Read part 1 Here to get the background of the book and series.
Its time for my second analysis of 13 Reasons Why. Before I begin, I absolutely must provide this disclaimer:
I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I AM NOT A THERAPIST. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING ENDING YOUR OWN LIFE, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP. THEN READ THIS POST.
I am just a man with a story to tell. I am convinced that this story can help others, as well as myself whenever I need it. Speaking of a story to tell, in this post you will see actual journal entries of mine where I sound eerily familiar to one Hannah Baker. When I witnessed the last few events of this show, I was shouting into my pillow in tears. It brought me back to places that scared me so intensely that I screamed into my pillow in tears, shaking.
No one knows this until now, but when I first started thinking about ending my own life, I would write about situations where I would kill myself. I will refrain from going into detail, because not only am I not proud of what I wrote (I would burn what I would write), but because I just don’t want to.
There was a time where I felt almost exactly like Hannah. And because I survived, I will provide some solutions that I have come up with. Keep in mind, these solutions worked for ME. Would they have worked for Hannah? That’s for you to decide. I think they would have. But maybe they wouldn’t have. Who knows?
December, 2000. Despite almost finishing high school, I was still a scared little boy. The high school mentality had completely swallowed me. I began judging my self worth by comparing myself to others. I asked myself all the wrong questions: Did I have a girlfriend? Was I going to a cool college after school? Was I popular? My tragic answer to all of these was no. And for a long time, I had avoided asking these questions altogether. But time was (artificially) running out, and it finally got to me, as this shows:
If you’re looking at this and seeing it as just some nonsensical rantings of a little boy, you’re right. But these rantings mirror Hannah’s. The only difference was that her pain was from the crowds she was around hurting her. My pain was from not being allowed into those crowds in the first place. We were both victims of sexual assault, but when I got accused of harassment/stalking by my major crush for hanging around her like a lost puppy, to me, it felt equally as bad as when Hannah was assaulted. I will never forget coming home from school that day (a couple of days before the day of that journal entry), sobbing loudly and deeply into my pillow, saying “its over, its all over” repeatedly. All because some cheerleader who I liked decided to brutally reject me. Crush Culture made all my romantic decisions back then.
A couple of days later, I saw a counselor at school. I will never forget what I said, and for a key moment, the strong and decisive person I was talking about in my last post came out. I said, and I quote, “killing myself is inevitable. I will be dead before I graduate, and probably before then. Its a guarantee.” It takes courage to physically say to someone that you are considering ending your own life. Right away they gave me the day off school, and I had to speak extensively with these counselors on a daily basis. They needed to make sure that I wasn’t going to kill myself.
Now different than Hannah, I didn’t need to deal with having a negative reputation, or people watching me outside my house, or others taking what I was writing without my permission and making it available to the public. Although those would stress anyone out, I would contend that even those are small issues compared to the bigger ones that both her and I dealt with. And those are the following:
-Someone really close moving away
-Being sexually assaulted
-The high school mentality dragging us into doing things we aren’t comfortable doing (Hannah mentions this more in the book than the series, but the series shows it on display)
One thing that is not understood is that when someone is affected by any of these is that oftentimes, it becomes a full time job to micromanage the suicidal thoughts, even if help is being sought. I’ve had to deal with this, on and off (which is the more frustrating part) until I was about 30 years old. So expecting anyone who has dealt with any of these to be extremely successful is very much unfair. If this sounds like a rationalization for not being successful in the traditional sense, it may be. But when you deal with suicidal thoughts, staying alive IS success.
This is one of my theories as to why suicide is so common in high school. They feel that they have some crazy (and very much artificial) time limit to do certain things (which gets preached at you before high school by the way), and when they haven’t “succeeded” at a certain point they feel like they won’t have any other opportunity to get better, and then they kill themselves. I understand that it is a complicated and possibly unfounded observation but it makes sense to me. I was feeling the pressure of that “time limit” when I wrote that journal entry above.
With that said, allow the above observation to segue into the final part of this article, which comprise the things I did to address my constant suicidal thoughts that I had from late 2000 until I turned 30 in mid 2012. And again, I must stress that this worked for me and I am not an authority on this subject (although I aspire to become one).
-First and foremost, understand that your only goal if you have suicidal thoughts is to stay alive. Put EVERYTHING else on hold in any way possible. If you are still in high school, tell your teachers every gory detail. Its their job to get you on a path to success in their class. If you are working for a living, and can afford to be jobless, quit your job. If you are in college, take time off. You can always return later. The Mountain of Life will never go away, and it is your mountain, no one else’s. No one can tell you how to climb your mountain. Every other action will be predicated on this.
-Determine SOMEONE who you know your life decisively affects. Try to think of someone other than family, as family is usually obligated to care and won’t convince you enough. For me, that was my childhood friend Dan. ANY time I felt like “no one would care if I died tomorrow” I would be like “wait a second. Dan would be so affected that he might off himself if I offed myself. That would suck.” And guess what? Hannah also had someone like this. It was Kat, the girl who moved away when the book/series started. She also, in many cases, had Clay.
-Make fun of yourself and your circumstances. This sounds weird, but it worked for me in spades. Around the time of that journal entry you saw earlier, I started listening avidly to George Carlin. Anyone who knows who he is knows that he holds nothing back. And in his HBO specials, he was joking about things that were affecting me. The observation that a crowd was laughing at something that was my source of my hopelessness made me think: “Am I taking this too seriously? Am I taking myself too seriously? Maybe these things I’m dealing with really are trivial.”
-And finally, surround yourself with motivational stuff. After my father died, I started reading and listening to Anthony Robbins. I was also treated to the final Rocky movie, which contained this amazing monologue:
Right around the time I made that journal entry, I also started listening to a band called Pennywise. Songs like “Every Single Day,” and “Still Can be Great” invaded my thoughts just as much as the suicidal ones did and effectively canceled them out at times. If I can, I will make their entire discography affiliate links on this blog. Pennywise is a musical self help book that will kick your ass, help you up, and then give you the tightest hug you’ll ever get; and it will NOT let go. My childhood friend Dan, Pennywise songs, Anthony Robbins, and George Carlin have given me more hope than any therapist could. And that’s not a knock on the therapists I’ve seen, its just that they can’t compare; nothing can. These things literally saved my life.
Now allow me to ask this, and to answer this you will have needed to have watched the series or read the book: Does Hannah mention ANYTHING like what I just mentioned? Does she mention any performer that she just can’t get enough of? Or anything that gives her any kind of motivation? Does she ever mention Kat after the first few moments of either the series or the book?
No. She doesn’t. And that was her downfall. She was relying on other people in her school to make her happy and in fact, that desire was literally killing her. She didn’t drop everything and focus on her. She couldn’t just put on a Pennywise record and go for a run or go lift some weights (which we also conveniently never witness her doing). She couldn’t fire up a George Carlin HBO special and find herself laughing and crying at the same time while he tells joke after joke about rape and suicide, successfully snapping her out of her state. She didn’t realize that her close friend Kat was readily available to have hours long conversations with her about anything even though she wasn’t in town anymore. When Dan moved away from me, we spent hours per week on the phone. And when we got together, the video games and conversation were magical; they gave me all the rationalizations I needed to not kill myself (although I still thought about it a lot).
When you have suicidal thoughts, you are backed into a corner. You need to fight back and you need to fight dirty. To do this, you need to come up with things that will ensure your survival. You can’t rely on the crowds to do this like Hannah tried to. It is all YOU (and the music/people you listen to, the books you read, the video games you play) and those closest to you. Stay alive, and by any means necessary.