I was vocally anti ’13 Reasons Why,’ most notably on my Facebook page where I shared Kati Morton’s video “Is 13 Reasons Why, season 1, bad?” I saw a lot of people who live with mental illness telling others to steer clear of the show. When I said I was watching it (work in progress: 2 episodes so far, bored!), concerned friends messaged me because of how triggering they had found it. And then I read this article by Sarah Fader, 13 Reasons Why You Should Watch 13 Reasons Why.
I will be continuing to watch the show. I will be stopping watching it if I find it too hard or triggering. But I did want to address one issue that I think is super important. In the article, Sarah says “Hannah slowly loses her friends, begins to isolate from others, her grades slip and her appearance changes drastically.” No issue? Accurate representation of a teen suffering with depression? I’m not so sure.
Hannah slowly loses her friends, begins to isolate from others, her grades slip and her appearance changes drastically
I’m not going to ask you to read this whole post, I’m going to give you the take away right now: Mental illness doesn’t look like anything.
Let me say that for you again:
Mental illness doesn’t look like anything.
I was a teenage girl with depression. You know how it looked on me? It looked like consistent A’s and B’s in every school class, and it looked like crying so hard I couldn’t breathe, but only at night when I was alone. It looked like shopping trips with friends, and it looked like dressing to cover self harm scars while pretending to make a fashion statement. It looked like smiles and laughter, and it looked like self hatred. It looked like family parties every holiday, and it looked like begging any greater power there may be to let me die. It looked like regular holidays and school trips, and it looked like never being able to stop the onslaught of negative thoughts. It looked like not caring what the popular kids thought, and it looked like hopelessness that goes on forever. It looked like confidence, and it looked like emptiness.
It looked like a normal teenage girl.
I had friends, and boyfriends, and girlfriends. I went out shopping with them, to the zoo, to Pizza Hut. I hung out at the park with them. We had parties and we played stupid games. We talked about life, and ideas, and how Jonny Wilkinson was the hottest person to ever happen to rugby!
We laughed together. We learned together. We got irritated at each other because someone told someone else that some other person had been mean when they hadn’t been, or because one of us wouldn’t let another one copy their homework.
And I had parents. Four in fact. And we went on holidays together, and had family parties, and hugged, and talked.
And I looked nothing like a teenage girl with mental illness. However those teenage girls are supposed to look.
I went to a good school. I had amazing, loving, supportive friends. I had parents who fought for me. I was well fed. I had nice clothes. I was clever enough to not struggle with school work. I had a social life.
Does that make me a liar in your eyes?
Does that make me a fake?
I was a teenager with mental illness. And now I’m an adult with mental illness. And this is what mental illness looks like: