13 Reasons Why: A Survivor's Perspective

Kids being bullied and survivors like me need this conversation.
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I was 5 and it technically wasn’t rape.

Semantics, right? That’s how we work around the taboo topic of rape and sexual assault.

I lived 14 years with an unspoken secret.

It was bad. You shouldn’t do those things. Despite it being out of my control, why would I talk about being a part of something if it were bad?

The last five years of my life have been filled with overcoming post traumatic stress disorder and all of the side effects that come with it.

There are infinite number of articles about the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why on the internet. Google it, you’ll find plenty. As I read article after article, searching for something to share with my friends and family to communicate the importance of this series I found nothing. Each article was flawed.

Some were too defensive of mental illness. I have three. I understand why they would be defensive; but this isn’t the place.

Some were overly attacking of the series. It has a place; while that place may not be the same for everyone, it has a place.

This is my perspective. I hope it helps someone in some way.

First and most obviously, you’ll never know what it feels like to lose control of your body unless you experience it yourself; and I pray that you never do. However I have a question, why is it so difficult for non-survivors to be empathetic to survivors?

When asked many people will say they are empathetic to survivors; but when faced with a story or scenario of events often times the doubts start to rise.

What was she wearing? Why was she there? Did she have anything to drink?

Do the answers to those questions matter at all?

I want to give you a quick glimpse into some of the things I go through daily as a result of my experience.

  • In new, unfamiliar places I’m in constant alert mode; the slightest visual or auditory change will immediately get my attention. That’s exhausting.
  • When around new people I do not have the luxury of being able to relax and breathe. The idea of being alert; it’s present here too.
  • A simple hand on my shoulder is enough to stop my lungs dead in their tracks; and if someone walks up behind me unexpectedly there is a risk of being elbowed.

If I could give these things away on any given day, I promise I would. I wouldn’t hesitate and I wouldn’t look back; but I’m not given that option. No survivor is. The answers to those questions don’t matter now. The answers to those questions won’t reduce the need for alert mode. The answers to those questions at this point simply do not matter.

As for 13 Reasons Why, I stated earlier that it has a place…for everyone. This is not a romanticized or glamorized version of high school. This is very real. Teenagers have it way harder than I did. Social media and smartphones exacerbate bullying and cliques.

When I was in school several of my classmates for many years would tell me I was not worth the air I breathed.

I was not worth the air I breathed.

Yes, you read that correctly. I was bullied extensively in school. I was fighting my own internal battles; I was different. I kept to myself.

I was different.

By the time I was in 8th grade, I attempted suicide. I am grateful I failed. Even on my hardest days I’m grateful I failed. So please do not assume that bullying could not have such a intense, and destructive impact.

Watching 13 Reasons Why was both difficult and comforting. I found hope in every episode that things could get better; but there were episodes that were very difficult to watch. I had to be incredibly careful with those difficult episodes; they can be detrimental to me. Night terrors. Panic attacks. Heightened alert mode. Increased startle response. None of that is worth it.

I am so protective of individuals who have not seen this side of life. I hope you never have to know that pain or feel that struggle; but we need your help. Watching 13 Reasons Why is real life, controlled exposure to what it’s like; but please don’t watch those difficult scenes if it is too much.

Here is an article that provides warnings for each scene and the minutes and seconds to skip.

I don’t love this show because it is an amazing piece of cinematography. I don’t love this show because it makes me feel bubbly inside, though it does give me hope. I love this show because it’s real. It should be a conversation starter. I hope it will be a conversation starter. Kids being bullied and survivors like me need that conversation.


A Survivor

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free,
24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please
visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database
of resources.

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