Why “13 Reasons Why Not” isn’t THAT Bad

I was skeptical at first. Really skeptical. And not because of all the controversial talk about how the series glamorizes teen suicide. I wasn’t worried about that – mainly because after doing my own reading on the internet, most articles who claimed professional psychiatrist stated this show could spur real life copy-cats, no where did they even give any reference of credibility of such professionals or case studies. Once again, alternate facts looms over us again.

And of the few supposed copy-cats that surfaced on the news after the series aired, there was no direct cause-and-effect relationship tied to show and real suicide victim. And the fact is – leaving a suicide note is not a new thing. Of course, with modern-day technology, letters are, I suppose, old school. Video and/or audio recording is probably more realistic these days.

The show, 13 Reasons Why, was not a great show and had mediocre acting (though I will say the main actor, Dylan Minnette, who’s character, Clay – who we watch as he unravels the mysteries from each tape – was my favorite). It captivated my attention enough to get me to watch all 13 episodes. Yet, 1/3rd into the show, I really was just wanting to get to the end so I could find out what lead to her suicide (the tapes gradually explained how they were all connected – but there appeared to be this looming doom which broke her soul at the very end).

Why I continued to watch the show was basically because of this:

While the suicide was a main focal point of the show, the issues that surrounded it was what people should be talking about: drugs, alcohol abuse, bullying and rape.

Especially the last two – bullying and rape (or assault of any kind).

So while the masses are upset with the show, fearing teens will be easily swayed to end their lives in a dramatic, revenge-like “trend”, I ask this… Would our teens feel a need to even consider suicide if they did not have to go to an institution day in and day out, facing such risks? When they go home, with social media being such a huge part of their lives, can they even escape it when they are not at school?

What are we as parents, the community and the school doing to prevent this warped, criminal behavior from happening? I say this because before this show even existed, this sad reality has happened before. The one I can’t get out my mind was the teen girl who was gang-raped by four of her classmates. The rapists took photos during the act and the photos went viral. Shortly after, she was bullied. Like 13 Reasons Why, she was called a slut and her reputation from good, sweet girl, flipped 180. Just like that. This poor teen suicide victim not only endured a horrible and criminal act, but then went through significantly, cruel bullying.

So for all the parents out there, outraged by this show, I ask this – what are WE doing to try and prevent this from happening in real life? If the issues on the show were not a real concern in our society, would there even BE such a show? Did we shape our culture/society to basically, give birth to the plot line of 13 Reasons Why?

I’m a bit dumbfounded why everyone seems to be pointing fingers at the show, stating it is too dangerous for teens to watch and lacks any accountability of the message. Yet what about the discussions this show has cultivated? Are we going to continue and point fingers at a fictional show (or novel which it was based off of) and ignore the fact that we have the power to make a change in society? What about the good that has come from all this controversy? What about the teens who created a project called “13 Reasons Why Not?”

People are also upset about this fictional teen leaving tapes – as if she was being selfish.

She was in pain. People who commit suicide are not thinking logically. They are not behaving normally. To blame the victim (for victimizing others in the aftermath) is a moot point. However, let me ask this – what if those tapes stop these people from making the same mistake to others? What if it is enough to bring charges down on the rapist(s)? What if it saves another life?

Honestly, before I watched the show I did not have a strong opinion of all the controversy surrounding the topic of 13 Reasons Why because it sounded like a pretty bad show. I don’t mean bad in that the subject was a horrible subject. I mean… it just sounded like a really bad show!

And, while it was not as bad as I imagined it to be, yeah, it was still bad.

I am not too swayed with this fear of teens glamorizing suicide. If they were in a suicidal state to begin with, the problem was there way before even watching this TV series.

The topics, however, were important to me. As a parent of a teen who has started discussing this show with friends (even though she has not seen it yet – she told me she is not interested at this point), I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to know what exactly happens so when she has questions or want to talk about it, I am hopefully, more ready than not.

Perhaps this show sort of sucked – but the topics are very real. We must stop the ignorance and get to the root of this problem. Increasing teen suicide rates are NOT due to this show. And we need to do something about it.

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Let’s Talk!

With the upcoming annual Let’s Talk (Bell’s campaign on mental health awareness and breaking down the stigma), I can’t help but use this time of the year as a personal check-point. They picked an excellent time of the year for me – Christmas is now over and seems far away (even though we have yet to take down our decorations – today, I promise) and the days are still at it’s darkest. The new year is ahead of us which can be a very scary thing for those who suffer from depression and anxiety.

Looking back this past year I admit I have not done a great job in trying to keep my mental health in check. I have allowed myself to get overly stressed at work. I have been moody to my family. And I have not allowed enough time for myself, you know, to do a variety of little things which gives me small moments from this world – like reading or blogging!

(Both these two things I have gotten back into during December and I’m hoping to continue as long as I can).

My awareness of myself, however, has been steady. I am as honest as I can be to myself.

I was never ‘medically classified’ as having anxiety and depression. I never went to some clinic to do a series of test. But I have been to therapy and I know that what I have is not normal. And it simply comes down to this…

I have to WORK at being happy. It is an everyday obstacle for me. Sometimes, it’s even an every hour or every minute obstacle. Some days I succeed – I’m able to make myself happy for maybe an hour or two. Sometimes a few hours! That is a lot. At least for me. And other days, I never can bring myself up to happiness. There are weeks where I give into depression. I just get so exhausted trying that I need a break. Or, I’ve been feeling numb for too long and even an evening of crying and then walking around all day with a heavy heart is better than nothing because at least I’m allowing myself to feel… something!

Let’s Talk” also lets me open up about myself to friends and family. About a month ago, I promoted it on Facebook. I even talked about it through my own personal experience! A couple of people ‘liked’ my post. Most either did not see it, felt uncomfortable to react or just read it and moved on. It’s weird. Only a handful of people know I went to therapy. And now I’m opening myself up on social media! Probably not the best way to open up but it’s a step. It’s a quieter way, maybe.

I’m getting closer also to talking to a friend who has always enjoyed really teasing me in front of others. I don’t mean the every-day type teasing we all do to one another when we’re in a small group. I mean the really embarrassing type teasing that mortifies me so much I feel like I can’t breath, my heart rate goes up and I literally just want to die right there and then!

Relentless teasing – of the same things over and over again.

I use to get so angry with him but I never knew how to bring it up! I want to shoot him down in front of everyone right there and then but worry what people will think of me. They might think, “Hey – Calm down! He’s obviously just joking!”

The fact is that he does not know what I have been going through. Or know what I’m still going through. And there are certain anxieties surrounding public situations that I don’t know how to handle. And a bigger problem – if I want to see some of my good friends whom I love, I sort of have to live with the fact that he’ll always be around.

So, it’s a big step. I basically have to prepare myself in talking to him before our next get together. And I have to do it in a way that lets him know that I’m not trying to lay blame. The hope is that he will understand I’m just dealing with my own stuff and all I ask is that he remains gentle towards my situation.

I believe he is a good enough friend to understand this. It’s just not an easy conversation to have.

That alone feeling…

Sometimes I get really down about myself… having anxiety issues really makes me feel alone.

It is worse when I get into an argument with Doug. He is so relaxed about everything. And sometimes that is good but I feel then the extra burden of carrying all the worrying for the whole family.

The world is still also very unequal. I think that the woman of the household does more – more multi-tasking, more balancing and of course, more worrying. Add anxiety disorder on top of all that and it just weighs down on my shoulders at an unbelievable weight.

I so desperately wish to be understood. And the worse feeling is that my own family just doesn’t seem to understand. Don’t get me wrong – I know they love me very much. But I just want to be understood.

When Doug tells me I need to relax – in whatever way he is telling me – I want to scream (and sometimes I do), “DO YOU REALIZE AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE ASKING ME?”

I feel like it’s my fault I can’t relax. I feel like it’s my fault that I invest so much time into Chaeli’s academics (hello? does he not realize he married an Asian – I’m parenting the only way I know how), I feel like it’s my fault that if I do not stay organized, my world will fall apart because doing everything last minute only causes more anxiety. I feel like it is my fault I have to live in an organized house (I use to keep it more organized but since Doug is home most of  time while I’m at work – any cleaning/organizing gets messed up within a day). I feel like it is my fault I am not normal. I feel like it is my fault that I get anxiety attacks.

My fault. All my fault. Because I simply can not relax. Or go with the flow. Or stop my mind from moving ten steps ahead.

All. My. Fault.

And so, I am feeling incredibly lonely. I can hear voices of people who mean well tell me that I am not alone. That there are a lot of people who go through what I am going through.

But these people are lonely too. And it does not make me feel less lonely by banning together with others that are just as lonely. Negative plus negative = a greater negative.

I did not want to have dinner with my family but hunger won over. It took me so much effort to finish my dinner while fighting the tears back.

Apres Ski Conversations

Things come to my mind at odd times. Old memories can be stirred from an activity that I’m doing. Or places that I am visiting (both new and old places).

L'Hotel Horizon Bar

Apres ski bar of L’Hotel Horizon (Sutton, QC)

Over a shared bottle of wine with my husband, between appetizers and our main course, he started to talk about his ski patrol days… of how sometimes he misses it but does not miss the commitment level he had to put in every weekend just to be able to afford skiing.

L'Hotel Horizon Terrace

View from our room in the Auberge.

I told him I don’t fully understand this concept – not that I disagree with it, it’s just not something I have been through. The closest I’ve ever been to that level of intense team work was during my dragon boating days. And while I have no regrets of those days, I don’t miss it. I see it as a different part of my life – one that I’m over with. And that’s always been my case. I do something until I’m ready to move on to another phase of my life. I never realized this about myself until I had this conversation.

L'Hotel Horizon Lounge

Auberge louge for reading and board games

And so these times of regrets for me are far and few. I will work hard to get to a level I am satsified of achieving and then it’s on to something else. I wonder if this will happen with snowboarding? It is getting harder and harder on my body with age. And as frustrating as I get at it, I am not yet ready to give-up for downhill skiing.

Le Cafetier

Le Cafetier – wonderful French cafe in Sutton, QC

But I do have regrets. And for some reason, I suppose it is because Doug brought up his days of ski patrolling, where I started to remember Tamara.

Chaeli then asked who Tamara was. So I told her, “She was daddy’s ex-girlfriend. From before mommy.” I added the last statement in quickly to avoid any confusion on my daughter’s part.

Le Cafetier

The fantastic, fresh, organic ingredients – so delish!

I was then finding myself filled with regret. And so, perhaps from 1/3rd bottle of red wine I had in me by then, I said to my daughter, “I regret not getting to know Tamara more.”

She looked at me perplexed, “Why? Wouldn’t that have been awkward anyway?”

“Yes, it was awkward between Tamara and I when we first met. But she tried. I didn’t. I let my insecurities get the best of me. And saw her as a threat.”

“But why does it matter now?”

Le Cafetier

Local artists are supported by Le Cafeteir – such as this gorgeous, mosaic, stained glass window

Chaeli was still very young at the time. Not even in pre-school when we got the call. Doug got the call, actually – from a former ski-patroller. When Doug hung up, I knew something was not right. I asked him what was wrong and he whispered, “Tamara… she took her own life.”

Now, I’m not saying that had I had not allowed my walls to block her out, that her and I would have become good friends. Or that had we had become friends, I would have been able to do something to ensure her life did not end so early and so tragically.

She suffered from mental health disorder. And she tried to overcome it. But even with her life filled with love, a huge community and all the great volunteer work she did, nothing could end her suffering.

I regret for selfish reasons. I know now, as I look back and remember her through clearer eyes and more confidence of who I am, that she was a good person. Who would have touched my life much more had I given her a chance (given myself a chance, that is).

So when it comes to people I can have regrets. Through my actions or no actions at all. I do and can have regrets.

Getting back on track…

I’ve become a person I don’t identify with anymore.

It can happen so easily. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But one night is all it takes for one to wake up the next morning and think, Who are you? Where are your boundaries? How did everything spin out of control?

For me, it has been 1.5 yrs since I’ve felt more like me.

A lot has happened in the last 1.5 years. Without going into too much finite details I will say some key points:

  • Whatever depression I had experienced two years ago, which lead me to therapy, has pretty much been kept at bay. Not to say it’s not lurking in the shadows waiting for the right opportunity to pounce out at me, but from my cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, I’m still able to exercise myself back on to a straight path anytime I feel like I’m being sucked back in to the darkness. More importantly, I no longer have suicidal thoughts!
  • Regardless of whatever shitty people or shitty things people have done to me, I’m still pretty confident in who I am, which is something I completely lost 2-3 years ago.
  • While this past year has been the most challenging, I am still feeling blessed with what I do have in life.

The issue is that I have this extreme want to excel my career.

On the one hand, it’s been quite obvious the vast number of skills and management responsibilities I have seen over just the past 6 months alone come to being. I am doing things that I know is what will launch my career further down its path.

On the other hand, I have lost that balance. I am sometimes a workaholic, working overtime and like this weekend, spending a few of my free hours each Saturday and Sunday to catch up on a workload which I will always be behind in.

I am a very accountable person. But not just because I have been given a lot to be responsible over, but it is in my nature to do what I can to not fail. I take great accountability in everything that I do. It is both a strength and a weakness.

What I want to do for myself in 2016 is to know when to stop, know when I need to just let go of work and spend some peaceful time, while at the same time, being efficient with my productivity at work.

The challenge with the former – even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work.

The challenge with the latter – my new manager (a.k.a. NM), is not one to allow me to be efficient. New manager is all over the place with projects. I am not the only one who has observed this. All my close co-workers have pointed this out upon meeting NM for the first time. NM is everywhere, is what they will say.

It’s true. How many times has NM double booked dates/months for clients where I would have to spend a considerable amount of my time trying to sort out on a calendar that is one of my key performance indicators? How many times has NM allocated time for meetings on new ideas NM wishes to push only for our VP to decline as it isn’t top of our priority for our company? Not bad ideas, mind you, but given our low resources and the long list of top priorities, said ideas are just not important enough to discuss right now. I spent half a day on my business trip discussing one of these “to-do” projects where there was so much more we needed to discuss first.

And finally, how many times has NM emailed me, stated a certain procedure which is new to me (as has been most of my job) and that we will discuss it together first, only to then get frustrated with me a week later for not working on that procedure? Yet I was instructed to wait on it until we’ve had a chance to discuss it. <- This has been the worst. Not just from NM’s poor lack of memory and proper management style, but just the demeaning approach put on me. The tone of voice can be abrasive and sometimes even shrill.

My challenge is to manage my NM and this will prove difficult.

My first task is to document all that I do for my projects, specially when there is inconsistency with NM’s work and/or communication (with documentation where possible followed by clarification. I will remain diplomatic but firm. If NM shows anger or frustration for how I decide to do my work, I will eventually need to take all my documentation and approach my VP for advice.

This tactic of mine is not to seek revenge or try to ruin NM’s career. It is simply has come to a point where if I do not do anything, the only person who will suffer is me.

I’ve had lengthy discussions with my husband about this and he continues to encourage me to remember that I deserve taking a break and to not let work own me.

Anyway – wish me luck. 2016 is not going to be easy but I am optimistic something good will come out of this.