I just finished Netflix’s new series, 13 Reasons Why, and I’m feeling inspired but also incredibly saddened. A couple of years ago (May of 2015, to be exact), I witnessed a man attempt suicide. How’s that for an opening? The year before, I was depressed and had thoughts of suicide myself. Going even farther back, in 2010, my plan that I lied about not having was identical to the one he carried out. This show is bringing all of that back up to the surface and I know that I’m not the only Netflix junkie out there watching this show, so it seems like a pretty appropriate time to address the deeply emotional, tragic, and widespread issue of suicide.
I’ve touched on my own story a little bit in the past, but I suppose if there was ever a time to put everything out there, it’s now. I’ve always been sensitive to the world around me and in some scenarios, that’s a good thing, in others, it can make things (and life) more difficult. I can remember seeing the school guidance counselor when I was 10 or 11 because I had a ton of anxiety and worried about my grades to the point that I was developing ulcers. In the sixth grade, there were days I didn’t want to go to school because it was too much for me to bear and I was miserable because I was depressed and just didn’t know what to call it. High school came and by senior year, those feelings of depression surfaced again. My parents had divorced, my mom was working two jobs to make ends meet, I was in a toxic relationship with a boy who made it a point to regularly made feel terrible about myself, my self esteem was nonexistent, I was suffocating under the weight of AP classes, and I was trying to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I found myself breaking down behind the wheel on a frighteningly regular basis, and it took every single ounce of self control I had to not follow through with ramming my car into the guardrails on the parkway going as fast as my Mustang GT would take me. This time, I opened up to my mom and my then-boyfriend, I had an appointment with a therapist who I lied to about not having the plan I just described in order to avoid hospitalization, and decided I’d get over it on my own. And I did… for a while. Then in 2013, I was a newlywed struggling to balance my marriage with a full time job, online electives, weekend classes, 20 hours of practicum each week, and homework. I was stressed, we were strapped financially, and I was just trying to cope with being an adult out in the world on my own for the first time. Aside from all of that, I was just depressed, plain and simple. I drank vodka in the bathtub while I cried more often than I like to admit, and I spent even more time crying in bed, unwilling to socialize or leave the house. Depression feels a lot like having an elephant strapped to your chest while you try to swim through hurricane-strength waves 6 miles from shore. But I got through it because I was finally open about it with a select few and I refused to let it control my life.
Fast forward to 2015: I was on my way home late one night from a neighboring town. My mom was driving and suddenly, a white, ’90s model Buick floored it past us in the left lane, swerved in front of us, and slammed into the rock on the side of the road easily going 80+ mph without ever hitting the brakes. The car flipped up into the air and landed right side up. We immediately called 911 and ran to help the person behind the wheel. The front end and the driver side of the car were wrecked to the point that the motor of the car was resting in his bloodstained lap. The amount of blood on his person and the car was sobering; it covered the bottom of the driver side door and the man behind the wheel, and he was screaming for help while at the same time asking us to just let him die. While we waited for the ambulance to get there, my mom and I talked with the driver. He asked us to tell his two young daughters, whose names I still remember, that he loved them. As if the lack of brake marks on the road weren’t indicators enough, talking to him that night proved he never intended to walk away from the accident that night. Thankfully, a doctor happened upon the accident on his way home that night just before the ambulance arrived.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes, I could hear the sound of the car racing past us and the crumbling metal hitting the rock. I could see him screaming in pain and crying out for help. I could see all the blood and the motor on his legs, and I wondered if he would ever have use of them again. For months after, I was very skittish on the parkway when people passed me because I had flashbacks of his desperate attempt to end whatever suffering he was dealing with, and I would relive the incident in my head. The day after the accident, my mom called the hospital he was taken to to check on him and the nurse explained he was doing well. The local newspaper and the police who arrived at the scene called it an accident and said he lost control of his vehicle. I’m sure they saw that as doing him a favor, but I hope he got the help he needed.
Being present that night, sharing in such a traumatic experience with a stranger, gave me a different perspective altogether when dealing with my own rounds with depression from that point forward. In typical Amanda fashion, I ended up binge watching 13 Reasons Why and it made me think about my reasons for wanting to end it all in the past, and looking back, it’s clear to me now that my reasons for living outweighed the list of negatives in my life. Sometimes, it can be really, really difficult to think of even one thing worth living for when you’re in the thick of the soul sucking monster that is depression, so I’ve made a list in case you’re currently in that situation.
Here are 5 reasons to live:
- The Future
Here’s the thing about all of my bouts with depression: they got better. I hate to think about everything I would’ve never experienced had I ended my own life when the thought originally occurred to me. I graduated high school as a valedictorian, a lifelong goal at that point. I graduated college with honors. I met the love of my life, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who thinks the sun rises & sets with me, and I have an amazing job doing what I love. I’ve held my best friend’s firstborn, stood next to her at her wedding, celebrated multiple births in my family and several birthdays. I’ve taken trips, saw George Jones at his very last concert, flew for the first time, and laughed until I cried instead of crying myself to sleep. If it seems like you just can’t go on, give it another day. And then the day after that. Eventually, things will improve, even if you can’t fathom the possibility.
- Your Testimony
You know what happens when you’re open about your own struggles? You open the discussion about things that NEED to be discussed and you help others overcome the same struggles. Instead of being another tragedy, you can be an inspiration to someone else who is struggling to keep their head above water. As someone who has dealt with depression in many forms in the past, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and I would much rather be their inspiration to keep going.
- The Poor Soul Who Finds You
The scene in 13 Reasons Why during which Hannah’s parents find her lifeless body absolutely broke me. I found myself crying hysterically along with her mother because I could empathize with her. How would I feel if I found my own daughter, my pride and joy, in a pool of her own blood because she felt her life was worthless and she didn’t have any other way out? How would I feel about my mother finding my body? What about a stranger whose life is forever changed in the worst way because of a decision you made? I have the unique perspective of someone who has both contemplated suicide and witnessed a suicide attempt. I can tell you that the man’s suicide attempt shook me for more than just a couple of days. I thought of him and his family everyday for the longest time, and even though it’s been 2 years, I still think of him and that night often. And I didn’t even know him. And he lived. Imagine if things had been slightly different.
- Your Life Has Value
I know it may not feel like it, I’ve been there, but your existence is a good thing. If you feel like you aren’t contributing anything by being on the planet, change it and not by choosing suicide. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor and save a life instead of taking yours. Volunteer at a local nursing home and hear stories of how life is full to the very end. Help out at an animal shelter and spend some quality time with a furbaby who definitely appreciates you and your presence. The list goes on and on. You matter, you are worthy, and you belong here!
- You Will Be Missed
Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Alexander McQueen. Do you really think the world is a better place without them? Yeah, me neither. I knew none of those men, but their deaths still sadden me. Why would you ever want to inflict the same pain you’ve been experiencing on someone else?
Help is out there, people care, there is hope and I’m living proof.
Your story isn’t over yet:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
You can even email me if you need someone to talk to: firstname.lastname@example.org