A Survivor’s Story: How ’13 Reasons Why’ Got It Wrong


Along with the rest of the Netflix-addicted world, I recently watched the miniseries 13 Reasons Why and in light of its heavy and disturbing content, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to share my story instead of keeping it in the dark.

There are some moments we will never forget. For some, these are positive moments, rites of passage, life-shaping events. For me, it was the day I thought my life would end. I still remember every detail of the day of June 13th, 2016. I woke up in the morning, struggling to find the motivation to even move. The thought of going outside and seeing the world just didn’t seem worth it anymore. I was not living, I was merely existing. The only thing I did that day was go to the pharmacy to pick up my new prescription of antidepressants that I had told no one I was taking. I had called my pharmacy a few days earlier to switch prescription calls from my house phone where my whole family would know to my cell phone, and this was all apart of my elaborate plan.

Shifting in and out of consciousness, sweating, the last thing I remember is a man standing in the ER saying “that is what an overdose patient looks like”. So how did I reach this point?

Lots of people will come visit you in the hospital when you’re sick, but not when you’re sick with a mental illness. If there is one thing I learned in my 21 years on this earth, it is that people are scared of you if you admit you have a problem. In my time in the hospital, my parents didn’t tell a single member of my extended family. I was so incredibly sick for those days I spent in the hospital, but no one was allowed to know. I felt like a failure, left in the dark.

I started out college with a fantastic group of friends. Friends that I thought I would keep for the rest of my life. But my bipolar disorder had something else in mind. My sophomore year, I slowly weaned myself off of my medication without telling anyone. I thought I didn’t need it, I wasn’t sick. I slowly, without realizing it, became a totally different person. A neurotic, egotistical, mean spirited person who would do anything to get her way. I started binge drinking to the point of blacking out multiple times a week. Along with the drinking would come lots of inexplicable, irresponsible actions that would often lead me to waking up in strange places and not knowing what to do. People just thought I was cruel and selfish, and that it was a reflection of my changing personality. I did horrible things to people I once considered my best friends, and pushed them away to the point that they would rather never see my face again. I have people who won’t forgive me for actions that I have apologized for a thousand times from the bottom of my heart.

After being manic for nearly a semester, the depression hit harder than ever before. I didn’t want to live in a world in which people could not be forgiving, in which I had messed up just one too many times. I would forever be seen as crazy Anna, evil Anna, the one that can’t be trusted. And after a month of isolation, not hearing from a single person at school, I decided to take the most damaging action of my life.

But, before I did, I decided to take one last chance at life. I went to a concert with my best friends just two days before it happened. As my depression had been worsening, I had resorted to tumblr as the online community I was looking to for people who understand just how hard things were getting. That night, after the concert, I posted a desperate post saying that I was so close to giving up, that I saw no more meaning to life, and that I would be gone soon unless anyone messaged me to convince me otherwise. I told myself that if I got even one message telling me no, telling me I was worth it, I would work on trying to get better. But, as you can guess, two days passed and not a single person responded to my plea.

After being in the ICU for 4 days, I was transferred to an inpatient facility. I initially was terrified, they took all my technology away and I was left with a random roommate in close quarters. I eventually made friends, all from different walks of life, and for the first time in months, I felt genuine connection with people. The people I met made me realize that everyone messes up, everyone feels alone, and that we can all make it out together. One of our favorite things to do at the hospital was play jenga. To this day, I see my life as a game of jenga. Life is all about random chaos and things may shatter, but it is easy to rebuild and make things better a second time. I cannot guarantee that I will never relapse again, but I know that for now I need to keep on building my life. I am proud of how far I have come in the months since the events of June 13th, and I hope to inspire other people that they too can make meaningful change in their lives.

So now I would like to come back to why I am writing this and how it relates to 13 Reasons Why. In this TV series, it places the blame on other people. It is no one’s fault for what happened to me. It’s not the fault of people on tumblr, its not the fault of all the people I fought with my sophomore year, it is no one’s fault but my illness alone. The series fails to show the illness behind Hannah’s suicide, what went on behind closed doors and how she reached her breaking point.

What bothers me so much is that we live in a world where it can take up to three weeks to get an appointment with a therapist, but if you want exact instructions on a method to end your life you can access them with the click of a button. 13 Reasons went too far with its depiction of suicide, and serves as an idea for people who are already suicidal to get an inspiration about how to do it.

13 Reasons glamorizes Hannah’s death and how she will be remembered because of the tapes she left behind. But society doesn’t prepare you for what happens when you fail. After my attempt, I got fired from a lifeguarding job because the girl “ had no sympathy for me” that I was in the hospital. She said it didn’t matter, missing work is missing work and she didn’t even ask if I was feeling better. I had to go back to my other job just a few short weeks later, with everyone asking me why I was in the hospital and me having to dodge the subject as best I could because I just didn’t know how to respond.

I am not writing this piece because I want attention, pity, or remorse. I am writing for those who did not make it, for those people who didn’t have the support system I have. Our country has a long way to go in terms of mental illness. I want others to know that they are not alone, that if you are in the hospital you deserve to be visited just as much as any other patient. If you think that a friend is acting out of character, please SAY SOMETHING. Don’t let your friend slip further into their illness. Never be afraid to ask for help.