Sad Beautiful Tragic

So now that it’s been a month since my last post, and I’ve sufficiently put off writing about a particular topic we all know and love on the blog, here I am! I have risen from my accidental hiatus for a very special purpose.

It took me quite a while, but I made it through Netlfix’s newest binge 13 Reasons Why. As I’ve said before, I loved, loved, loved the book. Hannah Baker’s story hits close to home for me, and Clay Jensen is such a great character. I was so excited for the show to start streaming because I couldn’t wait to see this book I loved so much to come to life. I was very anxious to see how they would stretch the story over thirteen episodes. I can honestly say that the show made me feel so many emotions all across the spectrum and that I am incredibly happy that its message has reached soooo many more people since moving from page to screen.

So here we have my offical reactions to the show.

First off, as excited as I was for this series, I knew it would be hard for me to watch. This would not be a binge I could finish in a day. Maybe two or three, but not one. As it turned out, I had to go through the episodes over the course of a week.  Obviously I had to stay on top of my schoolwork (New Quarter, New Me, ya know?), but it was also important for me to dedicate time and focus to this show. Something that changed my life this much deserved that.

Normally, when I watch a show on Netflix, I can just go from episode to episode, reading the one-line synopsis and pressing “Next Episode” without much thought. With 13 Reasons Why I could do no such thing. After every episode, I needed to take a moment to collect my thoughts. To sit in silence and think about what I just watched. It wasn’t intentional, I just found myself stopping and reflecting. It felt wrong not to. The episodes were heavy, and I related to them so much. They took me back to middle and high school where I was depressed and had suicidal thoughts, and I needed to breathe. To remind myself that I’m not that girl anymore and I have so much to live for. So many people don’t believe that, and I feel incredibly lucky that I found that light in my life. But I had to remind myself of it. And I pray for those who haven’t found it yet.

Watching the show and needing these breaks between episodes was not like having my anxiety attacks, where I slipped backwards and had to wallow in that darkness before pulling myself out. Or like any other anxiety or panic attack I’ve had in my life. They were just moments where I needed to breathe. It’s hard to remember those thoughts, but I can’t let myself forget about them either.

So I watched each episode with care, and what I immediately noticed was that the characters were not what I was expecting–and that was a good thing. Dylan Minnette as Clay was not shocking whatsoever (he fit exactly what I had imagined), but the rest? I pictured something completely different. I obviously went into the show with an open mind, and I was blown away by the performances. They actors exceeded any expectations I had going in, and I was very pleased with casting. I loved Alisha Boe (as Jessica), Katherine Langford (as Hannah), and Miles Heizer (as Alex). Justin Prentice made Bryce a great, loathe-able villain, and Kate Walsh was phenomenal as Hannah’s mom.

In the book, the only character you get to know outside what the tapes say is Clay. You learn who Hannah is because of them, and you form judgments and impressions on the rest of the characters by the things she says–Clay’s thoughts shed some light, but not much. I loved reading the book because it was easy to keep track of who everyone was and what they did. However, the show presented those characters as flesh and blood and defined them as more than just what was on the tapes. You got to see everyone’s reactions to the tapes, rather than just Clay’s. I didn’t know I needed to see their stories until I watched. There is so much more background and insight, and it helped to see just how everyone was dealing with it. How they really thought about Hannah.

At times it was overwhelming to see all the facets, but I’m glad the writers and producers seized the opportunity to do as such. Though the book wasn’t, the show could have been pretty boring to just watch Clay move through the tapes by himself. And a viewer can learn a lot more by seeing all the sides–because there’s more than one side to every story. And while I think it is important to believe Hannah’s side, it’s also vital to look at everyone else’s.

The book so heavily impacted my life, and I was so happy the show could keep that love alive.

That’s not to say I was head over heels for everything about it. For example, showing Hannah’s suicide was risky. It was definitely triggering, and I would recommend–well, advise heavily–to proceed with caution. Or not at all. If that’s something that will hurt you or your recovery, then steer clear. I don’t think the show’s creators would take it personally whatsoever, and it’s better to stay away from something like that. For me, I struggled to watch it. I thought about skipping over the scene altogether. But I am far enough in my recovery and confident enough in myself that I could sit and watch it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt or that I didn’t have to stop watching it and take a moment afterward. I cried throughout the entire episode, and that particular part had me sobbing.

I don’t know if I would have gone about it in the same way. Hannah killed herself by swallowing pills in the book. In the show, she slit her wrists in the bathtub. Much more difficult to watch. More painful. I wonder if it was the right decision to include that scene.

I get why they did it. It makes sense. But I just don’t know if I would have done the same. But it has started a conversation, and I think that’s essential.

To those saying the show glorifies suicide and glorifies killing yourself as an act of revenge, I have to disagree. And say that Hannah, though a fictional character, only killed herself to get back at the people who wronged her is saying that her suicide is invalid. That she had no reason to be as depressed as she was. To the people that say that, screw you. That’s harsh, but I have reasons.

If you’ve read my story, and if you’ve ever heard me talk about my depression, you would know that for a long time I blamed everyone else for my Bad Thoughts. It was a list of other people’s wrongdoings that led me to think about killing myself. I wanted all those people who were horrible to me to know that they were what drove me to such drastic measures. I didn’t think they’d care, but I wanted them to know it was the things that they did and said that made me hate myself so much. I still want them to know.

If wanting that “revenge” invalidated Hannah’s suicide, then it sure as hell invalidates my depression–and I can tell you, those emotions (or lack thereof) were very real. If you told me they weren’t, that I was just being stupid, well I might just hit you. And then cry probably a little, out of anger mostly. Because I fought so hard to get where I am and to stop blaming those people and myself.

Had I killed myself all those times I wanted to over the years, it would have been a “revenge suicide.” I can admit that. Doesn’t mean it would be petty or unreal or unnecessary. I would have still done it. Having people tell me I there was no reason to be upset or depressed would only have driven me more towards that decision. Invalidating someone else’s suicide or depression doesn’t validate yours any more.

That’s more of a reaction to a reaction, but I needed to say it. It bothered me so much that it made me second guess my own depression. That those ten years of my life weren’t even real. That I was just being dramatic.

I wasn’t and neither was Hannah.

So no matter what I disagreed with or didn’t quite love about the show, what I did love far outweighed anything I didn’t. The book changed my life. The show only made me believe that more.

I still thank Jay Asher for his story and for making me feel not so alone. And I thank God for my recovery. 13 Reasons Why reminded me of that.

–Ash

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