I went on a hike today with a friend I met in a class this past semester and one of his friends. We got out of town a bit and got lost among trails and creeks. Pretty early on we abandoned even following an official trail, and jumped into the rocky creek and explored. It was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time. Or ever, really. I’m still exhausted from the almost three hour adventure.
I’ve always loved going on runs through parks or walking Dallas and just zoning out to my music, but there was something about today. Out there in the boonies, with no cell signal, no headphones, just me and a couple of friends, my anxiety was silenced. I felt so comfortable with myself, and the beauty of the area actually took my breath away.
There was a moment though, between climbing through teetering creek rocks, and when we decided that a tree was a good bridge to cross some water, there was a period where two of us sat, and the other skipped rocks, and it was just… quiet.
It was raining. Not hard, but still precipitating. Somehow, even sitting in the open, we didn’t get totally soaked. The surrounding trees shaded us enough. But you could hear the birds, the rain on the leaves of the trees, C skipping rocks, and it was the most peaceful period of time I’ve ever experienced. Nobody was talking. We were all just there, in the moment.
And in that moment, I felt calm. I am not someone who ever feels calm. I am an extremely Type A personality that likes routines and schedules and has a hard time doing nothing without panicking about other things that need to be done. I’m wound pretty tight. It’s not great, and I’m working on it. I’m a lot better than I used to be. But I felt so calm then, and really the whole time I was with them I felt like that. I felt calm and accepted and content. Minus the few minutes of me walking across a fallen tree to get across water and praying I wouldn’t fall, because my phone was definitely in my pocket. (Somehow I didn’t fall, and I’m still insanely proud of myself for managing to do that.)
But being out there, I forgot about everything. I forgot about how I just quit my crappy retail job for the sake of my sanity. I forgot about how, despite countless applications to real jobs, I haven’t received any phone calls for interviews. I forgot about all the family I have coming into town for my graduation. I forgot I was even graduating on Saturday.
I was just out in the woods, with wet shoes and a couple of super chill guys, living in the moment.
I honestly could have stayed out there forever.
The drive back into town slowly brought me back to reality, and as soon as I got back into my own car, my mind immediately filled with everything I need to do over the next couple of days.
I think I need to go on hikes more often.
So, I’m writing again. Which is interesting, because for the past year I haven’t really had any inspiration to write anything. Yet here I am, back to my normal soap box about mental illness with my 13 Reasons Why post, and over on my tumblr I’m writing poetry because I met someone who inspires me quite a bit. Which is weird. I’m in a new place that I haven’t ever been before, and I’m going to write my way through it.
If you missed my twitter rant about my current mental health, let me recap: I’ve been slowly losing my mind with the last month of school. My anxiety has been the highest it has ever been, and my mind has been spinning stories of failing to finish online classes and the internet crashing for a week, and I started losing sleep, a lot of sleep. I maybe got 2 hours a night for about 12 nights. It was rough. The day after that 12th night of horrible sleep, I had to hand in a draft of my capstone paper, and present/lead a discussion on one of my sources. My stomach was in knots, because as you all should know, I have horrible social anxiety and I hate standing up in front of people and talking. Somehow, I managed to not only stand up there and talk about this research study, but I was able to do it well. Really well. I’ve sat through everyone else in the class giving these presentations. You can always tell who really understands their study and who doesn’t. You can also tell who is really into what they’re talking about and who isn’t. Well, I knew my study really well, and my topic is one that I’m super passionate about: the positive effects of gaming. The class got to the point where they started asking me general questions about gaming and what else my paper covers, instead of just discussing the one source I was presenting on. I don’t think I’ve ever been that sleep deprived in my entire life, but I still managed to absolutely rock that presentation. And, not to toot my own horn, but I got a 100% on that presentation. toot toot.
I’m still medicated. Klonopin. I get to add a new drug to the list of everything I’ve ever been prescribed. Back in the day no doctor dared to give me a benzodiazepine, because of the abuse risk. So I’m obviously making progress. And this is just a short term thing to get me through the end of the semester without having a heart attack. I’m actually a big fan of this low dose. It doesn’t make me sleepy. I’m just mellow. My stomach isn’t constantly in knots and I can actually think coherently because I’m not trying to focus on 1000 different things at once. If this is how people without anxiety feel all the time, I am insanely jealous of all of you.
Social media is full of people posting their life highlights:
I’m so blessed and honored to announce that I have accepted a position at XYZ company!
I’m just kind of over it. People struggle. With mental illness, with family, with relationships. I want to be real. That’s what this blog started as, and even though I was delusional at the time and writing things that didn’t always hold up to facts, writing here helped me, and I know some of the things I’ve written have helped others as well.
I’m two weeks away from what I’m referring to as THE GREAT UNKNOWN. I gave my official two weeks at my crappy retail job today because I’ve been there for a year and I just can’t keep doing it. If it were more fast-paced, I think I could, but being bored for hours on end is just mind numbing to me.
I’ve decided to stay in Columbia. I was originally thinking about moving to STL and taking this great paying retail job at Neiman Marcus. I turned it down. I want more out of my life than that. I want to do something that actually matters. There’s so much bad shit going on in the world right now and I want to help people in some way. I want to make an impact.
I’m looking at graduate programs. I’m not entirely sure where I want to go or what I want to do. I’m very interested in neuropsych. The human brain fascinates me to no end. I know I want to do clinical work, because I’m not a lab rat. I need to connect with people and not just hole up in front of a computer reading data for hours on end. I couldn’t do that. So I’m applying for clinical jobs, and I’m going to volunteer at various places. I’m terrified, because there’s no solid plan here, but I’m happy and excited and I feel like for once in my life my past isn’t holding me back anymore.
For a long time I held back because I felt like the world was waiting for me to fail. It’s so interesting the effect that time and self-reflection has on your perspectives. I’m so indifferent about people that I once used to loathe. Things change. Time really does heal. And people grow up.
So this is my journey into the great unknown. I’m graduating college on May 13th, and then I’m just gonna wing it. What else can you do?
TW: Discussion of suicide, self-harm, rape, and mental illness.
I also relate a lot of it to my own personal experiences, so if you’re not familiar with my story, you’re about to be.
Aaand, spoiler alert for the show, I guess. Although I’m not sure why you’re reading this if you haven’t watched it yet.
I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. Well, actually about twenty minutes ago, but it took me ten minutes to lower my heart rate from the brutal break down I had during the suicide scene. A few days ago, I had firmly decided I wouldn’t touch this show. I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t want to wind up hyperventilating while sobbing hysterically during the rape and suicide scenes, like I knew I absolutely would (and I did). Yet, all I’ve heard and read about lately has been this controversy. There’s a pretty clear split: people either love it or hate it. I’m one of those people that likes to form my own opinion, especially when it comes to things that everyone is talking about, so I finally took a deep breath and began cautiously watching this show.
I have a lot of things I want to discuss in relation to this show, and I apologize if I go off on rants or tangents. I’ll try to make my points eventually.
13 Reasons Why makes me so frustrated that I want to scream. It’s decently close to really nailing what it’s trying to do, but the errors it makes in telling a story about suicide ruin the entire thing, even the good stuff.
As a writer, and someone who appreciates the art of storytelling, I think the mechanism it uses is really interesting. Not necessarily something new, but still interesting. The tapes. Each episode is a different side of a tape, and through flashbacks and voiceovers, the story is told. It’s intriguing. It keeps the audience interested. Who’s on the next tape? What did they do?
This entire concept is ruined by the fact that each tape is supposedly a reason why Hannah killed herself. It’s an artistically detailed suicide note blaming those responsible for killing herself and overlooking the real culprit: mental fucking illness.
It’s 2017, so I hate that I have to state this, but mental illness is serious. It can kill you. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 121 suicides occur every day, with 25 attempts for every success. Think about that. This is real. While other diseases weaken your immune system and wind up killing you with pneumonia or organ failure, mental illness kills you with suicide. It’s the fucker that gets you to do the dirty work.
There’s a movement to start saying “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide” because “committed suicide” makes it sound like it was an active, coherent choice. “Oh, I think I’ll die today.” People who have never been in that place call it selfish. Weak. Inconsiderate to your friends and family. But until you’ve been stuck at the bottom of the rabbit hole for months or years, don’t try to tell me it’s a choice. It’s the glowing exit sign out of the dark hell your mind has been trapped in. It’s the warm sense of relief that in just a few minutes, all of your suffering will finally be over. It’s warped perception, because your mind doesn’t go there until shit is really bad. It’s bullshit. And to this day, I will still scream from the rooftops that it does in fact get better if you just stick around to find out. Like Hannah, I needed someone to pick up on the fact that I wasn’t okay. And luckily for me, someone did. That didn’t magically fix my issues, but it bought me a little more time to at least get my head above water. However, I didn’t attempt to get someone’s attention or to get back at anyone. It doesn’t work that way.
It’s not a place you get to just because people are shitty to you. People being shitty to you amplifies already existing issues. Bullying does not cause suicide. Bullying can amplify the symptoms of pre-existing mental illness, and in severe cases, that can lead to suicide. There’s a difference here.
Another massive issue I have: this show basically walks you through a successful suicide step by step with visual aids. If it’s something a viewer is considering, lo and behold! A perfectly good way to do it. You can tell the story of suicide without a step-by-step visual. I have a lot of issues with exploiting trauma for views, and that’s what the suicide and rape scenes felt like to me. Showing a violent rape doesn’t help the story in any way. You can get the point of what happened across without fully depicting it.
The suicide scene fucked me up. My attempt was basically the same method, only I didn’t bother with the tub, and I only had enough time to do one arm before someone was banging on my apartment door. While watching, I was hysterical and seriously considered fast-forwarding through it, but instead I just closed my eyes and tried to not pass out from hyperventilating. Even though I knew how the scene ended, I kept wishing someone would knock on the door like they had for me.
One thing I really liked about this show is that it showed the aftermath of suicide. The people left in its wake. The scenes with Hannah’s mother almost always had me tearing up. Her daughter is dead. She’s trying to cope and figure out why. I feel like Kate Walsh nailed this. The desperation, the grief, all while trying to hold her life together and barely doing so. The only unbelievable moment was when she found Hannah’s body, and her first reaction was a very quiet, almost nonchalant, “oh no,” like she left her phone in the car. After that, the shock built and it became more believable, and I once again lost my shit over imagining my mother finding my body.
Early on, I was so annoyed by Hannah. Her tone in the first few tapes is superior, like she’s happy to finally get her revenge on these people. But as the show continued to develop, and her condition begins to get more and more unstable, I began to see myself in her. Which is interesting, because I know a few people that have the opposite opinion: that as she becomes more unstable, they find her more annoying.
As Hannah becomes more unstable, she begins to lash out more. She pushes people away while secretly hoping they’ll run back, and then is disappointed when they don’t. She screams at Clay and tells him to leave, when she just wants him to understand that she’s been through some serious shit with dudes and has trust issues. People cut her out because she’s a lot to deal with, and she winds up alone and isolated and contemplating suicide.
I actually overheard someone talking about the show today and they mentioned how crazy she was. Boy, did that strike a chord with me.
The general public seems to be way more understanding with internalizing disorders, because to some degree, almost everyone has experienced some type of depression or anxiety, and they can easily wrap their head around the concept of, “Okay it’s like that day you were really in a funk but every day for months or years on end.” People who don’t suffer from Major Depressive Disorder or an anxiety spectrum disorder can sort of understand that and try to empathize.
But as soon as symptoms become external, it’s a completely different situation. People can’t wrap their head around irrational thoughts or saying one thing and meaning the exact opposite. That makes no sense in their minds that are fully capable of rational thought. They don’t understand what it’s like for your mind to jump to conclusions so fast that you wind up with a version of reality that defies all logic. They don’t understand how crippling paranoia can be. They just see you, yelling about something that doesn’t even make sense. And all of a sudden, you’re difficult. Or a drama queen. Or overreacting. Or crazy. Or psycho. Insane. Too much to handle. The list goes on and on. For some reason, people don’t want to recognize that those people need help too.
I’m not part of the intended audience. I realize that. Trauma survivors are not the intended audience. But we still have to watch to see if they’re telling our stories correctly, and when they don’t, we have to call them out. Because our stories matter. Our stories help eliminate stigma and assure others who are struggling that they are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help. Our stories of rape and suicide and abuse deserve to be told correctly.
So I will end by restating my main point that prompted this giant rant. The parts that 13 Reasons Why gets right are completely ruined by the overarching theme of the story: that thirteen people caused a girl to take her life. I’m sorry, but that’s just total bullshit.
If you have thoughts of self-harm, seek professional help or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you have experienced sexual assault, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).