1.) How did you hear about the show?
I heard about it, I think through Facebook. I follow Netflix & there was an ad, a little commercial I checked it out more.
2.) So you knew the subject matter going in, did that concern you at all?
Yeah it did, I saw the ad and read a couple of articles and I don’t know if I consciously made the decision not to watch it until I started talking to my mom about it & the words “I’m probably never going to watch that show” came out of my mouth. I watched the teaser trailer & found out the main character kills herself and immediately felt the need to get away from it.
3.) Did you end up watching it or did you steer clear?
I have stayed away from it. I’ve read some other articles about it to kind of quench my curiosity but the more I read the more actively I’ve stayed away from watching it. At least for right now.
4.) Would you mind giving a little bit of personal background about why you’ve decided to pass on watching?
Well, it’s layers of reasons, really. I was diagnosed with Chronic Depression & Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was a teenager (15/16). During that time I felt incredibly alone, until I found a kindred spirit. She was my best friend & we spent every waking second possible together. She was also diagnosed with depression. She eventually lost her battle, and committed suicide when we were 17, between junior and senior years of high school. To say it shattered me is an understatement. I can’t listen to certain things without feeling this sharp internal ache, so thinking about watching a show where the main character was on the other end of it, feeling alone and hurt enough to take her own life was very jarring to me.
3 or so years later, I was date raped. And knowing that main character, again, had experienced that… thinking about it just became overwhelming, knowing the whole time I’d be thinking about the parallels to my life and to my best friend’s life, someone who isn’t here to talk to me, or hang out with me anymore, I decided to just try to ignore the show in general.
Sometimes things just ring too true. People sometimes criticize the word “trigger,” but that’s what it is for me, the whole subject matter of the show
From the 10+ interviews I’ve done, I honestly feel like you’ve made the right decision. The scenes are quite graphic and yeah people can shit all over “trigger” but that just means they’ve been lucky.
Dealing with that, as a teenager, is just horrible, something I already constantly think of, so why do I need to watch a dramatization of it?
5.) People say “it’s just a TV show” but it’s a series that centers around something very real and very stigmatized in today’s society. What would you want people to know about suffering from mental illness in high school, not even just as an adult but at a pivotal age of growth?
It is incredibly stigmatized, which is sad to me. I’d want to tell everyone suffering right now through mental illness in high school specifically this: in your darkest hour, at your most trying time, you are loved. You matter. You are so so special, and more important than you think. You are not alone. If you need it, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Adults are more understanding than they let on. Open up to a friend. Make a phone call. Please, please, please don’t despair. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. People care. And they will impress you with their compassion.
And as a side note, everything is better than high school. You’ll graduate, go to college or find a job, you’ll find people like you because you aren’t alone.
Everything seems so raw and end of reality in high school, if you’re lucky enough to survive it then you get to see that. Sadly not everyone gets that chance.
6.) Do you think shows like this are helping or hurting the representation of what it’s truly happening with depression and suicide?
I think its a bit of a double-edged sword, in a sense. I think a parent and a child watching that show together has potential to open a dialogue that could be life changing. I also think it’s great that there are open and honest discussions about mental health popping up everywhere. But I think a show like this, you run the risk of glorifying the act. I haven’t seen the show, so I don’t know, but I hope that no one sees it and goes “well she did it, so that’s what I’m gong to do”.
7.) I’ve heard reviews from people I’ve previous interviewed and they all sort of vary from the actual positivity of the representation. How do you think the media could truly depict what it’s like to suffer from the full body, all consuming power that depression has over you at that age? Or the infinite ache that suicide leaves you with? How can we possibly get people to understand the struggle if they wrap a mystery around it and throw some cute faces on it?
I also think there’s a huge segment of our population that isn’t represented in these shows (POC, LGBTQ, etc) who still aren’t getting that support. I think depression and suicide are incredibly personal experiences, and to say “this is it, what it looks like, what you should do,” is damaging, but its the beginning of a conversation. That’s why I do appreciate what the show is trying to do, but let’s tell more stories, different ones. There are so many stories and experiences that we can highlight, both negative and positive, but we seem to stick to the “damsel white girl” where if these few things had changed, the girl could have been saved (look at The Virgin Suicides, etc).
I 100% agree. Mental illness doesn’t segregate. It is real and it’s worldwide. No one is exempt from its reach.
It’s an illness, a disease, and needs to be treated as such. There are so many different retelling of cancer stories or whatever (not wishing cancer on anyone ) why aren’t there for mental illnesses?
8.) The additional stigma that I addressed earlier with being a sexual assault victim is usually seen in the media as a “they got away with it” sort of deal and from what I’ve been told, the only person that paid a price was the girl who took her life. Would you say that there needs to be sexual assault education in high schools as well as mental health education?
Yes I definitely do. I do think there’s a “boys will be boys” mentality that damages both men and women. I think there’s also the desire to not make anyone “uncomfortable,” but I honestly think that making teenagers uncomfortable, making them pause and think, is so necessary.
9.) How do you manage your mental illnesses now as an adult? You mentioned that pain that never goes away from losing your best friend, do you find that you’ve just adapted that to your life?
I think now, as an adult, I can think my way through things better. In part, that’s due to a great therapist from when I was a teenager, but it’s easier to see my way through things now. I do still suffer from panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, I do still get very depressed and spend too much time in bed, or alone, what have you, but it’s easier now to think “okay, I can get through this, I can be okay.” It’s a matter of trying to be less afraid.
Losing her is a part of who I am now, a part of my narrative. I talk about it openly, and I see it as every single day I’m waking up and doing it for her. I’m living because she couldn’t find the strength.
10.) The same goes for being a victim of sexual assault, do you find that you’ve changed as a person surviving that?
I do, I’d be lying to say I haven’t changed because of the assault. I haven’t sought help for it although I should have, but again, succeeding is something I need to do to prove I’m not just a victim. I have to be unfazed because I need to be more than someone who was date raped by someone close to me, someone I still have to see.
11.) Do you think with the way society is always questioning the victim and putting a giant label on that person makes it heard to come forward and talk about what happened?
Yes I do. There is a lot of “well, if you hadn’t, he wouldn’t” talk… and you look at the notable convictions (or lack thereof) of rapists/abusers, then it makes sense why people don’t come forward. You have to be very strong to accuse someone and stand the criticism that will come from it. Its almost insurmountable. The women, men, people who do stand up and face the people who assaulted them are much tougher than they’re given credit for.
It also gives rapists’ confidence that they won’t be prosecuted. They also may not even see themselves as rapists.
It’s such a dangerous world where you can be too afraid of ruining someone’s good name and not remotely concerned of them elevating from rape to murder or something. There are too many passes.
Yeah, there are, way too many. Its crazy to try to justify society to yourself, especially as an abuse survivor, so sometimes it’s better not to try.
12.) My last question is, as someone who has decided against watching the series, what would you say to people who go through similar things as yourself in regards to fighting to keep pushing through?
I’d say the same things I’d say to anyone. You are special. You are deserving of so much more than you’ve been handed so far, you should have been handled much more gently – but those things don’t define you. Its okay to be depressed, and unstable, but don’t give yourself over to it, allow yourself happiness, allow yourself bravery, even if you’re the only one who knows you’re being brave. You may not see it right now, you may not see it in 5 months, but one day you’ll look back and say to yourself “I did it.” If you give yourself the chance to be the heroine (or hero) of your own story, you’ll rise to the occasion. Don’t limit yourself to the bad things that have happened, because you’re so much more than those dark moments. You have a gift, you’ll make it through, please don’t surrender to making yourself a footnote. Be bigger than all of these things. Be better to yourself than the world has been to you.
I guess that’s it really, and remember that if you can love yourself, those things that happened around you, to you, don’t matter. You deserve the whole world, and if no one else tells you, please listen to me: you are amazing. Every single day, you’re amazing.
Provided below are numbers and links that you can use if you find yourself struggling. No matter how alone or hopeless you may feel, you are never truly alone in that pain. Please reach out and use the resources below to seek help.
There will be one final article posted for this series as a conclusion. Posting date TBD.
You can read the previous articles in the links below: