In our modern day society, ‘speaking out about hard topics’ is as common as asking an acquaintance about the weather. Coming out about your sexuality on YouTube is the norm. Discussing your break up in 140 characters on Twitter is #easy. A Facebook status update about how objectifying it is to be catcalled with a shout out to the genital mutilation happening in Egypt (irony is not lost here) is almost expected on yet another boring Tuesday night.
Undoubtedly, I’m not condemning the importance of getting the conversation going. We take for granted our ability to discuss topics that by some countries or within some religions –are granted the death penalty for even questioning the status quo.
And my post isn’t anything different. I am going to preach to the choir – so to speak, I’m going to shove my opinion down your throat, I’m going to suggest that because I’ve experienced the topic at hand I am dignified with the qualification of knowing more about it than you.
That’s the reality of modern day society, isn’t it? We’re all educators, teachers, professionals, geniuses. Much is said but not much is done. We empathise online but we cannot empathise in reality. We speak about violence, brutality, tragedy but hide behind the veil of words because we are afraid of action.
I’m the same, don’t worry. It’s not as if I organize Power to the Pussy protests or have decided to say – fuck it, it’s time to move and devote my life to volunteer work. On the contrary, I read and share and discuss with my friends and then go back to my own mediocre warm cocoon of the ambivalent Western world.
But the conversations that hit closer to home are the ones I become invested in – call me self-centered and I’ll call you a hypocrite.
Mental illness is one of those topics that we all speak about without really speaking about it.
I guess it’s probably because it’s such a subjective experience. If you haven’t experienced it, if you haven’t witnessed it firsthand in the dead eyes of someone you cared about – then how can you really be terrified of something you can’t fathom? What’s scarier – becoming sick because of your society or becoming sick because of your inability to control your mind?
I’ve had this issue in my own personal relationships. I’m the girl who can communicate anything – but I can’t put into words how I feel when I fall into the pitfalls of my personally constructed hell.
It happened when I was a child. I was lying wide awake in the middle of the night and I was overcome with an all-consuming fear because suddenly I didn’t understand why was I here. Not my bed with it’s Pokemon duvet covers, or in Toronto, or on Earth– but genuinely why did I exist? Not the biological, scientific explanation –not the story of how my parents met and married and moved around the world before they subsequently divorced. But here. I was shaking at breakfast the next morning when I told my mother and she just didn’t know how to answer my question but why do people exist and what is the universe and please don’t give me a scientific answer so she replied with: “Sweetie, you’re growing up!”
I was ten years old. No one else viewed this as a warning sign.
I’ve had a difficult relationship with my own mind throughout the duration of most of my teenage years and young adulthood. Which in other words – is my entire life. I’ve had numerous therapists, have seen psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, naturopaths, even allowed myself to be dragged into a hypnosis session.
‘But what’s wrong?’ Nothing.
‘Why are you depressed?’ I don’t know.
‘Can you explain how it feels?’ No.
Clinical depression. Existential depression. Depression with a side of generalised anxiety disorder. No, wait, we got that wrong – it’s social anxiety. Lorazepam or Prozac? Pick one. Pick two. How about neither. How about CBT? Have you tried running? Meditating? Cutting your hair? Writing a diary? I have.
I have also tried a string of destructive relationships and falling in love with the wrong people and boyfriend’s who were meant to ‘save me’ (spoiler alert: none of them did) as another form of medication. I’ve tried sleeping for days or maybe weeks and possibly years. I’ve tried the drinking and the drugs, the reckless behaviour, the opening my mouth to scream with no air coming out. I walk the thin line of the fun girl and the crazy girl.
Most of my friends, family and peers have this inherent belief that because I am not crumbling, that because I am ‘strong,’ and because as they think ‘I have my shit together’ – I am okay. I overcompensate in my enthusiasm for life so that no one can figure out that I’m not the strong girl, that I am the weak girl. For my enemies – your words can’t touch me, your insults can’t pierce my shield because I’m already in the middle of a war and that’s a life-long battle with myself.
Yet there’s something I can do, or you can do – and it won’t require doing much apart from leaving your couch, or your bed, or your mobile phone. When you have a day or two or a week – go and watch ‘13 Reasons Why’ on Netflix, and I guarantee you’d be doing more for yourself or your friends or your coworkers than sharing a news article.
There are not many TV shows that accurately depict insanity, suicide, or the difficulty of losing someone – and losing yourself.
I didn’t even think this show was going to be good, if I’m honest. I idolize Selena Gomez for her candid honesty in the media but seeing her as an Executive Producer made me doubt the validity of how much of a cinematographic experience this would be.
The characters of Clay and Hannah, however, bring this show to life. Clay is the guy trying to understand why the girl he loved killed herself. Hannah is the girl who is every girl until she gets pushed down, abused, shouted at, subjected, and diminished by her surroundings – leaving her as an empty, broken and former shell of herself.
Every single episode will bring you to a closer understanding of how dark the spectrum of emotion works. It might teach you a lesson or two on empathy. It might give you the ability to actually pause and consider that you’re not indestructible – and neither is the world full of people around you.
There’s something about depression that makes some people become repulsed. As if they think it’s a choice. One day you just wake up and decide: Today, I’m going to be unhappy. That’s not the way it is with mental illness – no matter how severe or how mild your symptomology, whether you have alcoholic parents or live in a beach hut in Hawaii – limbo is not a choice, it’s a consequence of your disorder. It’s the hell of purgatory.
This is what this show captures, that you shouldn’t – and can’t – blame people for the way they experience the world.
‘13 Reasons Why’ is a series made for people who have lived through it, for those who have bared witness to it, and most importantly – it is made for those who struggle to understand. It’s not your fault. I’m sure some people I know that are reading this right now will roll their eyes and think: ‘I don’t care what you have to say, Karina.’ Because that’s what we all do with things we don’t understand.
I’m not asking you to understand, I’m asking you to try to imagine what it would be like to understand.