I started reading “Thirteen Reasons Why” on Sunday afternoon and completed the book by the evening. I heard about the show and refused to watch it until I read the book. Many thoughts stirred up. I’m not familiar with using trigger warnings, but as a courtesy, if you don’t feel like you are mentally ready to read about suicide, rape, substance abuse, please do not proceed. It’s OK if you don’t feel comfortable reading about these things.
These are my thoughts and personal stories.
I used to contemplate death a lot in high school. I wasn’t sure if it was your typical teenage angst. I was suffering from frequent migraines, panic attacks and insomnia. A specialist recommended counseling but I refused. I was ashamed of the stigma behind seeking therapy and exposing my broken home issues. I didn’t feel depressed. I was often angry. I felt like no one heard me, even if I screamed my opinions, feelings and thoughts out-loud, everyone else knew better than me or knew what was best or could make their own assumptions about me.
I used to cut class because I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was able to show up to class, submit all my assignments and pass a test to keep my grades decent despite the absences. I did have a few friends though, but I found it difficult to be comfortable with anyone.
One of my friends attempted suicide. She told me her stomach was pumped when they took her to the hospital. We initially became friends when I recognized the “Judith” song lyrics from A Perfect Circle fell off her desk and I glanced at it. Another friend of mine had issues with self-harm.
I started hanging out with a childhood friend who went to another school. I was more of an alternative kid and hung out with some “scene” kids, but I dressed a bit tom boyish while in school until I came out of my shell. I also started hanging out with a slightly older crowd and began attending clubs with an altered school ID. I made myself a year older.
I didn’t really understand what anxiety or depression was. I assumed I was experiencing panic attacks and fainting due to lack of sleep. I began to drink whenever I went to parties. I also smoked grass. I desired a life free of inhibitions and I wanted to be around interesting people. Things began to pick up, until a life shattering event.
My childhood friend was friends with this guy. I found him to be arrogant and felt like too many girls blindly threw themselves at him because he resembled a rock star. But because my friend was always with him (and he eventually stayed under her parent’s roof), I tried to play nice. He acted like he was afraid of me and commented that my eyes were always angry. Eventually he started opening up to me about his past, issues with his family and what he was really about. I developed a crush on him over a period of time and we kissed twice. I didn’t pursue anything because I noticed his moods changed too quickly, and I realized that my friend was falling for him, even though he was dating other girls she knew about, including a relative. Apparently they were messing around too. It was a messy situation and I didn’t want to be a part of it. But we were all still friends.
I met a new guy at a party who went to the same school with this guy living with my friend. This guy was attractive but I didn’t pursue him either. I was incredibly stubborn when it came to pursuing guys and I didn’t find that looks were enough to make me talk to them, even if other girls did. I found out this guy wanted to talk to me, so we started chatting online and began meeting up. I was starting to fall for him. He was my first partner. I wrote about him in an online journal often. My childhood friend had me as a friend, so she had access to read. I didn’t know at the time, but she allowed the guy living with her to also read my journal, or left it open on her computer.
She went away on vacation with her parents and the friend invited me over to hang out with him and his other friend from school. We started drinking, and I ended up drinking more than they did. He kept pushing me to drink more so I did. I began puking because of the amount of alcohol I had consumed. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with them and his friend was cool, but also drunk. His friend eventually disappeared into another room.
The guy started telling me how much he cared about me, said he couldn’t look at me because he wanted to kiss me. I told him no, that I couldn’t do that, and I mentioned the guy’s name I was seeing. He started making me feel really shitty. I was still drinking and his words were horrible. I remembered that I used to see him that way, but I didn’t want him anymore. I got up to comfort him, and I don’t remember how we got there, but I blanked out when he picked up and brought me into a bedroom. He took off my clothes and had sex with me. I was semi conscious, but he had me on him. When it was over, I started crying, because I wasn’t sure how it happened. He told me to stop crying and to get dressed. He didn’t try to comfort me and I cried harder. I never cried. He made me give him my word I would never tell anyone. I knew he had taken advantage of me.
I laid my head on the dinner table, drowning in tears and guilt, feeling like I was about to pass out again. He pushed more drinks towards me and told me to forget it happened. I had to stay the rest of the night there with him and his friend, because it was late at night, I had too much alcohol in my system and I felt terribly sick. I wanted to go home desperately. I left early that morning. I immediately called a friend and told her what happened, crying the whole time.
I wanted to tell the guy I was seeing in person, but he couldn’t meet up with me, so I told him over the phone. He reacted harshly about it because of trust issues he had in the past. First hit.
He told me to tell my childhood friend, once he cooled down and started giving me advice. Fast forward, because of my feelings for him, being my first love and the guilt I felt over his reaction, I stayed in a tumultuous “relationship” with him and suffered through ongoing emotional abuse.
I met up with my childhood friend and told her what happened. She didn’t believe me. Her emotions for this guy were too strong. She chose him over me. Second hit.
The friend I originally told this to started giving me prescription pills, Valium, and I started taking them whenever I began crying hysterically over the incident or was really depressed. I did not have a close relationship with my family and talking to them wasn’t an option. I tried going to a counselor at school, but when the mention of rape came up, I stopped going. I was scared.
I documented what happened on my journal and a few online friends I had commented on the post. One person told me “If it hadn’t been so long, I would tell you to go to the police. It is NEVER okay for a guy to do that to you, not if you’ve been friends for a 100 years or if you met him that night. It doesn’t matter if he “doesn’t like rejection”. Fuck him. You don’t like being raped either”. I told her I didn’t get the police involved, although I had thought about it, because I went over there on my own free will and consumed too much alcohol. She explained to me how it didn’t matter if I went there or I was drunk, if I didn’t want it to happen and he knew it, end of story. I was grateful for the support.
The fact that this reader told me “it was important to them for me not to blame myself for this situation” and another reader told me my story brought them to tears was reassuring. I was a teenage girl and I felt like I had nowhere else to turn. This helped put a band-aid on the wound. But it didn’t quite heal it.
Regarding the guy, I found out later on he admitted he should have stopped it, but he was coked up. He did something similar to another girl, who was also intoxicated and laying in bed with him, also out of it.
I began spiraling out of control, a descent into madness. I experimented with uppers, downers, everything in between, cocktails of euphoria. I used anything to take me away from myself. I went by a different name as a party kid, created a new identity. Makeup, changed my hair, dressed up, big platform heels, looking as different as possible became my suit of armor.
So I lived recklessly to see if I would finally die. The club scene was ruthless, but I threw myself into the lion’s den. I had to grow tough skin quickly.
I was social but I felt very alone. I felt dirty and damaged. My self-worth was gone. I blamed myself for everything unfortunate that occurred because I believed I didn’t deserve happiness. I kept chasing a feeling every time I took some kind of substance, because it kept me engaged, it was seductive, it made me believe I was projecting my best self. When I danced to the music and felt that rush, it was like I held the universe within me. A life style that is not sustainable. The come downs became harder each time. It was like a devil taunting me when I looked myself in the mirror. It feeds into the self-hate. I experienced a lot, some good, some really bad, and it changed me drastically. This went on for years.
I took myself out of that scene. I sought a psychologist when I was at my worse after another traumatic relationship ended. I also went to a psychiatrist and was given a cocktail of different medications that changed every few months. None of it ever really helped. So I stopped therapy and stopped taking medication completely after an onslaught of side effects came on. When I literally had to wean myself off a particular medication, because of severe withdrawal symptoms, I knew it wasn’t for me. It scared the hell out of me and I didn’t want to be dependent on any drugs ever again. Medications aren’t all awful. This is my opinion and isn’t meant to deter anyone who is currently taking a prescription.
What saved me was writing on a regular basis, confessing everything that was going on. Only later on did I begin to feel ashamed of the person I was and no longer felt the desire to write. I couldn’t face myself or be introspective anymore. I just started to aimlessly float through life. This was another reason that prompted my decision to seek counseling. What allowed me to move past the incident and other situations that followed was re-reading my journals and giving myself time to grieve, to be angry, and to cheer myself on when I kept going, despite jumping through rings of fire. I wrote letters to myself in another journal and forgave myself for my mistakes and the mistakes of others. Maybe my experiences wouldn’t be considered as horrific as others out there, but they impacted me. Some of them almost killed me. And I still made it. Maybe I really didn’t want to die after all.
When I finished this book, as bittersweet as it was, I was glad that the topic of suicide would be discussed. Bullying isn’t just limited to high school, you can be bullied by friends, colleagues, the scene you’re involved in, online, etc. People act out in different ways when it comes to contemplating suicide. I thought about ways of doing it and I also made decisions that may have been cries for help. Some people might blame others for how they felt, I mostly blamed myself. I felt uncomfortable about the finger pointing on the tapes described in the books because I wondered if the main character ever considered how the other characters might react to hearing their business put out there and the damage it would cause them. I wish the author had delved in deeper into the character’s emotional and mental state.
For some people, it’s a serious of unfortunate events that pushes them. For some, it’s that one devastating moment. It’s not weakness. It’s not a type of person that is too sensitive and can’t face the world and their problems. There are strong people that just get used to bottling it up over and over and it reaches a point where they can’t do it anymore. Or they feel like they have nothing worth living for. Sometimes there are no signs at all.
There is also a stigma associated with mental illness that needs to go away. It’s dangerous and ignorant. Someone can be sad without being depressed, they can be nervous without experiencing panic or anxiety. There are people who suffer with GAD and you can’t tell at all. They are functioning well-rounded human beings and are not a slave to their condition. People can become temporarily unstable. They can also bounce back. We are all different. I couldn’t relate exactly to what the character did in the story, but I could understand the pieces of the puzzle and what triggers became a catalyst to ending her life.
Fortunately at the height of my trials and tribulations, cell-phones, social media, texts, videos, were not a thing until much later, when I was already getting myself out of that lifestyle. And my readers were very open-minded when I shared my personal stories. They showed compassion and empathy, something that is greatly lacking online nowadays.
I guess what I want to add to this is, you are not alone. Sometimes it may feel like you are, but there’s a whole wide world out there. Sometimes the people physically in your life might not be the best support for you. But don’t give up on yourself. See how far you’ve come. Stare your demons down. Keep fighting.