Content Warning: This post talks about mental illness, suicide, rape, and of course the recent Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Seriously, don’t read it if you find any of these things distressing.
Put your hand up if your week has been filled and is overflowing with 13 Reasons Why discourse. Yeah, me too. I’m actually avoiding Facebook because I just can’t stand hearing another mentally stable man tell me why Hannah Baker is actually the worst. Yeah, not Bryce (the rapist) or the councillor who failed not one but two suicidal teenagers, they’re not The Worst. The young girl who took her own life, however? She deserved everything because she was just. So. Annoying.
Well guess what. I’m Hannah Baker.
I’m mentally ill, which is not something that I’m shy about. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was fourteen, but was showing symptoms since I was twelve. In the last few years I was diagnosed with OCD as well. That’s the simple part. I’m mentally ill, because that’s just how my genetics worked out.
The rest of it is stuff that I don’t like to talk about too often. The rest of it means that I relate to Hannah’s character in a way that makes me a little bit irrational about defending her. So what, I see myself in her and take your criticism personally. Sue me.
I was depressed and suicidal all through high school. That’s not something that many people are comfortable saying, and I still struggle to say it out loud. I was suicidal, I was so hopeless and depressed that I thought about death way more than anyone in year nine should.
Things happen to teenagers, and because they’re teenagers and don’t have the life experience of adults, it’s a big deal. Loosing your best friend might not seem so dramatic when you’re forty, but when you’re fourteen? That could actually be the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. When you’re also mentally ill? Any little thing can be the end of the world. That’s just how it works.
Does that make people like me and Hannah petty, self-entitled, annoying, overdramatic, and spiteful? Careful how you answer that.
Here’s the really bad stuff. Hannah didn’t just deal with bitchy friends and teenaged drama. Hannah dealt with things that most adults have never experienced, and so did I.
I wasn’t popular, that’s just a fact. I was anti-social and weird, but I had a boyfriend who I really liked and a group of friends who I thought stood by me. When I was sixteen, my boyfriend decided he didn’t like me anymore, and instead of breaking up with me he made up and spread rumours about me and other boys. Suddenly, I’m a slut. Funny how that happens. You know what happens when you’re a slut? People can say and do whatever they want. You’re not a person anymore.
I was sexually harassed by strangers and boys I knew. Boys would message me and then get angry when I didn’t want to meet up with them at midnight in a park. They’d send me photos and videos of themselves masturbating (check my snapchat block list sometime). It was this cycle of unwanted advances followed by rejection followed by anger and often accompanied by threats and insults. Every time, it got worse. They made me feel like shit, but worse, they made me scared. I was paranoid, but like Hannah I wanted to believe there were good guys out there.
You know those friends who I thought stood by me? Not so much anymore.
I was humiliated and lost, I felt hopeless and I felt isolated, and that made it easier for one person to gain my trust. That made it easy for him to be manipulative, controlling, and abusive. The scary thing is that I didn’t even know. The first time he raped me, I apoligised to him.
When I was eighteen I tried to take my own life.
I obviously didn’t try very hard, and I obviously didn’t learn my lesson because somehow I ended up back in the same awful situations with the same person. Never mind that, that’s his tape.
Oh yeah, the tapes.
So here’s something that I’ve heard a lot of lately: “Hannah was being petty and vengeful for making the tapes!”
That’s the point.
Why do we need to see teenaged girls as perfect and polished to be worthy of respect? Why do they need to be just the right amount of sad to be saved by never angry, never vengeful, never selfish? Calm down buddy, she’s seventeen and was bullied, assaulted, isolated, and raped. No, she isn’t perfect. Neither am I. Neither are you.
Sometimes people are allowed to want revenge. But we are taught to hate people who commit suicide, told that they’re being selfish. That’s such a common phrase, isn’t it? I get that you want to shame people for being suicidal, but it isn’t selfish, not to them. To a person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s like you’re fighting a part of yourself that wants to kill you. You want to win that fight, you want to find a reason to live, but that side of you, the side that is caused by an illness that you can’t control? That side is looking for reasons to die. I won my fight, but Hannah didn’t. So many people don’t. Why do those people lose their right to justice?
I’m in a good place now, I’m in a loving relationship and have had therapy and medications, I’ve even forgiven the person who hurt me the most, even though it still hurts sometimes. I’m not the same suicidal teenager I was, but I do know how that feels. And odds are, there are many Hannah Bakers in your life. So before you post that Facebook status saying that she deserved everything she got because she is just The Worst, come over to my house, look me in the eye, and tell me that I deserved it too.