Trigger Warnings for Bullying and Suicide
This is post is going to be a little different from my usually fluffy toddler and baby wearing filled posts.
In case you’ve been living under a rock there’s a new series on Netflix called 13 Reason Why, which is based on a book of the same name. The book is now ten years old and different from the series in a few ways…. after the tag there may be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
So the book and series are about the 13 reasons that lead to her suicide. And by reasons it really means people who contributed to her want to end it all. I read the book and I wish I hadn’t. Why? Because I was bullied pretty badly back in middle school/high school. No I wasn’t to the point of harming myself, but it was a shitty time to be me. So reading and watching this brought up all those memories that I’ve typically keep well under lock and key. Let me tell you those memories came back and hit me like a ton of bricks.
Adding insult to injury Facebook was good enough to suggest I friend my former bully the day after I finished both book and series. Thanks Zuck, you suck! She is the last person I ever want to talk to again ever, period. Our relationship started much like Hannah and her friends. We hung out together, went to school together, heck she practically lived at my house one summer. And honestly, I should have seen it coming after the way I saw her treat someone else she’d had a falling out with.
But no, I was stupid and naive and thought “that won’t happen to me” until it did. It started simply enough: rude doodles in my binder at lunch. That no one saw who did the deed. But it slowly escalated to notes in my binder, locker, hang up phone calls from 4pm-9pm almost without a break. Once the voice actually spoke and she did a piss poor job at disguising who it was when she called me a bitch. That’s when I knew who it was. And I told my mom and dad. Naturally my mother called the school and was told “girls will be girls”. Not much different from what Hannah was told by her, in my opinion, SHITTY guidance counselor.
My mother didn’t accept this answer and asked me to document and report every instance. I did and still it fell on deaf ears. Till one day when it all came crashing down. It was musical class third or fourth period and my bully was sitting directly behind me. I kept feeling something ping my hair/head. I would find out later (after class) it was gum that I had to have my hairdresser CUT OUT of my hair. They also blessed me with a “Kick Me” sign. Thankfully one of the GUYS in my class removed as I was gathering up my things.
I keep saying “they” because there was a whole following who did whatever this girl said. That’s probably why she turned on me. Because I didn’t poke fun at others or do what she said. Anyway, when I notice the gum I knew I had to get home. I booked it to the nurses office (she was a friend of the family), but she was out for the day. Then I remembered my mother would be dropping off a sibling for afternoon kindergarten. So I waited near the front office to meet her. The moment she walked in I lost it and started to cry and to my surprise so did she.
We went to the principle and guidance office to report this latest bit of “girls being girls”. But there was still very little that could be done. Probably because neither of them wanted to get their hands dirty so to speak. So my parents pulled me out of that middle school and I “moved” in with my grandfather after my mom sent me to Florida to see my grandma for two weeks. I suspect while I was gone more was said at my old school in order to stop the calls and other things that happened outside of school.
It was nice. I didn’t hear boo from her for the rest of the year or summer. Even though we lived four blocks apart. No it wasn’t until Freshman year in high school that she reared her curly head again. This time she would hang out outside my classes until a teacher would scare her off to her own class. It was a big school and I thankfully didn’t see her very often if at all. Then Halloween night it really got real. Friends of mine had heard she was gathering a group to come egg our house and who knows what else.
So my dad did what any other dad would do…dressed in camouflage and waited. What he wasn’t expecting was 20+ kids to be following my former friend and doing her ever bidding. But he certainly scared her as she tried to sneak across the street with egg in hand. “Evening ____!” he said from his spot near a tree. She dropped the egg she was holding and darted back across the street where her little army kept coming. My mother and I had been watching from inside and she had called two of our neighbors who came to help my dad. I’ve never seen kids scatter so fast when they see a six foot plus wall of a guy coming their way.
Fun end to this story. When all the parents of my former friends gathered with said former friends at our house that night (I suspect mom threatened to call the cops if they didn’t). All the girls fessed up except the ring leader and her mother. I was the problem because I was “getting more popular” than her daughter. Really? Her mother blamed me for her daughters behavior.
Which brings us back to the book and the show. There was an awful lot of victim blaming in both. And that’s just shitty. I’ll say it again for the people in the back….THAT’S SHITTY! Do I think she should have blamed them for driving her to kill herself though? Not all of them no. But I can see why she did. I could see why because I had been in a similar situation. Granted it was not as bad as what happened to Hannah, but I could certainly sympathize with her.
Some differences from book and show:
Book: Hannah’s parents own a shoe store, one of the girls names was changed, some of the order of people on the tapes is different, Hannah uses pills to kill herself, Alex doesn’t shoot himself in the head, the peeping tom kid isn’t amassing a chest full of weapons and ammo, Hannah’s parents don’t learn about the tapes,etc.
Series: Hannah’s parent’s own a drug store, Clay plays an even bigger role in the show, Skye also has more of a role in the tv show, Tony’s character is fleshed out more, as is the reasons “why” the guidance counselor is shitty at his job, Clay’s mom is an attorney for the school district against Hannah’s parents, Hannah’s parents get a copy of the tapes from their daughter, etc.
There’s more, but honestly I don’t want to dwell on it. I felt some of the series read as a how to guide. In fact there should have been warnings from the beginning of the first episode, not just the later ones where they show a rape in progress or Hannah actually slitting her writs. Yeah that was something I fast forwarded through as soon as it started to happen. Why? For me it played out as almost a how to guide to ending it all. Not cool.
Now there was an after the series special on Netflix. I watched it just to see if that would change my opinion. It didn’t. They spouted off bullshit lines like “it’ll get better” or “if you’re feeling like Hannah there are people who would miss you”. Now I’m not saying there aren’t, but don’t make promised to kids feeling suicidal because well they don’t know how a kid is feeling at that very moment. They can’t actually promise them it will get better. Now I’m not saying it won’t, but I for one had a hard time believing it would get better or that the bullying would stop seeing as it went on for almost a year and a half.
For me the show is very problematic and I’ve only touched on a few of the reasons why. Why? Because I for one want to forget I ever watched it for all my reasons above. Will it be something I show my son when he becomes a middle school or high schooler? I honestly don’t know. Will I teach him not to be a bully, you bet your ass. That behavior will not be tolerated in this house one bit.
I hope this post made sense. If you need to talk to me about it drop me a message on Facebook. Or if you need help and have nowhere else to go or no one to talk to please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.