As Someone Who Was Bullied, 'Thirteen Reasons Why' Was a Lifeline
You never think your high school is going to be like the ones on TV, with the bullies and the mean cliques — until it is. Until you’re too scared to walk the halls, until the weight of reality comes down hard because you realize you’re walking the halls by yourself.
At least, this was my experience.
You think things are going to be a lot easier, you think you have the strength to withstand, until something knocks the legs right out from under you. For people like me, and Hannah Baker, it was rumors, bullying, harassment, abuse, neglect, but for others, it’s different; no one’s story is the same. In reality, you want to be more than the sum of the things people have said and done to you, but it isn’t easy to remind yourself you aren’t when it’s all you hear. I’m sure you’ve seen the Einstein quote, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Well, when it feels like your entire school is against you, it’s hard to believe it isn’t. When no one even calls you by your own name because they’re only referring to you as “slut” or “whore” or something similar, it’s hard to convince yourself you’re more than what people say. When you’re a fish always climbing, how do you learn you’re actually supposed to swim? For some people it’s too hard to handle, the loneliness eats away at you.
I was in that place, the one where you’d rather give up living than continue being miserable. In hindsight I think it was pride that saved my life. I believed in a life that didn’t make me feel like suicide was my only option. I blindly clung to some unjustified faith in humanity. I thought maybe if they knew how I was feeling they’d have let up. I tried, just like Hannah did, to tell others. People were convinced I was lying or desperate for attention. People saw, but no one cared enough to notice. All I wanted was to understand, to know of a way to fight it, but for me, and a lot of others, that magic answer never comes. I’ve been out of high school for years now. I didn’t persevere, I muddled through. It still bothers me to this day because that’s what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does, it makes you feel like you’re still there. It reminds you every day.
In high school when I read “Thirteen Reasons Why,” it was a lifeline for me. It helped me understand I wasn’t alone. Even though Hannah isn’t real, I realized if I was the scapegoat at my school, then there had to be someone else out there who was going through the same thing. So when I heard the news that it was becoming a Netflix series, I was excited. The book taught me how to help people like me, it taught me how to be a friend to others, it taught me how to understand loneliness, and more than all of that, it showed me that nothing I felt was wrong. I didn’t deserve what people did to me, and I did have every right to feel as beat down as I did.
After high school, when I finally felt safer, I shared my story on social media and was able to help others reach out about their abuse. I helped people contact authorities, and I talked people off the ledge, because if there’s one thing you can take away from that story, it’s that you can always do something to help, and you always should. This isn’t a story of triumph. It’s not about how I felt, what others did to me, or a hope for recognition. It’s hopefully some insight and understanding. It’s a call to action because someone dies by suicide every 16 minutes. Open your eyes, be brave enough to do something, stand up for those who aren’t defended. And it’s a thank you to the author, Jay Asher and everyone who had a hand in making the novel and the show possible.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Lead image via 13 Reason’s Why Facebook page