I finished Netflix’s Thirteen Reason Why yesterday. I never read the book. Though I considered it. I found the show powerful, and in some ways enlightening.
I am viewing it from the perspective of a parent and also as someone with persistent depressive disorder. I have had suicidal thoughts and actions before. Now I am medicated, all the time. And I will probably be medicated in the long-term,which is good for me. So I viewed this as someone who has their depression under control – if you can ever fairly call it that.
At my lowest points, I would have binged the whole series at once. Where I’m at now, I knew I couldn’t do that. I limited myself to no more than two episodes a day. And I actually think that is the way, the show should be viewed. It’s heavy. And it needs to be digested. (Also, if your child wants to watch this show, I would highly recommend only watching it together one episode at a time.)
At times, I found the show very uncomfortable. But that is a good thing because it got me thinking. I could see my high school in Hannah and Clay’s high school. I could see my classmates in all of the characters. I remembered bullying, sexual assaults, violence, and the terrible consequences of drinking and driving.
Here’s the thing, I graduated from high school 20 years ago, and I believe these problems in some ways have only gotten worse. Students, and society, still slut shame females. We disempower female students by making dress codes that target them and tell them they are responsible for the actions and thoughts of male students. No wonder sexual assaults and rapes go unreported by many, if not most, young women! They are told in subtle ways, hundreds of times, they are responsible for not only their bodies, but the responses of the males to them. Students still spread horrible rumors about each other, but now what would have taken hours or days to get around takes only minutes. How much more pressure must current high school students be under? And it’s every single day, every minute of that day. We could go home and disappear on weekends. These kids can’t. Social media, which can be good and does good things, is used to bully even on vacations and weekends. So there is no end to the negativity.
Still, we have a much more empathetic generation than ours was. I know that isn’t popular to say, but the research is there.
My generation was the “Brand X.” We were sat in front of televisions and were largely ignored. When bullied, we were told “deal with it” or “ignore it” or “stand up for yourself and it will stop.” Lies. All of them are nice lies, the adults in our lives told themselves so they could go back to doing whatever it was they were doing. We largely had to learn to navigate the world on our own. And we were not kind to one another. (Spoiler) I completely understood what Clay meant when he said, “there are no good kids.”
Each episode, for me, had a different message and meaning. Something that we could learn from to do better in the day-to-day life. And I liked that the show didn’t shy away from the fact that Hannah made mistakes too. She was ultimately responsible for how she reacted to the things that happened to her. I know some think of the show as revenge fantasy. Maybe it is, or maybe they’ve never been that depressed. The depressed brain makes crazy leaps of logic. Plus, our brains are hard wired to make connections of things. So when we’re depressed, we connect seemingly innocuous events or unrelated events to each other. And it makes sense at the time. Depression, for me at least, feeds itself. Every slight, every raised voice, every meaningless error or mistake becomes cause for crawling into bed and not getting out of it. And each thing proves why I am not a worthy human being.
(Somewhat Spoiler) Here’s the thing, and Tony said it best. Each of the students in the tapes, Tony, and Hannah all had their truth. The truths don’t have to match, but it doesn’t make it any less real for the others. Our feelings and impressions are subjective. We each have our own way of dealing, or not dealing. Sometimes we’re wrong.
I think of these things and the teenage brain. The brain that isn’t quite finished growing. That is struggling between being a child dependent on parents and being an independent adult. This causes conflict in the brain that are not easily reconciled, which is why we have teenagers doing what they do best: create drama or are overly dramatic, have outbursts from what we perceive as nothing, push limits and not fully grasp the consequences. This is the process of learning to be an adult. Unfortunately, in the case of this story, the adults miss the signs of severe depression and tragedy results. Not that Hannah was the most open person. Hannah didn’t learn that it wasn’t all about her or that it gets better.
It does get better. High school sucks. It’s universal, I think. But it does get better.