Reaching Out

Lately, there seems to be an abundance of messages telling people who are struggling with depression to reach out. Reach out to friends and family for help dealing with the overwhelming sadness that plagues their mind. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, part of depression is inhibiting the ability to reach out. People are who are deeply depressed often find themselves unable to leave their house and unwilling to talk to anyone. A common side effect of depression is participating in isolating behaviors. Because of this, it’s important to know that if you see someone struggling, it’s important for YOU to reach out. Sometimes that’s what a person needs- someone to reach out and remind them that someone is there for them. If someone seems depressed or seems to fall way out of touch for no reason; reach out to them. If someone who used to be around a lot is suddenly not around at all, reach out to them and let them know you are there for them. It may take some effort, but it’s important to remember how hard sending a simple text message can be for someone who is deeply depressed.

With that said, there’s another side of reaching out- one that may not be as well known. There are messages telling people to reach out, but what happens when people who are depressed do reach out, and they people they reach out to don’t get the memo? Often times, someone who feels like they are slipping into depression will try to reach out to others because they know what’s coming. People who have suffered a long battle with depression tend to have a better understanding of their symptoms, including when they are dangerously close to isolating themselves. They know that if they put off talking to people, they may be too depressed to even pick up the phone. So, they try to reach out, but sometimes reaching out simply does not work.

Sometimes reaching out is sending messages to five different people within an hour and getting no replies. Sometimes reaching out is sending message after message to the same person day after day and never having them respond. Sometimes reaching out is sending an outrageous picture that made you laugh to someone and waiting hours for a response that never comes. Sometimes reaching out is desperately trying to spark a dying conversation back to life because you can’t stand the silence in your own head. Sometimes reaching out means continuously finding yourself at a dead end. Sometimes, you reach and reach and reach, but no one notices. And when this happens, it can reiterate the feeling that no one cares. All those thoughts about how you don’t matter to others that come with depression seem to solidify with each unanswered message.

This is why it’s important to be aware of the fact that someone may be reaching out to you. Most likely, they won’t say “I’m reaching out to you because I’m starting to feel really depressed again and I’m trying to let you know so you can help me before it gets bad.” They aren’t going to say, “I really need you to respond because I feel unwanted by everyone in my life and your response reminds me that I’m not a burden.” You won’t read the words, “Please don’t let this conversation end because your messages are my life line right now.” It will be much more subtle than this. Reaching out is someone continuously trying to make plans with you, no matter how many times you bail. Reaching out is someone who sends you several messages even though you never respond to them. Reaching out is someone who won’t seem to let a conversation end, despite the fact that you’ve been giving one worded replies for over an hour. When someone is trying to reach out to you, it can be frustrating and just plain annoying.

It’s not your responsibility to help someone who is depressed. It’s not your job to make them feel better and it’s not your job to “fix” them. You do not have to take on the responsibility of supporting someone who is depressed. However, if someone you care about seems to be blowing up your phone for no real reason, you might just want to reply. If someone you know is sending you a boatload of mindless texts or messaging you on a regular basis, they may just need you to respond. They know you can’t take away all their problems and often times, they don’t expect you to save them. More often than not, those who are depressed just want to be reminded that they matter; that people want them in their lives. They just need a little support to help them from spiraling downward into depression. Reaching out isn’t easy for those who depressed, so if someone you care about seems to be reaching their hand out to you, you may want to reach out and grab it.

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To the One Ready to Give Up

Many of us have moments in our lives where we feel like the world is crashing down around us, and we are powerless to stop it. We feel stuck in a hole with no way to claw ourselves out of it. These are the times where the pain is so intense, we are desperate to do anything to make it stop. It is these moments where we surrender ourselves to our own minds, and devise a plan to end it all permanently. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for adolescents. Obviously, there are far too many people who feel this way; who feel that death is the only way out. So this post is for anyone who feels this way. To anyone who has felt this way in the past, and survived. To anyone who has ever seriously considered or attempted to end their own lives. This post is for you.

You may be wondering who I am to think I understand what happens when the world is too much. But the thing is, I know how that feels. I know what it’s like to feel like the pain will never stop piling up and to see only one way out. I know how it feels to want to give in and stop fighting for a life I don’t want anymore. I know how it feels to want to die. A little over a year ago, I was consumed by my depression. There was so much happening in my life; I didn’t want to face it anymore. I just wanted to be done so it would all be over. I had given up on my life, because I didn’t ever see it ever getting any easier. I know what it’s like to just feel empty; to be so tired of “getting through it” that you don’t feel anything anymore. But it’s at that moment when you are ready to just let the world slip away that you need to fight your hardest, because I promise, even if you can’t fathom it, it gets better.

I know you’re tired of hearing that. I know you want to scream “When?” at the people who say it. I know you don’t believe it, but take it from me. A year ago, I thought the same way; that nothing would ever get better. But a lot can change in a year. Despite the fact that at this time last year, I was at my lowest point, today, I am happier than I have been in years. I have seen with my own eyes and felt in my own heart that it does get better. Things will start to fall into place and people will surprise you. You will find new things to make you happy and you feel yourself being brought back to life in the most unexpected ways. People will come into your life and others will leave it- both for the better. Changes happen that are scary at first, but turn out to be amazing. One day at a time, the tightness in your chest starts to subside, and you remember how to breathe. Weight starts to fall of your shoulders, and you are reminded of the things that kept you fighting for so long. You remember what it means to be alive.

I know it’s hard; it’s the hardest thing you will ever do, but you have to keep fighting. Keep fighting for your life, no matter how bad you want to give up. Ending your life is a choice you can never take back; a mistake you can never make right. You will be missed by so many more people than you could ever imagine. I know life is cruel and unfair, but you were not put on this earth to just exist. You deserve to live. If you need help, tell someone you trust that you need help now. Call or text the national suicide prevention line. Drive to a hospital and check yourself in if you have to. Do whatever you need to do to stay alive, even when all you want to do is stop living. I promise you, it is worth it. I didn’t think it was a year ago- I didn’t think it would ever get better, and I have wished a hundred times since then that I had gone through with it, but now, a year later, I’m so unbelievably grateful I didn’t. Never in my life did I think I would be this happy again; that so many parts of my life would fall into place. Yes, there will still be hard days and mountains to climb. I will still be knocked down and feel powerless against my own mind, but now I’ve seen the other side. I’ve seen how fast things can change and I’ve seen what happens when you hold on just a little longer. I know you can do the same- I know you still have it in you to fight for your life, so do it and never stop. Stay alive. I promise you, it’s worth it.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

National Crisis Text Line: text CONNECT to 741-741

All I Could Have Missed

So often it happens that we become so consumed by our minds, we are unable to see past all the things we don’t want to deal with. If we could just give in and surrender, we wouldn’t have to worry about paying next month’s bills, fixing the broken stove, affording groceries for the week, finishing homework, going to work, dealing with loss, trying to find love, and a million other things we just want to escape from. If we could only just give up the fight, there are a million things we would never have to deal with again. These thoughts fill up our minds when we are at our lowest, when we are a breath away from letting go. So many of us have been here, that it’s hard to fathom someone who hasn’t. We have all been enticed by the sweet release of death.

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While it seems second nature to come up with the list of things you would be free from, I can’t help but think about all the things I would have missed if I had given in to my mind, and just let the world fall away. When the want was so desperate, I could hardly breathe. When all I wanted was for the world to stop. If only I had given in then, there would be so much I wouldn’t have to deal with now. But then again, I would have missed some of the best days of my life.

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I would have missed chanting songs with my team and dressing up in a group costume with my friends. I would have missed countless nights on the couch, watching movies and T.V. shows with my roommate. I would have missed teaching my dog to dance for a treat, and all the times she jumps with joy from seeing me walk in the door. I would have missed helping my little brother with his history paper and congratulating him on passing his driving permit test. I would have missed the hours I spent talking to my mom on the phone. I would have missed the family dinners where we laughed until we had tears in our eyes. I would have missed watching my plants grow from freshly planted bulbs to beautiful, blooming flowers. I would have missed a night out with my friends where we drank too much and laughed too hard. I would have missed sitting in front of a mirror with two of my best friends, as we all did our makeup together. I would have missed a friends Thanksgiving, where we all ate until we were ready to burst. I would have missed laying on the floor watching bad American Idol auditions with two people I love. I would have missed cowering in fear from a scary movie with my roommate, as we sandwiched the dog between us. I would have missed countless days at work, while I felt happier and more alive than I had in long time. I would have missed meeting my coworkers, who are some of the best people I know. I would have missed ER coming to Hulu, and finally being able to binge watch one of my favorite shows. I would have missed the second season of Stranger Things, and discovering a coworker who likes Game of Thrones as much as I do. I would have missed the countless Will & Grace references my coworker and I share. I would have missed the Minneapolis Miracle, and the amazing season the Minnesota Vikings had. I would have missed hilarious text messages and Snapchats. I would have missed the Wonder Woman movie and Pitch Perfect 3. I would have missed Taylor Swift’s new album and seeing Queen in concert. I would have missed Christmas with my friends and Christmas with my family. I would have missed the excitement of a new crush and the warmth of a new friend. I would have missed talking about football games, plans to be made, movies we’ve seen, and nothing at all. I would have missed my entire life.

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It’s so easy to get caught up in the things we wish we could make disappear, but we forget about the things that make our lives worth fighting for. As bad as today may seem, the best day of your life can always be just around the corner. It’s exhausting to keep fighting, but our lives are worth it. The hardest battle you will ever fight is the one you have with yourself, but it is also the one we must never surrender to. Just because things are bad now, does not mean they have to stay that way. I know how hard this can be, believe me, I know how exhausting this fight is. I know how it feels to be constantly at war with your own mind; to have your own brain convince you that your life is no longer worth fighting for. But it is these moments in which it is vital that we don’t give in, that we fight back no matter how tired we are. Because someday, you will look back on this battle, and be unbelievably grateful that you didn’t surrender; that you didn’t give up on yourself. Whenever you think about giving up, remind yourself of all the things you would have missed if you had surrendered the last time.

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The Side Effects of Suicide

We would be foolish to ignore the ever-increasing rates of suicide that have become so prevalent in our society. As of today, there is an estimated average of 121 suicides per day; that averages out to approximately 5 per hour. Every hour, there are five people who no longer see a point to their life, and make a choice to end it. For every successful suicide, 25 people attempt. That means that every day, 3,025 people try to take their own lives. That’s more than three times the population of my home town. These are startling statistics- that’s no secret- however there is a side of suicide many don’t know. A side that affects those of us left behind after someone we love makes this decision. The side effects of someone else’s suicide.

Many who know me also know that I lost my older brother to suicide in June of 2009. He was 17 years old when he made the choice to end his life by using a shot gun. That’s the thing we aren’t told about suicide; more often than not, it is extremely graphic and horrific. Over half of all successful suicides are carried out by a firearm. Experiencing the loss of someone by suicide changes you in ways no other cause of death does. When someone you love chooses to die, you are never the same. From what I have seen, read, heard, and experienced, I have discovered that there are certain things we all seem to experience after losing someone in such a brutal way.

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First of all, you feel a deep sorrow for anyone who chooses to take their own life. Just hearing about a complete stranger committing suicide can draw a tear to your eye, because you feel for them. You wish you could go back in time and stop them just to spare them from such a dark fate. You may have never met them, but your heart still aches for them. You grieve the loss of someone you don’t really know without even understanding why, because the truth is, everyone who is lost to suicide becomes a small part of you.

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You also feel an unfathomable connection with anyone who has lost someone to suicide. You know how much it hurts, how much the guilt weighs on you, how much you scrutinize every little thing you could have done differently, and you would give anything to keep another person from ever feeling that way. You understand that losing someone to suicide is so different than losing someone any other way. You understand the pain it brings in a way other people can’t. You empathize with people going through this loss, because you’ve been there. Again, even when it’s people you’ve never met, you feel for them. You sympathize their pain, and wish you could take it from them, because you understand the way it destroys people. You instantly become connected with the friends and families of people who fell victim to their own minds.

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You feel a small prick of pain whenever someone utters the words, “I’d rather die,” or “I’m going to kill myself if I get another assignment” or even when they mimic blowing their head off when something annoys them. People say and do things like this in passing all the time, never thinking anything of it, but it hits you every single time. Many people don’t even notice the reaction you have, but you feel it. You don’t understand how people can joke about something so awful, especially when they don’t understand how painful it is to lose someone to suicide.

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You take every threat of suicide seriously. You worry relentlessly about people who show the signs that you are now hyper-aware of, and you can’t just ignore what other people deem to be idle threats. You instantly are called to action, and will do whatever you can to prevent it; to spare another person from going through with it. You take these things more seriously than the people around you, because you have witnessed the aftermath and would do anything to stop it from happening to another. If you’re like me, you carry a suicide prevention card in your wallet just in case you find someone who needs it, but also to remind yourself that help is still out there for those who seek it.

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You suddenly find yourself with an intense drive to educate yourself on the topic and spread awareness. Ironically, you learn all the warning signs and the best resources after it happens to you. You learn the statistics and the stories and you have an internal need to spread this knowledge to others to try and help prevent it from happening again. You immerse yourself into the topic of suicide and will enlighten anyone who listens. You make it your mission to end the shame that surrounds it and try to gently force people to talk about it. Because deep down you know the only way to prevent it is to stop pretending it doesn’t exist and talk about it.

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Suicide is never easy to talk about, but it NEEDS to be talked about. Ignoring it will not make it go away; we need to start opening up the conversation with our kids, our parents, our friends- everyone. Nothing will ever change if we keep shoving it into the background and pretending it’s not an issue. Suicide is a prevalent issue that is affecting thousands of people daily; never in history has it been more relevant. If we continue to disregard it, it will only get worse. It’s time to take it seriously, and not just after you lose someone. Because I can tell you from experience that you never move on after a suicide. You never stop feeling guilty. You never put it behind you. You never go back to being who you were.

Suicide has side effects that alter the people who are left behind. Those who lose someone close to them to suicide are forever changed in ways we don’t expect. I lost my brother eight and a half years ago, and it still affects me. This post was still hard to write, because the emotions are still so raw, and I know it is far from my best writing, but it’s also something that weighs on me. There are so many people who do not understand the side effects of suicide; so many who don’t understand suicide at all. As I said above, people who lose someone this way have a need to educate others in hopes of raising awareness and encouraging others to take preventative measures- that’s why I chose to write this post. A suicide changed me; I hope it doesn’t change you too.

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*Statistics listed are from The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention website at afsp.org

Pleasantly Medicated

I want to take this time to address an issue I have noticed these past few weeks; the issue of shaming people for using medication for their mental health disorders. First of all, unless you have a mental health disorder (or have a PhD in the field), you cannot understand what it’s like to have one. I don’t care how many psychology classes you’ve taken or how many people you know that struggle with mental health- you will never understand what it is like until you have lived it first hand. Your internet research does not give you the right to tell people the right and wrongs ways to treat their disorders. Forcing people to do things that make them uncomfortable does not help them “get over it” because it is not something you can just get over; it’s a disorder, just like lung cancer.

Secondly, those of us who struggle with mental illness are just as fed up with it as you are, in fact we are 100 times more fed up with it. We are constantly begging our brains to just give us an hour, a minute, even a second of peace. We are well aware that our brains are broken, but that doesn’t mean we know how to fix them. We are extremely aware of our disorders, but that doesn’t mean we can make them stop. You’re annoyed that your friend can’t go out to dinner because she is too anxious? Think of how annoyed she must feel. You don’t want to invite your friend along because you are sick of him always being depressed? Do you honestly believe he isn’t sick of it too? You wish your friend would just stop having mood swings all the time? So does she! We do not choose to live this way, but that doesn’t mean we are able to just turn it off.

Now, I know that some people are able to overcome their disorders without the use of medication. Some use different types of talk therapy, some use meditation and other relaxation techniques, some engage in self-help type things, the list goes on and on. But some of us use medication to treat mental illness. I am one of those people. I want to tell you my story and how I got to where I am, but first, let me make a few things clear. I am not ashamed of who I am. My brain has limitations that most people’s don’t have. It happens, and that’s not a bad thing. If people are going to treat me differently, judge me, or avoid me because of this, then that’s fine; those are not the people I need in my life. I do not want to hear how I should “stop taking that crap,” and how “medication is a ruse created by doctors to get more money,” or “how mental illness is all in my head.” Yes, it is all in my head; that’s the weird thing about mental (which means brain) disorders. My disorder is a part of who I am, and people will just need to accept that.

I sought medication to treat my anxiety and depression a little over a year ago. I had tried just about everything else, but nothing was working. I had even made a list of “Anxiety Accomplishments” in one of my journals, where I wrote down the things I had done despite how anxious they made me. What was on that list? Things like “Went grocery shopping alone, even though the store was busy,” “Made a doctor’s appointment,” and “Ordered at Subway alone, even though there was a long line.” These are the types of things my anxiety inhibited me from doing; simple, everyday tasks that most people don’t think twice about doing. I decided something more needed to be done, so I went to get a prescription for some kind of medication to help.

According to my screening, I had severe anxiety coupled with moderate depression. It is likely that my anxiety caused and fueled my depression, but that wasn’t definite. However, it was clear that something needed to be done about my anxiety, because even my doctor couldn’t believe I had been functioning as well as I had been for so long. After nearly a year of trial and error of different drugs, different dosages, and even a different doctor, I know take 60 milligrams of duloxetine every night before I go to bed. I have been on this medication with this dosage for almost a month, so it’s not definite yet, however I have noticed many changes. The most obvious being that I can finally sleep. I used to toss and turn for hours before finally falling asleep and wake up several times during the night. Now, I fall asleep at a decent time and stay asleep. This alone has helped me immensely.

Other things I have noticed? I can talk to people, I can order my food without panic, I can sit next to a stranger in class without freaking out, I can go my chiropractor without thinking about it obsessively, I can actually say how I feel about certain things, I’m not afraid to disagree with my friends, and that’s just scratching the surface. I haven’t had an anxiety attack since June, which has to be a new record for me. I don’t get stomach aches every day, and I can finally breathe without feeling like something is sitting on my chest. I can sit alone without feeling self-conscious, and I can share my blog with people I know. I can talk and write about my anxiety and depression without fear.

I know medication isn’t for everyone, and there are side effects- some of them scary ones. For some, they just don’t work very well. Sometimes other options work better for some people. I’m not saying medication is the greatest thing ever and everyone who struggles with a mental disorder should try it. All I’m saying is that it is perfectly fine to need it. It is fine to feel better from it. It is fine to take it in order to function normally. There is nothing wrong with using medication to treat your mental illness. We need to stop making people feel like there is. People aren’t ashamed to need allergy medication, because allergies is something they can’t control. It’s the exact same thing with mental illness; you can’t always control it, so you shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it. You shouldn’t feel the need to hide the fact that you need medication for your own mental health. People without these disorders have the same neurotransmitters in their brains as the ones that come from your medication; you just need a little extra help getting them. Stop worrying about becoming reliant on your medication, because neuro-typical people are just as reliant on their neurotransmitters as you are on the ones in your medication. If you can’t make your own neurotransmitters, store bought is perfectly fine.

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You’ve Won

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According to this, you’ve won. I blocked and you won. It seems so simple and straight forward; you clearly won. So why is it so difficult for me to understand? There’s no doubt that I feel like I’ve lost something, but what makes you the winner? Usually winning comes with a prize, so, what have you won, exactly? Are you elated by the thoughts of how much you got to me? Does the fact that you nearly caused me to end it all give you feelings of excitement and power? Did you enjoy tearing me apart, piece by piece? Are you satisfied with the fact that you started a chain reaction that makes me feel more alone than ever before? Have you enjoyed watching me struggle to pick up the shards of myself? Do you relish in the thought that I am unable to leave my house without constantly looking over my shoulder for you? Does the fact that simply walking to my car fills me with panic make you happy? Are you pleased with yourself now that I am terrified of seeing you? Are you proud of yourself for giving me nightmares nearly every night? Do you feel that you’ve accomplished something by making me feel unsafe in my own home? Do you feel like winner? What did you win? Because I still can’t figure it out. My sense of security? My peace of mind? My sanity? Help me to understand why you’re a winner, because I can’t seem to figure it out. But maybe that’s because I’m the one who’s lost.

The Physical Side of Anxiety

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            While the world still has a strong stigma against mental health, there are more efforts today being made to understand many of the different mental health disorders. Much of the younger generation has worked to help the older generation understand how things like depression and anxiety effect the lives of people who have these disorders. More and more people are beginning to understand the effects of these things on the mind, but what about their effects on the body? How does something that is entirely brain related effect your physical being? These are the things we often don’t think about, unless of course, they are things that affect us personally. Mind aside, what are the physical effects of anxiety?

            When you have an extended period of time where your mind is riddled with anxiety, it can begin to take its toll on your body. I’m not talking about the migraines and digestive issues that are extremely common side effects of chronic anxiety (both of which I experience on a regular), I’m talking about common things people feel all the time… from physical activity. Anxiety is exhausting. All you want to do is lay in bed, because even the simplest of tasks completely wear you out. Your arms and legs feel like you did an intense work out, your feet ache with every step, your neck is sore, your shoulders throb, your back is stiff, and that’s the stuff easiest to manage. Soon after, your heart is racing, your head is throbbing, your whole body shakes and twitches, and you can hear your blood pounding in your ears. Your throat and mouth are dry and your body can’t seem to decide if it’s hot or cold. It leaves you feeling drained, and it seems like there is a fog surrounding you, dulling your senses. All you want to do is sleep, but you’re far too anxious for that. So, there you sit, trapped in your own mind, feeling your own body slowly turn against you.

            Anxiety is far more than a simple disease of the mind; it effects every single part of you. So, don’t say that anxiety is an excuse to lay around all day. Don’t say that anxiety is easily overcome. Don’t say that anxiety is all in your head. It’s draining and exhausting. It’s unbelievably difficult to manage. It goes much further than just the brain. Instead of belittling us for falling down, applaud us for having the strength to get up.

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The Line

When you are the type of person who consistently puts other people before yourself, the strain of keeping everyone happy can wear on you. It makes you terrified to make a decision at the risk of making someone unhappy, which causes you to avoid making them if you can. In those instances that making choices is unavoidable, you triple question yourself before you make one on even the simplest of things. But where do you draw the line? At what point do you put your own sanity first? The problem is, for those of us who rarely put ourselves first, people become used to this, causing them to be surprised when we finally do something for ourselves. But like everything unfamiliar, there are consequences to this. Putting ourselves first comes with a price. Sometimes that price is someone is in a bad mood, sometimes it’s a fight, and sometimes it’s losing people all together.

At what point does your own sanity no longer come before your friends? Is keeping your mind healthy worth the consequence of losing those you care about most? Where is the line, and on what side do you go on? Do you remain on the one side; constantly giving pieces of yourself to others until there’s nothing less, or do you cross the line to save your own mind? Once you cross, how hard is it to cross back? Can you ever go back? Is the consequence of losing your friends worth not losing yourself? Is it worth being happy if the people you care about the most aren’t there to share it with you? Is feeling safe worth feeling lonely? I don’t know. I wish I did, but I’m lost.

Here’s what I do know: I know that my mind is finally at ease. I know that I don’t feel afraid to walk alone. I know that I sleep better at night. I know that I feel safe again. I also know that I am terrified now for a whole new reason. I know that I have lost two of the most important friends in my life. I know that I don’t have as good of relationships with people as I thought. I know that remaining on the other side of the line would have been easier in some ways and impossible in others. I know that I feel more alone now than ever. I know that this is ripping me apart from the inside. I know that losing my friends hurts so much more than I thought.

How dare I put myself first? How dare I want to feel safe? How dare I do something inside of just enduring? How dare I not think of how this would affect everyone else? How dare I cross that line? How dare I think for one second that anyone would attempt to look at things from my point of view? How dare I forget who I am supposed to be.

Why We Should Watch 13 Reasons Why

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Many of us remember reading this book years ago, as it stuck with us over the years. It was the first time a book about a hard topic like suicide was in the spotlight, and those of us who read it never forgot it. Suicide has always been a hushed topic, but this book faced it head on. I never thought when I was reading it, I would be facing suicide later that year when my brother took his own life. Recently, that book has been made into a Netflix mini-series. Having binge watched all 13 episodes in 3 days, I can tell you that it sent me through an emotional rollercoaster and brought up a lot of old feelings I had buried years ago. It wasn’t easy to watch, but I’m glad I did. I have seen several articles from people talking about why watching this series is a bad idea. While I understand there is graphic content that is full of triggers, I feel that it is a show worth watching. Don’t get me wrong; if you think it will trigger a bad spell of depression or thoughts of suicide, take this post with a grain of salt. You know your own mind better than I do, but here’s why I think it is more than worth the watch for most.

As someone who has battled depression, I have never seen a more accurate representation of it than Hannah Baker. Media often portrays it as being sad all the time, staying up late crying- and it can be. But more often than not, it’s getting up every day and forcing yourself to smile and appear normal, but feeling empty inside. It’s not something that is easily recognized; it hides inside the person it infests. This is the first time I have ever seen depression accurately portrayed in all its entirety on the screen. Some may disagree, but that’s what my depression looked like to an outsider; like it didn’t exist. The show didn’t romanticize it as the TV world often does; it showed it for what it is, a disease.

The show also shows how much your words and actions have consequences. You know never know when something you do will start a chain reaction or what you say will push someone over the edge they have been desperately trying to back away from. Even the smallest thing can matter to someone. An example of this would be when my best friend told me she hated my laugh, and I never forgot it- it has made me self-conscious of my laugh even years after. Something so small and insignificant to her had a huge impact on me. It is time we teach each other to think before we speak and act, because we have power to hurt someone even when our words seem harmless. How different would Hannah’s fate have been if just one person hadn’t done or said whatever was mentioned on their tape? Anyone of them could have saved her, and it’s the same in the real world. One act of kindness can mean the world to someone.

It touches on how bad schools are at handling suicide. Hannah goes to her counselor for help, and he turns out to be utterly useless. This isn’t a far cry from what happens in schools across the country. When it comes to suicide, administrators do one of two things; they pretend it doesn’t exist or blow it out of proportion. The truth is that it happens and alerting the entire school doesn’t make it better. After my brother died, the school would not allow any kind of memorial because he didn’t die the right way. They didn’t want to encourage kids to commit suicide by making them believe they were glorifying it. This argument only makes sense to people who have never been affected by suicide. Did anyone say this when there was a memorial for the kid who ran a stop sign? No one said this would encourage students to run stop signs because the school was glorifying it. Many commit suicide because they feel invisible, and all this does is validate their feelings. Suicide exists. It’s time schools started recognizing that.

It forces us to think about suicide. Though it is the second leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is still swept under the rug. This show forces us to face it and address it as a real issue. It also helps raise awareness and shows the symptoms that go outside the stereotypical view. Talking about suicide doesn’t cause it; understanding it helps prevent it. Every time suicide is involved, it is shown as a shadow on a wall or a noise off camera. It is as brushed over as it is in the real world. Showing Hannah’s suicide as graphically as the show did has become quite the controversy, as did the violent rapes featured. Here’s the thing about those hard topics; they are graphic. Suicide isn’t heroic or peaceful; it’s painful and messy. Rape isn’t quiet and quick. It’s agonizing, terrifying, and stains you for the rest of your life. Life is graphic and disturbing and saddening and horrific. These topics should be hard to watch, because they are hard to live through. It shouldn’t be easy to watch these things happen, even if it is on a screen. It is time we face that instead of running from it. I’m glad they showed her suicide as graphic as they did, because that it how it looks in the real world. I am tired of it being swept under the rug, because in reality, it makes your stomach turn and your heart ache. I am tired of rape being romanticized rather than showing it for what it is; a violent crime. We need to stop sugarcoating these topics if we ever hope to put an end to them.

You can argue my points and refuse to watch the show, but one thing you can’t ignore is that this is the world we live in. People are raped daily, and many go unreported. People commit, attempt, or contemplate suicide every day. We need to open our eyes to these issues and stop pretending that they don’t exist. Hannah isn’t a hero because she killed herself, but she isn’t a villain either. She’s what every person who committed suicide and/or was raped- a victim. When we ignore shows like this or encourage people to avoid them, we are also encouraging victims of rape to stay quiet. We are encouraging people who are suicidal to be ashamed of their feelings. Stop softening up these topics, because they are not soft. They are hard and unforgiving. It’s time we start treating them as such.