Thirteen Reasons Why and One Reason I Won’t

I just finished the show Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix. First let me tell you there are spoilers included in this post, so you’ve been warned.

I read some articles discussing the good and bad points of it, but I wanted to give some additional feedback about the show from my experience and also share my personal experiences with mental illness, bullying, sexual assault and suicide.

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker from “Thirteen Reasons Why” as played by Katherine Langford

Let me begin by saying that yes, some of what Hannah Baker experienced can be attributed to “normal high school experiences”. Yes, feeling outcast as the new girl, feeling alone sometimes, gaining and losing friendships, etc. are all normal. But there are other parts of Hannah’s story that are far from normal.

 

Overall I felt that the show was more focused on the trauma Hannah experiences than a mental health condition or a clinical definition of depression. Given all the trauma Hannah experiences during a short amount of time, it’s a normal thing to feel sad, depressed and low. Never once does the show reveal that Hannah is affected by any kind of mental health diagnosis or undiagnosed illness. No one ever says anything about mental health at all other than the scene where Clay’s mother suggests he try medication. Therefore, the hopelessness and loneliness that Hannah experiences, in my opinion, is not a byproduct of a mental health condition; it’s a reaction to trauma. She’s bullied, sexually assaulted and abandoned. She’s experiencing everything from guilt and shame, to flashbacks and triggering and the people she does turn to for help don’t recognize the signs or do nothing and her normal coping skills aren’t working. Maybe they just didn’t ask the right questions.

Hannah Baker experienced trauma.

It’s not her fault. She’s a victim in all of her trauma. To blame Hannah for what led to her suicide is ignorant. In the long run, Hannah did have other choices, but the choice she decided was best for her was taking her own life. Yes, it’s always sad when a preventable tragedy like this happens, and it’s a senseless loss of life. I’m not making judgments on Hannah for this choice, nor am I saying “she shouldn’t have done it”. I’m only saying that it was Hannah that made that choice, and it was hers to make.

I don’t get to decide what is best for Hannah’s life, only Hannah does.

While watching the show I identified with Hannah. I know what it’s like to feel alone, bullied, assaulted and hopeless. I know what it feels like to experience trauma and the lasting effects of trauma. I know what it feels like to think the only option is suicide. Even as I watched and knew what would happen eventually, I found myself screaming at the TV at the people who could have helped Hannah. I yelled at them about what else they could have done or resources she could have accessed. As I was sobbing and watching helplessly as Hannah slit her wrists, in what was the most heart wrenching scene of the show, I thought about all the ways her story had gone sideways, and all the ways it could have gone differently. I was thinking about why she felt suicide was an option for her, and why it isn’t an option for me.

I’ve been where Hannah Baker was. I’ve reached out to people to get help only to have them tell me to “move on” or “cheer up”. I’ve felt like I wanted to disappear, like my life was too hard. I’ve had people say I was a “drama queen,” a “slut,” and that I was making things up or making them “all about me”. Even this blog will be misconstrued by some as all about me. (It is, but it’s also about trauma reactions and mental health and it’s my blog.)

I’ve sat with that razor blade at my wrist willing myself to cut. I’ve had two failed suicide attempts. I’ve used cutting as a form of coping. I’ve had many more times when I contemplated suicide or even had a plan but didn’t carry it out. I’ve wished that I didn’t exist or wished I could disappear. And still I say that suicide is not an option for me.

Here’s why:

Suicide isn’t the end of my pain, it’s the transference of my pain to those I care about.

Think about it for a minute.

I love those who are in my life. I want the very best for them. I have family, friends and coworkers who care about me as well. If I were to take my own life, they would be the ones to feel the fallout just as the friends and family of Hannah Baker did. They would be left with the questions, the guilt, the shame and sorrow of what I had done. They would stay up late at night, unable to sleep because they were thinking about something they could have done differently to help me or stop me. They would cry at my funeral and every time afterwards when my name came up or they were reminded of me. They would be embarrassed when someone talked about the stigma of suicide and what it meant about me as a person, when they implied that I was selfish, weak, or unable to cope or when they blamed my bipolar.

Suicide isn’t an option for me because I can’t bear the thought of leaving them my pain. I want to leave a legacy of my accomplishments, my victories, my happy memories. I want people to cry because they miss me, and because it’s a shame that I am no longer alive, but know that I had a good life. I want people to talk about how I tried to dispel the stigma of mental illness and was open and honest about my symptoms and mental health. I want people to know that I lived with passion, I loved as much as I could, I lived my life to the best of my abilities regardless of my bipolar and the challenges it posed.

I want people to know that there’s no shame in asking for help, and if you can’t ask on your own, have someone help you or let someone know you need help. They don’t have to hide it. Just tell them “I need help” or “I’m suicidal. Can you help me please?”.  I want people to know they can offer help even when it’s not asked for. Like this “You seem pretty down. Are you feeling like hurting yourself?” or “Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”

Let’s talk about mental health and suicide!!!

Suicidal thoughts are not shameful, I think everyone has them at one point in their life. So let’s talk about what is a shared experience for all of us regardless of the cause or reason we feel/felt that way. We can say “We can rely on each other and be honest about our feelings.” or “I’ve had suicidal thoughts. Have you?” or even “I’m a safe person to share suicidal thoughts with.” I guess it’s been my experience that offering help and having someone say “No, I just need to talk.” is much better than not offering. Discussing things makes it so that having future conversations isn’t awkward or difficult. If someone had cancer, they could talk about it openly. If someone had a broken leg and needed to go to the emergency room, they’d ask for help. Why should mental health be any different?!

I want people to know that medication can be a helpful tool for some people, and there’s no shame in that either. No, medication (or therapy, or anything else) cures mental illness-at least not yet. And finding the right meds, or combination of meds, or combination of therapies is BEYOND CHALLENGING and can be so frustrating! But it’s important that you do what works for you. Don’t judge yourself based on the meds you take. Don’t let others judge you based on your meds either. Everyone takes some kind of medication in their life because they need it. So if you need it, and that’s what you want, then there’s no shame in it. And if you don’t want meds, that’s ok too because it’s YOUR choice.

Lastly, I want every single person on this planet know that you are cared about, you matter and if you were gone this world wouldn’t be the same. This is true for every single person alive. Sometimes your brain will try to tell you this is a lie, but it’s not. So think about what will happen when you’re gone before you go. We all will die someday, that’s the nature of this fleeting journey we call life, so just be sure you really lived. And above all, be kind to yourself and to others. You never know what is going on with them.

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What it feels like to live alone and childless during the holidays

Living alone (unmarried and dating or just plain single) really sucks around the holidays. For me it means spending time alone on one of my favorite days of the year.

When I was a child Christmas was the most magical time of the year. I’d wait longingly every year for the holiday to come and I was always ready! I was ready right after Thanksgiving if not sooner. And every year I always got what I wanted, even when it wasn’t even on my list! Now that I’m an adult, Christmas means something different.

Christmas means buying gifts. For everyone. For my horseback riding instructor, for my hair dresser, for my postal worker, for my boss and my direct reports. I always forget someone. I always feel guilty. I always spend way more than I should and I always go broke at some point during the season. It sucks.

No, I can’t go to coffee with you because I broke the bank buying you this gift. Oh? You didn’t get me anything? That’s ok. I’m doing my part to feel like a good friend. No, I understand that you need to prioritize your kids at Christmas. No big deal. I don’t need a gift anyway. #fml

Christmas means eating way too much. There’s Christmas goodies everywhere and staying away from them is HARD! I love baking. I love making my special Oreo truffles. I love making ten kinds of Christmas goodies. But who will taste-test these when I live alone?? Sad day, it has to be me. Ten pounds later I’m sorry I ever started baking.

Christmas means being alone for much of the holiday. Without having multiple holidays to attend and no kids around it means that I will spend at least at least either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day alone. This year it’s both. Hooray.

Do you know how much it sucks to spend Christmas alone? Do you realize how terrible it is to wake up on Christmas day and instead of an excited child and family members I wake to nothing? No screaming children waking me up at 5 am. No dogs barking. No meowing cats. Nothing. It’s just a normal day because I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to parent or tend to. I have literally no reason to get out of bed. So most of the time I don’t, and most of the time I spend most of the morning crying. Getting up only reminds me that I have no good reason to be out of my bed anyway.

It’s December 18th. Do you know where my Christmas tree is? In the closet. Do you know where my Elf on a Shelf is? Not on a shelf, in the box next to the tree. No stockings are hung by the chimney with care. There’s no hopes of Saint Nicholas around here. Nope. Why bother? No one comes over here. There’s no one to surprise with a thoughtful gift. There’s no mistletoe and there’s no holly or ivy. And there’s no Christmas songs.

When I had step-kids Christmas meant something because I was doing it for them. I was decorating for them. I was baking cookies with them. I was making paper snowflakes and garland with them. I was drawing pictures to mail to relatives with them. I was staying up late on Christmas eve to eat the cookies and put out the presents in their stockings. I spent hours buying and wrapping gifts I couldn’t even claim were from me. I was helping them make the memories I had from when I was a child. But when I got divorced I no longer had any kids, so the reasons to do any of this faded.

The thing is, if I had never gotten married I wouldn’t even know what I was really missing. I wouldn’t understand that wonder on kids faces. I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to play the magical elf for a fat man who doesn’t exist. I wouldn’t miss it. Only I do because I have experienced it first hand.

So here I am at thirty-something childless and hurting because I want my Christmas to be magical too! I want to have what all my friends already have and don’t even appreciate! They actually COMPLAIN about it all and it hurts more than you would believe!

I can hear them all now:

“OMG I just *know* my kids are going to wake up at 5 am on Christmas morning!”

“I’m spending so much money on gifts for my kids that I’m going broke.”

“We’re so busy going to both my husband’s/wife’s/partner’s/lover’s and my Christmas celebrations!”

“My kids are acting so crazy now that it’s getting close to Christmas!”

“I just know my parents will get the kids noisy toys for Christmas and I’ll have to listen to them all day.”

“I forgot to move the stupid elf and now my kid doesn’t think it’s real.”

“I wish I got to sleep in on Christmas day.”

No you don’t… you absolutely don’t. Because without those cherub faces you would die. Your heart would break every single holiday that came after and you would die a little bit every time someone complained about their child like it wasn’t the most precious gift in the whole entire world. The mere mention of a baby would make your uterus cramp with longing. Your arms would ache to hold your partner while you watched the kids open presents while screaming the whole time. You would not care. You would look at magazine ads featuring families and you would well up with tears. You would long to see mistletoe and have the chance to kiss someone you care about under it. Thinking of spending Christmas alone would make you sob because once you have experienced the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child, you can never go back.

Fortunately, most people don’t experience this. There’s not too many people who have children one year and the next year they are gone. Aren’t I just the luckiest one to have experienced this twice with two different sets of kids?!….Nope. Not really, it really sucks. It sucks more and more each year because each year brings that stinging confirmation that I may never have a family. I may never have children. I may spend the rest of my life waking up on Christmas morning to nothing but the tears falling on my pillow.

The worst part is that I’m expected to never talk about this. I’m expected to suck it up and be happy for everyone out there complaining about their kids and their bills and telling me how lucky I am to be single. Asking me when I’m going to get married and have kids of my own. Do you have any freaking clue how lucky you are? Do you know what I would give to have kids of my own? I’d like to have kids of my own like YESTERDAY! Sadly most of my friends have never and will never know this cruel pain, so they don’t want to hear about it either. This only complicates things. No wonder the suicide rate more than doubles around the holidays!

But once again I will suck it up, and I will spend Christmas alone. I will make myself breakfast and wrap myself up a gift to open on Christmas morning and I will try not to think about how I feel so sad, so empty and so alone on one of my favorite days of the year, on what should be one of the happiest days of the year.

So when those of you with children are opening your gifts at 5 am on Christmas morning, I’ll be drying my tears on my pillow. Stop for a second and think about how lucky you are to have so much to be truly thankful for this holiday season.

Merry Christmas from me… just from me.

tree

Moving on… literally

It’s day 14 after my big breakup and things are slowly getting back to ok. My ex and I are now able to talk without me bursting into tears. I’m able to eat and function normally for the most part. We’re able to see one another without awkwardness too much. Tomorrow I’m moving into a new apartment.

Now I’ve lived in this apartment for 2 years, 8 months and 26 days. That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since before I left home. This apartment was the first apartment which was MINE and mine alone. I learned how to be single in this apartment. It was my rock for the past few years.

I’ve loved here. I’ve cried here. I’ve heard good news, great news and bad news. I’ve been angry here and I’ve yelled here. I’ve cried tears of joy. I’ve made new friends and lost old ones here. I’ve made love here. I’ve fought here. I’ve studied my ass off the night before an exam here. I’ve graduated here. I’ve created beautiful works of art here. I’ve lost dreams here. I’ve made dreams here. I’ve made dreams come true here. I’ve aged here from my youthful twenties to my wisdom-filled thirties. I’ve made mistakes here and I’ve accomplished goals.

A lot has happened in the past 2 years, 8 months and 26 days and there’s no good way to sum up everything other than I’ve made memories here. This apartment has been the one stable thing in my life despite all the ups and downs I’ve had in the past 2 years, 8 months and 26 days; and now I’m moving out tomorrow.

I’m terrified.

I’m moving to a new town where new neighbors live. I’m moving farther away from my friends, my family and my support system. I’m moving to a town where the only person I really give two shakes about is now my ex, and we’re no longer together. This move is suddenly terrifying.

Up to this point I’ve been excited. As I boxed things up I anticipated leaving this place with joy, excitement, happiness. I lovingly packed my things in paper and in boxes and I thought about my new apartment and all the memories I’d make there, but now I don’t want to leave the memories I already have.

I’m terrified to be alone…really alone. I’m scared to move away because I’m worried that my bipolar will make me sick… again, like the last time I lived away from my support system. I’m scared that I won’t like the landlord there. I’m scared that I’ll lose my job in that town and be stuck commuting to a job in a different town again; wasting my time, energy and money on the drive every damn day.

This feeling came over me as I was driving home from work today. I realized that it was the last time I’d drive “home” to this town, at least for a while. Next time I drove “home” it would be to my new apartment in my new town. I’m realizing that the reason I took the job I have now was to be closer to him, to be with him, to rationalize moving closer to him and eventually moving in with him; and now I want to be farther away from him, but I can’t run away. Even “home” will only be a few blocks away from him starting tomorrow and it breaks my heart that I’ll be so close and yet unable to have him.

And so here I sit surrounded by my life packed in boxes. All my memories packed up in neat little cubes waiting to move to a new place. Waiting to be unpacked in their new place in my new apartment.

And I’m terrified.

But sometimes you need to pack up your life, your doodads and your clothes and your knickknacks and move on…literally. Sometimes you need that push in order to do something great. So that’s what I plan to do; do something great in this next chapter of my life.

It’s been 2 years, 8 months and 26 days… it’s time to move on.

The Deer in my Path

So I’m on day 8 post-breakup and things are still about the same. I still hate most everything and everyone, especially people who have good news or have moved on with their lives. So many people I know are coming out with big news of weddings and babies, and I’m so happy for them… but so sad for myself.

In other news, every morning I’ve been seeing a deer. I’m not sure if it’s the same deer, but it’s in the same spot every day rain or shine. Now I’m all for symbolism, so I looked it up, and here’s what it said about the symbolism of deer:

“A deer is often a sign not to be too hard on yourself. Still the voice of the self critic and treat yourself with gentleness and understanding, be yourself and continue along your path. Seek out your inner treasures and use them generously to help those around you. Trust that kindness and graciousness will be well received.

We are also reminded that we cannot push towards change in others, rather we gently nudge them in the right direction with love and understanding. Lead by doing and showing the way.

Deer is a messenger of serenity, can see between shadows and hear what isn’t being said. Deer teach us to maintain our innocence and gentleness so we can share our open-heartedness with others.”

Now this says a lot to me. First, I’m being INCREDIBLY hard on myself relating to this breakup. I’m blaming myself for a lot of things which I’m not fully responsible for.

Second, I’d love for anything for my ex to change for the better. He’s an amazing person and I’d love nothing more than for him to be the man I see in him and live up to what he’s capable of, but I can’t force this. He has to make that choice for himself, and that’s a difficult reality for me to deal with. I’m trying as hard as I can to nudge him in the right direction, but we’ll see what happens.

Last I’d love a little more serenity. Right now I’m incredibly stressed out…

SERENITY NOW! SERENITY NOW!

Serenity now

I know that with time I will feel that peace, but I’m being a little impatient, ok? My heart is a big open wound and I’d like to have it heal just a little already.

For now every time I see my deer, I will think about being one minute closer to healed, one step closer to change, one tiny bit easier on myself and one nudge away from something amazing.

Dear Ex

Dear ex,

It’s been 5 days since our breakup. I hate the world less. I hate you less. But I’m starting to miss you. Given all that has happened I know that I should think that I’m better off without you, but I don’t feel that way. There’s so many reasons for me to not want you, but I still love you and none of those reasons will ever trump that one thing.

Each day when I wake up I want to text you first thing. It’s hard choosing to be without you. I miss talking to you, you’ve been my best friend for the past few years. I’ve shared things about my life that I’ve never shared with anyone else. You’re the first one I want to tell about my good news, and the first one I want to tell about my terrible day. You’re the last person I want to say goodnight to.

I didn’t cry today… until now.

That’s pretty good. Not great, but getting there.

I still remember the first time we met. Your hair was longer then. You looked like a wreck. You were wearing Birkenstocks, torn jeans and a yellow tee shirt. My friend told me you weren’t good enough for me, but I didn’t care what she said. I looked into those eyes, and I was hooked. I never wanted to look into anyone else’s eyes.

I already knew your heart by the time we met in person. I’d known you for months. You shared your dreams with me. You shared stories that you had never shared with anyone before you and I had ever met in person. You shared your heart with me before you even knew you’d done it, something which took you by surprise as well.

I don’t know why, but I could tell you anything and know that you wouldn’t treat me any differently regardless of how fucked up it seemed to me. You knew you were just as fucked up inside. We were both a little damaged around the edges, but we both accepted the flaws of the other, and together it worked.

For years we developed our relationship. We developed our own patterns, our own inside jokes, our own memories. We built a life together for these past few years. We shared laughter and we’ve shared tears. We’ve been afraid together. We’ve been excited together. I know every inch of your body and you know every inch of mine. We know what the other is thinking even before a word is said.

But now I don’t know where we stand.

I have news I want to share, but I can’t share it with you anymore.

I have struggles I want you to help me with, but I can’t share my burdens with you.

Most of all I just want to look into those eyes one more time and not see anger like what was there the night we broke up. I want to feel the way things used to feel. Not like the world is falling apart around me, but like it’s falling into place.

My friends are trying to help me get through this. They are saying terrible things about you, but they don’t really know you like I do. How can those things possibly be true? How could I have fallen in love with someone who my friends think isn’t worthy of my love? Why would I stay with someone who doesn’t appreciate me or deserve me?

I miss you.

I miss your smile and everything about you. I miss our inside jokes and our patterns. I miss our memories. I even miss things that once drove me crazy about you, like when you’d leave your socks on the floor.

Oh dear ex, where did things go so wrong? How can we fix them?

I don’t know if we can, but I want to try.

I still love you more than anything.

Maybe that’s enough.

Going through a breakup so please excuse me for not giving a fuck

Right now my world is a shambles. It sucks. I hate it. I hate everyone in this world.

I’m going through a breakup.

The worst part of going through a breakup isn’t that your heart is shattered in a million pieces. It isn’t that you feel like you can’t breathe. It isn’t that you just lost something you think you can never replace.

The hardest part of a breakup is sucking out the poison.

Breakups are like getting bit by a poisonous snake. Sure the bite hurts. You become so wounded and the poison sets in and makes you forget about everything else in life. You don’t care about your house, your dishes, your job, that you haven’t showered in 4 days, that you aren’t wearing real clothes except by Wal-Mart standards… The wound cuts you so deep regardless of how long you two were together. The wound hurts because you left yourself open and you got bit… again. It spreads and burns like fire in your veins.

For most of you this isn’t your first bite. You’ve been bitten before, but the last one didn’t feel as bad as this one is, or as deep as this one feels. The last bite was tiny and this one has punctured your soul, but as I said, it isn’t the bite that’s the hardest part, it’s sucking out the poison.

The first thing you need to do after a breakup is remove him or her from your life. You suck out the poison. This means you stop spending time with him or her. You don’t call. You don’t text. You don’t Snap Chat. You take down all the pictures of the two of you in the house. You delete the photos on Facebook and Instagram and every other social media site that you now use in this modern age. Worst of all, you unfriend and block him or her (and everyone who connects you two) on social media. You donate the clothes he or she left at your house or give them back. You throw out the toothbrush that he or she left at your place.

This is quite possibly the most emotional and hurtful thing you have ever done to yourself, but also the most essential. The more times you do it, the harder it gets. You cry. You sob. You look at yourself in the mirror while crying (we all do it sometimes). You use more tissues than a teenage boy who just discovered porn. You can’t eat (or you eat all the time). You can’t sleep. All your brain wants to do is fight this change, be together again, make it like it was before and it will stop at NOTHING to convince you that this is possible regardless of how you broke up or why.

Your friends all tell you how you’ll love again, but you don’t want to love anyone ever again. They try to reassure you that you’ll survive this bite. (They are trying to be good friends here, so try not to bite their heads off.) But inside you feel this hole starting to build, the hole where the fangs got you. And you feel it spread deeper and deeper until you’re more hole than person.

You suck out all the poison until the open wound that bite is now clean and you can really assess the damage. You suck out the poison until your whole soul is exposed and clean and you’re the most vulnerable you’ve been in the longest time.

But that’s not all there is to recovering from a breakup. There’s a whole list of other steps you have to complete before you’re done. And it can be overwhelming. It can feel like nothing will ever be the same, but I promise that once you suck out the poison, the wound begins to heal. It will be the most horrible thing you ever do, but hang in there. Soon the wound will get smaller. You’ll consider scratching it and letting a little bit of your ex’s poison in via Facebook message, or text or tweet, but don’t do it. You need to stay far away from the poison so you can heal.

The most important part of sucking out the poison is to do it for yourself. Don’t try to heal for anyone else but you. Give yourself time. Let yourself be vulnerable and weak. Show your emotions. Cry and sob and let that mascara run without caring. You need it.

But most of all love yourself and know that it takes two people to make a relationship work. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you’ve made. Mistakes are a part of being human. Know that you will eventually heal in time, but in the meantime, don’t let anyone else bite you.

Pretty soon you’ll be playing with snakes again…