They tell you to “get over it”. They say it’s a just a part of growing up--of finding yourself. They say that you are being too sensitive and that everyone experiences what you are going through at your age. They listen to you with their head down and their hand scrolling through the latest feed on Facebook. They listen, but they don’t hear.
They tell you that you should be thankful for what you have in your life. They say you have a roof over your head, friends, and get good grades. They say that everyone feels out of place sometimes, and it’s “just a phase”. They preach that it’ll get better, and that everyone “gets sad”. They say that what other people think of you don’t matter. They say a lot of things. A lot of things that sometimes just reaffirm that they don’t get it all. They listen, but they don’t hear.
Because if they heard you, they’d hear despair, and they’d hear pain. They’d hear the need to feel understood and to belong in a world where belonging seems impossible- where belonging is the one thing you want but the last thing that is attainable. They’d hear a cry for help, not someone who is just looking for attention. They’d hear someone who had a hell of a lot of courage to explain how they were feeling only to be shot down and told that what they are experiencing everyone else experiences. Sure, they listen, but they don’t hear.
To the teen who feels unheard and unloved, unwanted and unseen, like an outcast disposable to the next rumor floating around their class: I hear you. To the teen wondering if anyone notices you walking down the hallways with your head down and earphones in so you can drown out the sounds of their mocking voices and their demeaning looks: I see you.
Netflix’s series 13 Reasons Why has become a conversational piece to say the least. If you haven’t seen it, I can bet you’ve heard of it. Some say Hannah Baker was selfish. Some say that she wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself. Some say that she didn’t ask for help, and some don’t agree with the ways that she did.
Some say Hannah Baker wasn’t depressed or wasn’t bullied. Some say that she did reach out for help and didn’t get it. However, no matter what the stance is on how the series was portrayed and whether or not Hannah Baker was right or wrong, there are a few things that you should know:
Depression Is Real
No matter what anyone tells you, depression isn’t something you make up. Because who would make that up? Who wants to feel like depression makes you feel? If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, including the following:
Bullying Is Not Okay
Hannah Baker was bullied. Whether someone posts a passive-aggressive Facebook post about you, posts a picture meant for someone privately all over the internet, grabs your butt in the middle of the school hallway, or gives you dirty looks and makes you feel as tall as ant “saying it’s just a joke”, bullying is something that can make you feel even more alone, isolated, and like you have no one to trust.
The phrase “words can never hurt me” was created by someone who must have never been cyberbullied, made fun of, mocked, ridiculed or told that they were as useful as a flat tire. Words can hurt. That doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you are too sensitive. It means that someone probably called your biggest insecurity out for the world to see and if it wasn’t a source of insecurity, it sure is now. That is one of the most vulnerable states to emotionally be in. Being told that you are too sensitive or weak is not helpful in these situations. Confiding your feelings in someone like mentioned above, someone you know you can trust and will come alongside you and help you cope, is necessary to get through the hard times.
Yes, Hannah Baker was bullied. She may have dealt with it the only way she knew how. So, please hear me when I tell you this: there are other ways. Suicide is not the only way out of depression or bullying or healing from trauma. There are other ways.
This part of your life is only just a part, and this part will end. High school is small. The world is big. I know it doesn’t seem like that right now because friendships and finding out who you are are some of the most important things to you right now, but those people who are doing things to make you feel small are going to be the people who feel small years from now.
Here, in this moment, you have a choice, just like Hannah Baker had a choice. You can choose to talk to someone. You can choose to get help with a therapist or a counselor at school to help you learn how to cope, how to get through these difficult parts in your life because believe me, this won’t be the last difficult time in your life.
If you take anything from this, know that I hear you. I know what you're thinking: it's easy for you to say for someone who isn’t in the midst of it and who isn't living it daily. But if you can, trust me. It’s important to remember through this that you can’t control how other people respond to your pain. Some will be helpful. Some will not. Some will laugh in your face. Some will cry. Some will hug you and be the best supports ever. No matter who you get when you talk, keep going. Keep going until you find the one that supports you. Just because one person doesn’t get it, does not mean that someone else isn’t going through or hasn’t gone through the exact same thing and that someone else won't get it.
You may not have chosen what has happened to you, but you can choose what to do with it. Remember, high school is just a part of your life. It’s not the entire thing, and there is an ending to high school. When you keep that in mind, it makes it a little more bearable.
To The Adults:
Hannah Baker was in pain. Whether you believe she dealt with that pain the wrong or right way, there are teens experiencing some of the very same things as her right now.
So what are you going to do about them? Are you going to continue to talk about Hannah Baker and whether or not you believe she did the right thing? Or are you going to turn to the child in your own home and make sure that child knows that there are options other than suicide. And, if there are no children in your home, you likely know many, so what will you choose to do?
Sure, you can talk about Hannah Baker. After all, isn't that easier?
I urge you to listen to your teen. Just listen. As parents and adults, I know you want to fix it. You want to fix it and do something and take away their pain. While there may be an action that you need to take, first, just listen. Understand where they are coming from. Validate that it would be really hard to go through that. Talk about what they can control in the situation and what they can't. Take action by calling a therapist to help them or find out your school's anti-bullying policies. But first, they need you to hear them. To understand. To listen without responding, and sometimes, to ask how they are doing with the stresses and responsibilities that they have on their plates. They need you to put down the phone. Close the laptop. Pay attention to just them. Accept them. After all, it's nice to be accepted...isn't it?
"We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all." - the breakfast club
If you are having thoughts of suicide please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours everyday
*For anyone in the states of Kansas or Missouri, Robin is available for tele-therapy: a type of therapy that is completed through a HIPAA compliant video conferencing program called Regroup. Tele-therapy can be helpful for those who aren't ready to come into the office for appointments or want to protect their privacy. This can also be helpful for those in rural communities or for those who are not able to travel to the office.
*If you have been waiting for the "right time" or a "sign" to reach out to a therapist, this is it. Robin is offering a free phone consultation for anyone interested in finding the right fit, getting started in therapy, or determining the best course of action, when you mention this article. Call her today or schedule online below.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Resolve Counseling & Wellness
Prairie Village, KS