Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) was drama. That is what all the kids in 13 Reasons Why say about a teenage girl. She has committed suicide and then left a set of tapes behind to tell her story. When I was in junior high I tried to swallow a bottle of pills. I walked into the kitchen, opened the cupboard where the medicine was, and took out a bottle of pain killers. I opened the bottle and tilted my head back to pour them down my throat. My mom saw what I was trying to do and grabbed them out of my hand. She then put the bottle back where I found it. I don’t remember a lot after that. She may have told me to go to my room. I don’t know if I meant to succeed or just wanted the attention. I know I was in a lot of pain. I have written a lot about being bullied. 30 years later and I feel like I should be over it. I’m not. That is why I think shows like 13 Reasons Why are important.
I started the most tweeted about show of 2017 a couple of weeks ago. It is the story about the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) is given the set of tapes to listen to. We don’t know the extent of his relationship with her. Each tape tells the story of Hannah’s interaction with one person from school and how it lead to her suicide.
I don’t blame one person for what happened to me. I can’t remember exactly who the kids were who tried to “pants” me as I walked into school each day. Or the kids who gave me the nickname “Buffy” and wrote stories about me in English class. Or the guy who walked up to me unprovoked and told me my hair looked like shit. It was a collective effort between teachers and students where kids target somebody to take the attention off themselves and teachers who weren’t trained how to look for signs of bullying.
As a parent, the hardest part so far of 13 Reasons Why is watching how the girl’s parents are affected. They are shown filing a lawsuit against the school while going through Hannah’s room to give them some reason as to how this could have happened. We see in flashbacks that Hannah had a typical relationship with her mom and dad. She talked to them but not about what was happening. A lot is focused on how they are looking at the problem afterwards. Suicide prevention posters, counselors trying to to talk to students, and graffitied walls in bathrooms are painted over.
I have anxiety and self worth problems every day. I don’t know if the bullying is a direct cause of either or just a chemical imbalance that I am always trying to address. What I do know is I wish I had grown up feeling like I was worth something and that I wasn’t alone (which is a huge part of having an anxiety disorder). I’m not a therapist. I don’t have any professional training. But what I see on the show is that Hannah is either being laughed at, grabbed, or dismissed by the other students. She tries to stand up for herself. But in the end she deals with it. It is easier to accept the negative rather than fight for the positive.
I had a conversation with my daughter last week before bed time. She told me, “Mom, kids make fun of me because I like Star Wars. They say girls shouldn’t like Star Wars.” I told her, “I’m sorry Baby. People can suck. They are going to judge you no matter what you do. So be who you are, even as hard as it will become.” If I have to tell my kids that every damn day for the rest of lives, I will. As a mother I have to accept that kids will be mean and there isn’t much I can do about that. But I can teach my kids their own self worth.
I was always going to put this up on my blog. But I debated posting it on Facebook. Twitter, sure. I feel a cloak of privacy on Twitter that I don’t get on Facebook. You can feel the judgment. But if I am going to accept all the parts of myself, even the ones that are dark and make people uncomfortable, I have to be all of it. And if people can’t handle that, oh well. That is what acceptance means to me.