I don't talk about it often (I've mentioned it in passing in my journals once or twice.) but I have very graphic intrusive thoughts, most of the time centered around suicide or the death of my family in various and very colorful and detailed scenarios. I think that it stems from some sort of un-diagnosed depression and ADHD (which my wife is convinced I have.) I've never felt the need to seek any help, as I am very well-adjusted and I have perspective...well, and I'm super proud and don't like admitting any sort of weakness even though I KNOW that having a positive diagnosis and getting some sort of chemical assistance is not weakness. But up to and including this point, I've never been paralyzed by it. I know what it is, and I don't let it take my perspective from me.
Reading about Chris Cornell's suicide makes me contemplate this part of my mind, and brings me to write this post. I know I'm not the only one who has this happen, and I think that it is much more common than most people think. Self-destruction is an odd thing to contemplate philosophically, and the conclusion I come to is that it is mental-illness. Being exposed to a real suicide causes these thoughts to increase in intensity and I am met with empathetic hopelessness. I think about the emptiness he must have felt as he ended his life, his money, his fame, his family, his talent, his lifestyle not able to balance the scale of oblivion.
This brings me back to some thoughts I had when I watched "13 Reason's Why" on Netflix. I want to start out by saying that I absolutely hate this show, and it is one of the only things that I truly wish was never made. Everyone involved in bringing it to fruition should sit back and contemplate just what the heck they thought they were doing. Instead of approaching suicide from a perspective to help those who are considering suicide, they turn suicide into a grand epic journey that culminates in suicide being treated as catharsis...a catalyst to right wrongs. I didn't start thinking this. To be honest...I didn't know what I was thinking when I started watching the show.
So I started watching the show. Off the bat, I noticed how incredibly on the rails the narrative was. As we KNOW how the show was going to end, it allows us to frame each part of the telling to understand the ultimate conclusion and to ascribe 'meaning' from the authors perspective to include when Hannah ultimately kills herself. As such, every action, inaction, and word spoken seems important, identifiable, and telling. Hindsight is always 20/20 and as such it has already created the premise in your mind that you, me, we, us are already all responsible for this ultimate demise. There were signs...right? We should have seen the signs.
As we go through the narrative we are exposed to elements of morality: bullying, budding sexuality, graphic violence, discrimination, objectification, and invasion of privacy. These are themes that we get clear guidance on how we should feel. We are told to be sickened by it, and at every turn we are also reminded that we are the ones responsible. Ultimately, Hannah's suicide vigilante comeuppance, a magnum opus against these moral failings. Her death is not just on the hands of the bullies...the screenwriters want to make it clear that we, the audience, are responsible for killing Hannah. We are supposed to feel an utter sense of remorse for our inaction. We are supposed to be convicted of our wrongdoing. We ARE supposed to feel responsible. But in treating suicide like this, we are turning suicide into the ultimate weapon to fight hopelessness. It turns a purposeless act into a purposeful act.
I wonder if they ever thought about how a person who struggles with suicide would learn from watching this show?
Hannah's suicide was graphic and stomach churning. I was in tears, but I had known the entire time that we were going to be here. When her mother came into the bathroom and just didn't understand what she was looking at, I was there too. But in the back of my mind, I knew that from the very moment I started watching the show, Hannah was doomed. There was never any hope that there was another outcome. There was no help to be had. It was, from the get go, a forlorn conclusion. Remember, when someone is struggling with depression, the way they process information is processed THROUGH the depression. What kind of message does this give a person who already is suffering with clarity and perspective? It. IS. Inevitable. I look like Hannah, my life is like this...and no one is listening. It. IS. Inevitable...
So we have started with the fact that suicide is a forlorn conclusion...we knew Hannah was never going to make it; but what caused her to go down this path? we are teaching people that suicide is caused by external environmental forces, and this is wrong. There are 13 reasons, and all of them have to do with what others are doing. Yes...the majority of suicides we hear about are suicides that are brought on by bullying and yes, there is a huge connection between the two; but tying the two together and creating a causal relationship is horribly dangerous. Suicide is a symptom...not the disease. Depression and anxiety are comorbidities that are directly and demonstrably tied to suicide, and yes, environmental factors do contribute to this; but the disease is the mental-illness, not the environmental factors. There are people who are bullied all the time and do not commit suicide, and there are people who commit suicide all the time that were never bullied (conservatively, nearly half of suicides are not related to bullying.) Tying the two together is irresponsible, and creates a narrative that ultimately is false. Think about the lesson this gives someone who is already contemplating it. It's not their fault...it's society, its bullies...I have no control.
The most damning damnable lesson we learn from 13 Reasons is that suicide is necessary if anyone is going to listen to us. That's what happened to Hannah; her death prompted everyone to listen...literally. Plus, and this is the darkest part of it, we get to see the result. A person who commits suicide doesn't get to see what happens after the act is done, and this show provides a fantasy driven chain of events which culminates in the learning of lessons. In my darker play-acts, I envision how those whom I love will be impacted. Do I leave a note, do I not? Will they think I'm selfish? Will it be mentioned at all at my funeral? Will my wife hate me? In Hannah's world, wrongs are brought to light, Clay shares her journey, and catharsis is reached. Without her death, change and salvation is impossible. Clay's 'come to Jesus' speech at the end is impossible without her death, and as a matter of fact her death drives the point of all of the bullying, the assault, the invasion of privacy home. Her suicide becomes a way to get revenge on those who have hurt her, and it is the ONLY way that anyone will listen. What 'effing' sort of message is that? It turns suicide into a noble act of war against social injustice and the only conclusion to living a life fraught with tragedy. It's not just a tragedy...its a handbook on how to make people listen to you. It invites people to follow suite. It RATIONALIZES an irrational act.
I can't stress enough...this show is a horrible, HORRIBLE idea for anyone suffering with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicidal thoughts. Horrible.
I am lucky. I am surrounded by people who support me and influence me. I have lived life to the point where I have gained perspective. I cannot imagine what would happen had I been 20 years younger, dealing with depression, and seeing a show that tells me that 1.That everyone is guilty 2. That there is no hope in finding another route to wellness 3. Everyone who hurts me will be hurt worse by me killing myself. This show offers no hope, and could in fact fuel hopelessness. I hate this show. I am upset that anyone thought that this was a good idea.