Sexual assault, suicide, rape, depression, bullying and the effects social media has on our mental health. These are just some of the themes in the new Netflix teen drama “13 Reasons Why”.
I got so hooked on it, I watched all 13 episodes in a weekend.
Talk about Netflix binge– so much sloth time.
The creators of the series were not afraid about bringing up these strong and important issues in our society and as all good dramas go these days, it was very graphic and suspenseful. Yet very real life.
The shows themes reminded me of some really dark times in my life and here’s the problem with binge watching – your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination or reality when it comes to feeling the emotions and the effect that that can have on us.
I don’t think there is anyone that has not been directly or indirectly affected by one or more of these themes in their lives. And I think it’s really important to bring these issues into the light because there is such a stigma around them and, the more we talk about them, the more people will feel comfortable coming forward or reaching out when they need help.
This series was really graphic, real and raw. Especially the suicide scene where the main character Hannah, slit her wrists in a bathtub (which I just couldn’t watch), as well as the rape she witnesses and then her brutal rape. (sorry spoiler alert).
After the series I watched the interview with the directors and cast which helped me understand why they decided to show it in such graphic detail.
In today’s society, we see violence everywhere, we can’t even turn on the news without hearing or seeing violent graphic scenes happening in real life. We are numb to such graphic detail and I believe there is a romancing around the topic of suicide. So the suicide scene is very graphic and I believe they needed to create that shock value to highlight that suicide is not pretty. It’s not a beautiful experience, it’s not easy, it’s not something that people choose lightly and it certainly leaves an aftermath of trauma to those left behind as well.
I think “13 Reasons Why” really highlights this fact.
When someone is in such a deep depression, when the pain is that difficult, that they just cannot take another day of life and they think that suicide is their only way out, the last thing they are doing is thinking about the after effects to those around them.
And by no means, do I mean suicide is selfish, I just mean when you are experiencing those dark emotions it can be all consuming.
If anything, they may think people in their lives will be better off without them and life will go on.
But for so many of us, it doesn’t. We are left wondering, fearing why and left in despair, grief and loss. I respect the way the show details how Hannah’s suicide affects not only her family, but her friends, the whole school and all those around her. That, for those affected, life does not go on the same and even though she thought that no one would care she was gone, she touched so many peoples’ lives that she didn’t even realise. And I hope that anyone who watches this show, see’s that and starts to think how their life matters and how everything we do affects those around us.
So the emotions I was experiencing watching these powerful episodes, were real. Real in my body, in my heart, and in my mind. It’s like when you watch a horror movie. In those peak moments you are terrified. Your mind and body go into a state of fear. You cannot move, your body is frozen. In this moment, your brain has a chemical reaction to those emotions and believes it is in a state of danger. It goes into “Fight or Flight” mode and prepares to protect itself.
In this moment, the brain believes there is a threat to our safety. We cannot think of anything else because the blood rushes from our brain to our extremities and prepares us to fight or run from danger. So even though we are watching this on our TV Screens, and there is no direct threat, we are still experiencing the emotions, reminding us of past experiences and referencing times in our lives when we felt like the characters we are watching. It is very real to us and to our brains. And when we repeatedly experience these emotions, they can become a pattern that is difficult to pull ourselves out of.
This show brought up so many references and experiences for me. It re-awoke some old emotions, bad habits and negative thoughts that flung me into waves of emotion that affected me for days to come. I know people say, what you don’t deal with at the time, will come back to haunt you, and boy- did it. Feelings of regret, loss, anger, powerlessness, hurt, sadness, guilt and shame. Feelings that I just didn’t know what to do with, so my brain, doing everything it can to keep me safe – played old patterns of behaviour to create feelings of comfort and safety. This turned out to be, me bingeing on comfort food, drinking alcohol, more binge watching, slothing on the couch, shopping for unnecessary items and staying hidden from the outside world.
Trying anything to make myself feel better. These are all effective ways to distract the mind from feeling the actual feelings. All ways of buffering. All ways of avoiding actually dealing with the emotions. And it was days later that I was talking on the phone to my sister that I realised, I was in such a bad mood that I was even starting to push people away.
So I stopped and retraced my steps. I took some time out to figure out what was going on in my head.
I asked myself – Why was I feeling this way? What was I telling myself? What was I telling myself about past events, about myself in those past events? What old emotions was I holding onto and what was I not willing to let go of?
I reached out to a friend and reconnected. I voiced what was going on for me, and just in that moment of putting feelings into words, I started feeling better again. I followed that up with some release writing (20 minutes of writing without purpose – just putting my thoughts into words on paper and then throwing it out). And before I knew it, I was starting to feel like myself again.
This may not work for everyone, but it works for me. I have done some really deep thought work with a Coach to help resolve some of those old emotions that no longer serve me and created some really effective daily practices that set me up to feel the emotions I do want to experience. But that doesn’t mean I will never experience them again. It just means I have a choice. A choice to feel the emotions I choose to and understand when old negative thoughts or old emotional habits start to affect me. Sometimes it can be a daily practice, an awareness or a refocusing that helps me get back on track.
If you are feeling disconnected, or alone – please reach out to a friend and ask them the questions you wish someone would ask you. Connect. If not a friend, then a hotline, there are so many services available.
If you are feeling unloved – Reach out to someone and show them some love. Just the act of showing love to someone will give you the feeling of love in return.
If you are feeling judged or hurt – Reach out and be kind to another person, and listen to their story.
If you are feeling misunderstood – reach out and learn about another person who has been misunderstood. And try to understand someone else’s point of view, that is different to yours. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
The important part is that you reach out and take care of yourself and your own mental health.
Once you see something you cannot unsee it, so choose your TV Shows, Movies, news feeds, and interactions with certain people carefully.
It is so important that we take care of our minds. Take mindfulness seriously, as it can change your life.
Life can be hard sometimes. But without the hard times, how will we know what the good times are? We need the dark, to notice the light, and we need to feel sad to know what happiness feels like.
The hard times make us stronger and the good times show us it’s all worth it.
You never really know what’s going on for someone else, so please be kind.
And if you are in need, please reach out and talk to someone.
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Life line Australia – 13 11 14
Headspace – 1800 650 890