This post contains spoilers and triggers..... please read at your own accord.
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher was a book I read every year starting in 8th grade in order to remind myself what our actions mean for students and friends in our schools. Explaining this book to the people around me at that age was difficult, but if you head to my parents home in Indiana, on my bookshelf, there it stands - a well read, bent, highlighted book that changed my life and moved me to be the best version of myself I could be.
If you haven't heard about this show and/or this book, long-story short it's about a young, vibrant teenager who commits suicide, but not before she makes 13 tapes... detailing her reasons for this choice. Most of the reasons are rooted in bullying tactics, most of which had to deal with fellow high schoolers sexualizing her and treating her like she deserved it, like she wanted it. Want to know more? Check this synopsis out here.
When I heard they were moving into the process of making this book, a piece of my high school experience, into a Netflix series, I squealed. I knew if any place were going to do this book justice, it would be Netflix... and they did. As far as book-to-show adaptations go, I think they did it pretty spot on. But, I find myself questioning the motives behind some of the choices the producers made. How much of this was really for the purpose of exploring teen suicide and high school life, verses how much of this was done for dramatic purposes, to sell this show. Grit sells, right?
This show, the book itself, is triggering for anyone who struggled with depression, self-harm, sexual assault, rape, and/or suicide. I couldn't watch some parts of this show honestly, I had to recognize that in myself before heading into this show, knowing what they did or didn't show. I've debated with myself on whether it was necessary for the show to include these scenes... these very graphic, difficult and hard to watch scenes. The producers chose to change things, with the permission and understanding of Jay Asher, the suicide scene especially was a change they chose. In the book, Hannah killed herself by swallowing a handful of pills, in the show they chose to have Hannah commit suicide by slicing her wrists. A scene they chose to show, not just allude to or reference, but explicitly show. The list of things the show changed from the book is not too lengthy, and for that I commend them.
In regards to suicide, depression, rape and high school/American teenage culture, the conversation is happening.
If this show does nothing else but start a conversation on these issues, then it will make an impact.
Opening a discussion, making things uncomfortable and hard to watch... it works. My news feeds are full of articles and discussions about this show, mostly pro and some negative. But, if we hide behind the cliche undertones, and just referencing these dark realities, we get nowhere. Bringing attention to the problem through dramatic and hard scenes works here. However, it's only fair that I also mention that watching scenes like those shown in this film can truly trigger individuals. Causing flashbacks, anxiety attacks, deep depression and in severe cases, suicide.
If I look back on my middle school and high school experiences, I see why I related so well to this book. The reality was that I was suffering in a lot of ways. Sexual lies, bullying, harassment, cyber attacks... it was a genuine part of my life over those 6 or 7 years. I struggled struggle with depression, anxiety, self-harm, harrasment... so many part of what Hannah went through in this book, and the unfortunate reality is that I'm not alone.
The reality is this:
If I take a look at the people in my life, the ones I love, those I call friends. Almost every single person struggles with either depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sexual assault/rape, harassment, stalking, shaming, and/or some combination of them. Some individuals in our country may call this weakness, seeing our generation as weak or coddled. But, the reality is more people are learning to speak up for themselves, ask questions, negate the norm. This generation is not weak, we are strong and empowered and ready to make a change. This starts with recognition.
We live in a culture where assault and harassment and shaming is a part of our everyday lives, and somehow we see that as normal. It is not normal. No one, is anyone else's property, or possession, or "right". The fact that we have named this as "rape culture" is not okay. Naming it gives it power, makes it seem normal, and commonplace. We must work to negate this norm and force change.
My heart aches knowing that the world suffers so much at the hands of others who use it to make themselves feel strong, powerful, above others or whole. I challenge those reading this to take a strong look at their lives and ask what they can do differently, how can they impact the people around them.
If anyone has seen me in the few years, you may have noticed a few tattoos on my wrists including: a semicolon (;) and the word "amour" (French for love). After my own struggles with depression and suicide and the loss of too many good friends, I decided to make this mark to remind myself to keep going. Both of these tattoos cover scars from my own experiences with self-harm. My left wrist bears the "amour" a reminder to love yourself no matter what is going on or who is tearing you down. Based on the amazing group work done with To Write Love On Her Arms. Check out their story here. My right wrist, a semicolon, the new movement reminding those who bear it to keep going. The semicolon is used in writing when an author could have ended their story but didn't. I choose to keep going.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the above topics, seek help. Reach out for those around you, tell a friend, a parent, a doctor, a counselor, a pastor... whoever you trust. You can also visit the following resources.
Each day is a new day, but when you're living a life surrounded in never ceasing pain, it can be hard to see the light. For those who are there, in this moment, I'm here for you. We're all here for you. Stand strong.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call at 1 (800) 273-8255 or Text to 741741
How to Help a Friend Struggling with Depression: click here.
If you're being harassed or stalked: click here.
Rape/Sexual Assault Help: click here.
As always, with love, and support.