage in conversations about mental wellness, mental illness, suicide, and suicide prevention but I don’t think you need or should use a Netflix series to do that.

For someone who knows too well what its like to not feel your value and question your worth, the show left a lot to be desired in terms of bringing a healthy understanding to someone who struggles with depression or suicidal thoughts.

The most memorable day I’ve ever lived was the day I questioned my worth the most. I was over my head with responsibilities, neglecting to take care of myself, and not sure how I was benefitting any of the lives living around me. I told my husband I needed a break and I wanted to get out of the house. At the time we had a small baby and though I needed a break I felt more at peace when he was with me so I loaded him up in the car seat and we went for a drive. It was gray and rainy out and I didn’t want to be on the road but I couldn’t breathe in my house one more minute so instead of heading back to the house I pulled into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. I thumbed through a magazine I had in my car while listening to music and then I began to sob. I felt inadequate in every way you could. As a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a person. In my mind I was sure that I was doing more harm to these people around me than I was doing anything helpful or productive. In that low state of mind I called my husband and said I’m going to come home now. I was able to talk to him when I got home and work through some things I was struggling with.

The only reason I had the strength to overcome that moment of doubt about myself is because of the resources and care I had received prior to that dark moment. I knew what to do with those thoughts.

My struggle with depression didn’t start in that car – no ones struggle begins when they feel like life isn’t worth living, it starts before, in slow and subtle ways. Months before that gray day I had my first taste of depression and I strongly feel that because I did not ignore it when it began I’ve been able to become stronger everyday when it rears its ugly head. This is why the conversation about the in-between phases of depression is so important to talk about instead of just the external factors and aftermath of suicide.

There is so much help available, but you have to know about it and the only person who can ask for help is you.

That’s something people don’t want to talk about because it can maybe seem like it’s a jerk thing to say to someone struggling, “well, you’ve got to help yourself” – but you aren’t alone in helping yourself, once you take steps to get help – there are so many people available (links at the bottom) that are ready to soldier on beside you in your struggle, but they can’t struggle for you. People like Hannah, people like me – we have to learn to live instead of choose to die: we have to learn to fight for ourselves even if it seems like no one else will – because we are worthy of that fight.

That is what was missing from this show, we saw the darkest hour – yet the shadows leading up where you build resolve for the darkest hour was left out.

If you talk to your family. Your friends. A counselor. If you take a prescription. If you take breaks. If you ask for help. If you can learn habits that help you find strength when you need it most: you can live.

You can live.

You should live.

I’m linking some helpful websites if you or someone you know needs help starting these conversations or getting the help they need for their struggles.

As always – from the deepest place in my heart – you are loved, you are not alone.





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