I watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, the show based on the novel by author Jay Asher. I read it because a parent on Facebook said it glorified teenage suicide and nobody should ever watch it. Since I work with adolescents and know several who are currently watching the series, and since I am oppositional and will be damned if I’m told via Facebook to never watch something, it naturally followed that I would watch an episode or two. Yeah…I binge-watched it. I mean, it wasn’t Breaking Bad or The Path, but it was done well. And I do not believe suicide was glorified at all.
To give you a synopsis of 13 Reasons Why (Caution: spoiler alert), a young girl named Hannah Baker suffers a series of events that eventually cause her to give up on life. She gets a private poem published in a paper, has a misleading picture texted to her classmates, witnesses a rape, and is then raped herself. Hannah leaves a set of tapes, 13 of them, and each tape dedicated to someone who contributed to her suicide. The end of the Netflix series shows Hannah slitting her wrists and bleeding out into the bathtub.
Why would I binge-watch such a thing? What would make me sit and watch and watch something so depressing? Easy – I kept seeing my own adolescent clients in the faces of the students. I saw my friend’s kids and imagined what they would go through when they hit high school. I mean, bullying was bad when I was in high school but holy shit – one bad picture, one bad decision, and someone’s life will be over before it even has a chance to start. Kids can be relentless, and social media can be unforgiving. It’s no wonder a young man or woman might feel the need to just give up and die. Give up and slit their wrists. Give up and jump. If you are one of these people and you stumble across this little piece of writing, read on. If you have a friend on the edge, let them know there are reasons to live. I present to you 13 Reasons Why Not: Reasons For Living.
13 Reasons Why Not: Reasons For Living.
- You are loved. It may not be by a current boyfriend. Hell, maybe you and your best friend are on the outs. But someone loves you. Your parents, perhaps? Family? Sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, pet python, or puppy? You. Are. Loved. I promise.
- You are valued. You may not see it. You may not believe it. But you have value. Do you sing? Draw? Write? Dance? Have you ever picked up someone’s book after they’ve dropped it and handed it to them? Have you ever done something nice for anyone? Have you ever given good advice to a friend? What about work? Have you made a customer happy? Have you ever made anyone smile? Whether you realize it or not, you have value. At some given point or another you have changed something or someone in a positive way. You bring value into a difficult and sometimes dark world.
- This too, shall pass. Have you heard this phrase? Can you commit it to memory and recite it when stressed? Just take a slow, deep breath in and gently say (aloud or to yourself), “This too, shall pass.” This pain you are feeling now? This sadness? This depression? This feeling of isolation, like nothing will ever get better? It will pass. It may not pass soon, but it will pass. You will grow up. Your peers will (hopefully) grow up. This Too, Shall Pass. You just need to survive it. I know you can.
- Your true friends love you. I’m not talking about the kids who are using you for after school rides to the mall. I’m talking about your bonafide, trustworthy, alwaysthereforyou (yes I meant that as one word, it’s part of my zany charm) friends. They love you. They would miss you terribly. They would forever wonder if they could have done anything to change it. If you are feeling like giving up, please go find your alwaysthereforyouforeverfriend (I did it again, ha!) and let them know you are struggling and need help.
- You only have to survive four years. High school is four years. It seems like a lot, and if you are being bullied it is a helluva long-ass time, but it will end. Take it year by year. Guess what, it gets better each year. Each year you survive is a year closer to getting the fuck away from these people and starting college or work. You can do it. Promise yourself a reward at the end of each month, and a huge award at the end of each year. And when it gets too tough, see a counselor, your parents, a friend, or a therapist. Get help. Four years and it’s done. You Got This.
- You have options. Meds, therapists, parents, they can all help you get through the tough time. Can you allow yourself to stay alive a little longer? Just long enough to get the help you need? It could be that your chemistry is off somewhere and a med could help you feel right again. Would you hold out just a little bit more?
- You have a future. Think ahead. What do you see? An awesome career of your making? House? Kids? Spouse? Dog? Carnivorous plants? A Subaru? Can’t experience those things if you let go now. Think ahead. Go ahead – picture it. Hold that image in your mind. Capture it and never let it go. It’s hope.
- Fun randomness. I have a new friend who had a hashtag about going out of his way to step on a crunchy looking leaf. It cracked me up. Think about small things. Little pleasures, like cracking open a new book. What about the texture and taste of your favorite dessert? What about the feeling of stepping into a cold pool on a blistering summer day? The world, your life, is filled with tiny moments- miniscule pleasures that make up the whole of our existence if we just take a moment to notice them. Stop for a moment. Close your eyes. What do you feel? Is there a gentle breeze on your face? The rumble of a street as cars pass by? What do you hear? Count the sounds- how many sounds do you notice? Take five minutes each day to do this. You will find you feel more peaceful, compassionate toward others and over time, compassionate toward yourself.
- Being crazy with your friends. I’m talking Bat-Shit Crazy. Don’t even sit there trying to pretend you have never pushed each other down the isles of a superstore in shopping carts. Ok. Maybe not specifically that, but think back to the craziest fun time you have ever had with a friend or friends. How much fun was it? You can experience it again. But you can’t if you’re dead. So call your friend, get together, and go nuts!
- You can witness the world become a better place. Technology will grow and awesome new things will be on the horizon. Great new stores will be built. New books will be written. Don’t you want to live to see a series that will outdo even the Hunger Games or Harry Potter? The world is waiting for you. Please don’t leave it.
- Christmas morning. Chanukah? Kwanzaa? Name your favorite holiday and picture it. Picture your family all together, sharing stories, playing games, eating favorite foods. Singing badly, perhaps? Laughing. Picture the presents- the joy you feel when opening them and the heartwarming feeling you get watching someone open yours.
- Everything’s going to be alright. Bob Marley wrote a song about it. “Don’t worry about a thing. ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” It will get better. It will pass. You are loved. You have value. It will be alright.
And the THIRTEENTH reason why not to commit suicide: this is a blank for you to fill in. Hopefully you have read the previous 12. Close your eyes. Ask yourself what is your reason for living. Who is your reason for living? Write it down. Hold onto it. Keep it close. Never let it go.
Suicide is not a good option. It is permanent. If you are feeling suicidal, check out these suggestions below and remember- YOU. ARE. LOVED.
- sixftover.org: a Michigan-based suicide awareness group
- crisistextline.org: a 24 hour suicide hotline
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255
Written by Dayna Weber, LLPC