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The Hard Lesson of Learning I Had Something to Live For

The Hard Lesson of Learning I Had Something to Live For

When she was 15, a young girl attempted to kill herself. I'll save you the gory details, being that she was still trying to figure herself out. It was hard for her, feeling like she was completely alone and cut off from the world. Wondering if anyone, even a single person, would be willing to step in and reach out a hand, to tell her she was loved and that everything was going to be OK. For someone to stop and listen.

She'd been struggling with both an eating disorder and bipolar depression for a few years. Combined with a series of bullies, she'd fallen apart within herself. Then, only two years later, abandoned by those she considered friends and betrayed by a school administration that was supposed to protect her, she tried again...and failed.

That girl was me.

It's easier to talk about things like suicide and mental illness in the third person, as this allows for a certain amount of distance from the things that happened. It’s not exactly an easy thing to bring up.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, however, has brought the issues of suicide, mental illness, and bullying into the spotlight. It’s igniting a discussion that is both profound and treacherous for those who have read the novel, watched the show, or both (which I highly encourage). As 13 Reasons shows, there are multiple sides to every story. Who we think is the protagonist is not always the hero, and who we think is the monster is not always the devil.

Sadness, loss, fear, and pain all manifest themselves in different ways. Unfortunately, for many people it takes the form of attempting to take your own life; that weight and burden that suicide causes falls on everybody’s back. You may not make tapes like Hannah, or leave a note behind, or even attempt to take your own life in the first place. The list of people may just exist in your mind, and the story may be simply something you keep in your head, a running tab of those who’ve contributed to your self torment and turmoil, making demons for you to constantly sail against.

But we all have a 13 Reasons list. And you're probably on somebody else’s. Every word that we say, every action we make creates an unstoppable force that changes the way everyone’s life continues. This is simply the way that the universe works: a string of interconnected stories that charge forward in the great web that makes up how all of us live on a daily basis. No matter how good or bad we are we are all part of a list.

Though that girl has not dominated my life in a long time, a part of her still lives within me. She still remembers the heartbreak, the trauma, the way it felt to have your allies and peers turn completely against you in a time of need. I still remember it too.

If you had asked that girl at 16 if she thought she would be able to apply for college, or publish a book, or dance with a boy she loved under the stars without being afraid, she would have responded with a resounding "no."

There’s not a defined number of reasons to live for the future; but when you want to end everything, you can become blind to the good in life. So I try to remember the other things, and the other lists, that exist in my life. 13 reasons to be happy, or the 13 reasons to live in the moment, or the 13 reasons that life is worth living. After sitting and thinking about it, I’ve realized there are plenty of ways to make the bad things outnumber the good, even if it’s a painful journey to that destination.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.

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