I’m personally not big on following trends. For the most part.
This has manifested itself in a couple of ways. When a new movie comes out, I’m typically not the first one in line to see it. When a new album gets released, I don’t listen to it for quite a while. If there’s a new TV series hitting the airwaves, I probably won’t catch it for a few weeks, if ever.
Thirteen Reasons Why turned out to be an exception.
Like most of the world, I have been gripped with the tale of a high school student named Clay Jensen who comes home from school one day to find a series of tapes left behind by his friend Hannah Baker, a girl at his school who committed suicide, and left those tapes behind as, you might’ve guessed it, thirteen reasons why she did it.
I was not aware there was a book preceding it, and on a night of aimlessly browsing Netflix, I decided to pick it up, and it took me for an emotional tailspin.
More than that, it had a personal connection to me, as I have had thoughts of suicide three times in my life. I’ve had actual, genuine thoughts of killing myself, and ending my life.
The first occurrence happened in my freshman year of high school. I was severely on the outs social-wise; my life consisted of school, band, and homework, with very few opportunities, at least as far as I can recall, for social interaction. The song Outside Looking In by Jordan Pruitt describes my struggle perfectly:
“You don’t know how it feels, to be outside the crowd. You don’t know what it’s like, to be left out. And you don’t know how it feels to be your own best friend, on the outside looking in.”
Thankfully, mostly through the power of music, I survived. I was never universally popular, but at least I never again reached that stage mentally. Or so I believed for a while.
The second incident happened last year in February. The specific details behind this are things I’d prefer, even on my own blog and space, to not mention, but again, I made it through.
The most recent moment happened last August, and it was also the moment that truly hit the most. It’s like a huge, gaping hole in your heart that you can’t figure out how to fill. You lose every ounce to keep going. Everything just feels…hopeless. You feel drained. You don’t even want to go to bed. You just want everything to stop. And all of that was precisely what I was feeling, hitting me after one of my friends I was hanging out with left my apartment.
I felt completely hollow, and useless, and several other adjectives I can’t think of to describe offhand, and while I made no attempt, the thoughts ate me alive. I reached out to a few people to try and vent my emotions, and one of them happened to be a half-hour away from me, who willingly dropped what he was doing to not only come to see me, but bring comfort food in the form of ice cream with him. He did not stay for a significant period of time, but it was the simple act of reminding me I’m not alone as I felt (and sometimes still feel).
Had he not done that, I figured that the odds would be very good that I would at the least be hospitalized, if not, dead at this point.
My mood fluctuates, like any given person. I go through things like everyone else, and I’ve had more than my fair share of rocky moments. I’ve endured a handful of people at work making rude comments about my weight (one going so far as to ask me if I was pregnant). I’ve faced personal issues of who I am as a person, and my subsequent attempts to work through them. I’ve encountered a few…less than pleasant social issues, some of which were of my own fault. But those three moments in my life stick out to me because they are the moments where I was at my absolute worst, mentally, and with one exception, I largely had to try to work through these issues on my own.
That’s where I draw the similarities with Hannah. The first two instances, I largely kept it to myself. Why drag other people into my issues when it feels like nobody cares about me to begin with? That’s the reasoning I took, and it’s a line of reasoning I’m sure many others take as well.
Back in my high school days, I stumbled upon a quote saying “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” The accuracy behind this is unreal, and it’s the focal point behind who I constantly aim to be as a person and in my relationships with others. Do I love every human? Absolutely not. Some people I dislike. A handful I can’t stand. But flat-out hating people, and living off of that energy? I cannot do it. Ever.
There are factors about me that I wish I could change. I despise not having more friends, and it’s certainly not for lack of trying. My most recent attempt at friendship saw me continually trying to make plans to hang out with one person for the entire fall semester, only to have them repeatedly dodge my attempts and never really reciprocate any of my efforts. This person explained on multiple occasions how busy they were, but quite frequently, details of their outings on social media showed they were busy hanging out with other friends, with no real interest in trying to include me. My last attempt had me walk halfway across campus for socialization, only for them to change their mind and mention we can plan for another time, which I mentally thought and knew was never going to happen (and, after being removed as friends on snapchat and having no interaction in almost four months, turned out to be correct).
The problem was never their schedule. The problem was me. It puts a significant weight on my own self-worth as a human, and not in a good way. I’ve lost a number of friends due to their newfound relationships, more times than I can count. People eventually get bored of me and leave without so much as a stereotypical “have a good one.” One such person who claims to still be friends with me has made zero attempts in weeks to demonstrate this, after mentioning they are suddenly too busy to be friends with me anymore. Granted, it’s a long-distance friendship of sorts, but I also have a handful of other long-distance friends who have shown no issues in making contact with me.
Are these things I actively talk about? No, because for the most part, they’re only significant to me, and I’m the only one impacted by them. Some days, it takes a lot to keep going. Many times, I feel relatively hopeless. But I also fall under a fundamental belief that if my own issues are next to impossible to solve or make any form of progress with, I can at least positively impact the life of someone else, and that’s something that keeps me going.
I am ecstatic that Thirteen Reasons Why is opening a much-needed dialogue about bullying, mental health, and suicide prevention. No matter your demographic, everyone goes through bad times. Some of these times, you have no idea about. People have had experiences far worse than my own, or may be going through some bad experiences currently. It makes you wonder (as it should) what other people deal with, and, ideally, what you can do to be a more supportive person, whether you know someone or not.
A disappointing factor to me is that some are suddenly championing the need to be more supportive people and to treat people better. I don’t think we need a television program to demonstrate this point; you should be a decent human being enough to be doing this already. For example, you may think a Muslim ban is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean you should go beat up every Muslim you see. You may believe transgender individuals do not deserve to use a bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify is, and if that’s your belief, own it, but don’t punish someone for living their life in a way that conflicts with your own. Hey, if you’re not a fan of “the whole gay thing,” that’s pretty swell, but (and I know I’m just talking crazy here) maybe trying this radical concept of letting other people live their lives might do you some good.
High school environments are notorious for peer-pressuring factors. Everyone wants to be cool, and fit in, and not be weird, and several other things. Various parts of life are a lot like high school: You know the cool group of kids, the punks, the burnouts, the jocks, the list goes on. But rather than trying to fit in, it’s so much more rewarding to simply stand out. People who cannot allow others to be happy living the life they want to live are not people you need to know.
If you see a problem, speak up! In one of the last sequences during the preliminary interviews, the recordings are dated for November of this year, suggesting that in real-time, Hannah’s suicide hasn’t happened yet. Do you see where I’m going with this? You have the power to impact someone else’s life, for better or worse, with every Facebook post, every text, every snap, and every sentence that formulates from your lips and fingers. You have the power to save someone’s life without even realizing it.
And here people think that one person can’t make a difference. Sure, you may not be able to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but that’s not to say you don’t have the chance, every single day, to make someone else’s life better.
That’s exactly what I operate on. I cannot tell you the number of times people have commented on how sweet and nice I am, and it’s not an act for compliments or attention; it’s who I am as a person. Does this apply 24/7? Of course not. I have my bad moods like any other homo sapien. I just personally find it much more rewarding to, I don’t know, be nice to people in general, or at least aim to.
Don’t become the subject of a tape. Become the cheerleader of someone who needs it. If you’re tired of bullies, do something about it. Spread awareness. Raise your voice. We all have much more power than we realize. In today’s society (need I even mention Syria?), it’s so desperately obvious how much we are in need of support and kindness, as corny as it likely sounds. If you have a lot of followers, awesome. Do something positive with that. Start denouncing all forms of bullying and ignorance wherever you see it. Let people know they are not alone.
Who knows? Maybe it’ll save more people like Hannah.