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The Scene From '13 Reasons Why' That Impacted Me the Most as Someone With PTSD

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

One scene that spans something like 1-2 min of the show “13 Reasons Why” hit me really hard, and it has been completely overlooked. In following the controversy and buzz about the show, I’ve heard no mention of this scene. It’s the scene when Hannah and Clay start to hook up and she has flashbacks of other men who have violated her, and she pushes him away and screams at him to leave.

• What is PTSD?

As someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, this scene was important to me and nowhere near as simple as “she was confused” or “she had trust issues and thought he might be like all the other guys.” Let me try and explain this as someone who goes through flashbacks, shakes uncontrollably and has panic attacks often when dealing with physical contact. I have trouble even with people I may be attracted to, in a relationship with or with people in the past I desired to be involved with. At the moment when they kissed and started to fool around, it was clear she wanted to be there. That was “Now Hannah.” Then the flashbacks bring up “Then Hannah.” “Then Hannah” is still experiencing the traumatizing moments she lived through then. “Then Hannah” is separate from “Now Hannah.” “Then Hannah” rejects the person who is hurting her in the past time loop she is experiencing in the flashback. Without realizing her words are coming out of the mouth, “Now Hannah,” who is interested in being with Clay, yells at Clay. “Then Hannah” cannot handle being touched. “Now Hannah” wants to be held, and wants Clay to stay. At this moment, “Then Hannah” and “Now Hannah” are at odds, fighting to control the actions of the body they are sharing. Hannah, trying to deal with the two warring parts of herself, ends up hating herself out of frustration with the discord in her mind.

I have had so many times when I wanted desperately to embrace someone, when I was a human with physical and sexual desires that I couldn’t act on because of defense mechanisms my mind employed on my body. At the time, I believed these defenses were no one’s fault but mine. I was denying myself what I desired and I couldn’t help it.

It’s frustrating. It hurts to not be able to control your mind and have it stand in your way when you have normal feelings. But all anybody would see was the “stop sign” put up because the “now” and “then” versions of myself were overwhelmed and confused. Neither was right or wrong. All anybody could see is that I pressed pause to figure it out. When this becomes my reality, it seems, like Hannah did, the only thing to do for someone I romantically care about is to push them away and spare them the headache of my constant inner struggle of “then” vs. “now.” I want to make sure they only see me when I can be completely sure the “now me” will stay in the driver’s seat.

This is something few people understand, and the struggle can cause a lot of internal shame. But I need to find the people in my life who can understand and support me. Those people who are OK knowing sometimes “Then Me” takes control when I am not aware of “Now Me.” I need others to know there’s rarely anything they can do but stay with me until it can pass and I can calm myself. I need them to remind me it’s OK and ask me questions if they do not understand but would like to.

I have been suicidal and have attempted suicide multiple times. I still feel suicidal sometimes. It is a desperate feeling. Hannah hung on as long as she could, and within that time, she was not given information about flashbacks and PTSD. She had no one to explain to her this struggle wasn’t shameful and could get any easier.

I think this scene between Hannah and Clay was so important because to me, it shows she didn’t just kill herself because people turned against her. I believe she felt her mind was turning on her. Her mind and body couldn’t agree. I believe she was struggling to keep “Now Hannah” in control. With the stigma of this mental illness, I believe she blamed herself for not being stronger.

I believe she sent the tapes because she didn’t want others to feel the same pain. She wanted to make sure Bryce and the others didn’t hurt anyone else to the point of causing a rift between their “then” and “now.” She wanted to make sure people understood.

I believe “13 Reasons Why” is not perpetuating the myth that suicide is selfish. It’s about spreading the idea that truth, honesty, comprehensive education and awareness of even mental illness will end the stigma and struggles of others. It’s about understanding each other, knowing what others feel even in the deepest darkness and ultimately, learning empathy.

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 or text “START” to 741-741.

Screenshot via Netflix Youtube channel. 

Originally published: April 26, 2017
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