13 Reasons Why? Actually there’s only one.

girl-1098610_1920I was living in Uganda when I truly thought about ending my life.

I was in a weird place- both physically and mentally. I was surrounded by Christian people, but never felt so far away from God. Never felt so judged.

I was thousands and thousands of miles away from any family. I had gone to Uganda to follow God’s call for my life, and yet some people didn’t want me there. They made that very clear.

I was spitting up blood often, and none of the doctors in Uganda could figure out why.

I was in a car accident which turned out to be one of the most horrifying moments of my entire life, as our car was surrounded by a giant mob of angry Ugandans banging on the windows, and as one kind stranger told us, “You need to get out of here- they will set your car on fire!”

While it was a tough time, any sane person would realize that those are certainly not reasons to end your life. But that’s the thing about suicidal thoughts- they don’t come from sane people. I was nowhere near sane at certain points of my time in Uganda.

I recently finished the Netflix original, “13 Reasons Why” (based on the book of the same title). It’s about a teenage girl who has committed suicide, but instead of leaving a note, she leaves cassette tapes, each one chronicling the “13 reasons why” she decided to take her own life. It’s intense, it’s heart-wrenching. There are a few scenes in the final episode that are so incredibly graphic, I couldn’t watch.

I watched “Beyond the Reasons” after I finished the 13-episode series. They made it graphic on purpose- suicide is not glamorous. It’s not peaceful. And it most certainly destroys your family and friends who are left behind.

Someone today asked me how I felt about Hannah Baker, the character who takes her own life. And to be honest, I’m still figuring that out. She had horrific things happen to her. I can see why she snapped. I can see why her life sucked. I can understand each and every one of her “13 reasons why” and why she had such bitterness towards each of the 13 people.

But really, there’s only one reason why Hannah Baker killed herself. There’s only one reason a person would kill himself or herself. One reason.

They choose to.

I say that with empathy. I say that as someone who has considered doing it. I know people do it because they think they have no other option. They think no one cares. They aren’t thinking clearly. I wasn’t thinking clearly. But the only reason someone follows through with suicide is because they choose to.

I chose not to. As dark of a place as I was in, I chose not to. I chose to deal. I chose to move forward. I chose to change my situation. I chose to cling to what God says about me, not what other people say about me. I chose life.

It’s never so bad that you can’t choose life. Never.

woman-1006100_640I work for a homeless ministry where each and every day I talk with people who have been through the worst trauma you can imagine. They’ve been physically, sexually, mentally, and verbally abused by the very people who are supposed to love and protect them. But they persevered. Despite their trauma, they choose to live.

There is always a choice when it comes to suicide. And that choice is left completely up to the person considering it.

So how do I feel about Hannah Baker? Although just a fictional character, I feel terrible for her, my heart breaks for her, but I’m also pretty angry with her. She made the wrong choice. Taking your own life is ALWAYS the WRONG choice. Her “13 reasons why” weren’t good enough reasons for me, and that’s because there was only one true reason she took her life- she chose to.

The “Bully” and the “Bullied”

I’ve written about this before on my Facebook page (weird- I just noticed it was exactly one year ago to the day), but I’ve updated it and would like to share it again, as it is something that really gets me worked up. It’s not the typical “anti-bullying” post:

There once was a girl growing up in small-town Ohio. She was teased a lot for multiple reasons. Nowadays you would say she was “bullied.”

There was an instance in fourth grade where after the school play she couldn’t get out of her cheerleading costume and got back to class late. The entire class laughed at her because one of the mean girls told everyone that the girl was so fat that she was stuck in her costume. She went home and cried.

This girl did not feel very good about herself. She wasn’t pretty and popular. The popular girls actually made fun of her a lot. One time she decorated a t-shirt with puffy paint and wrote “GUESS” on it, convinced that the cool girls would think it was a real GUESS shirt (GUESS was THE brand in the late 80’s, early 90’s). The mean girls made fun of her and ridiculed her for wearing it.

Fast forward to Junior High, where things were the worst. The poor girl developed a chest earlier than some of her classmates. While a large chest might make you popular in high school and the rest of life, it is not a good thing in Junior High. Boys called the girl “Puffs,” because they thought she stuffed her bra. They would approach her and say their noses were running and they knew she had tissues. Also, in 7th grade, this girl was madly in love with a super popular boy in her class. To make a long story short, this boy said she was fat. She was nowhere near fat, but felt that way because of what he said. She was destroyed.

Fast forward again and the girl is in high school. It was freshman year and her family had just moved. She started a new school, and on the first day, someone put a tack on her chair. She sat on it, felt a stinging in her butt, stood up, and pulled out a tack. She was even bleeding a little bit. Such humiliation.

This girl didn’t tell anyone about the bullying. She didn’t tell her parents, her teachers, anyone! Why? Because she KNEW HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. How do I know? All of the above things happened to me. Never once did I consider myself “bullied.” It’s called kids being jerks, and that’s just life. I remember one of the worst “bullying” incidents I suffered was on the bus ride home from school. Some of the mean girls said I wasn’t cool enough to even know the words to “Ice Ice Baby.” I thought I did- but I completely messed them up. They laughed at me. Their laughing echoes in my head to this day when I hear Ice Ice Baby. (kidding)

Now, I will say this, physical violence is a different story. If a child/teenager is being physically harassed, it is definitely bullying and unacceptable. I know words can hurt just as much, if not worse than physical violence, but with today’s definition of “bullying,” I think almost all of us could claim we were “bullied” at one time or another, and we all got through it.

So what’s the solution to all this “bullying” and kids killing themselves over it? Yes, it’s a tragedy. But it’s not just a tragedy that kids are so mean and can say such hurtful things, but it’s a tragedy that kids aren’t taught the proper way to deal with those situations.  Self-image is not on any state test, so it’s something teachers and guidance counselors can’t spend time on, no matter how much they want to.

Kids (which includes teens), also need to learn about the finality of suicide and what it does to the people around them. Killing yourself doesn’t make a statement. It’s final. There’s no “last laugh” when you kill yourself. If parents aren’t teaching their kids this, and the school isn’t allowed to take time to teach this, clearly a kid might think suicide is a natural solution to being made fun of, and the media only make it worse. It’s almost like kids think they are being a martyr for bullying and that their gesture is a good thing.

Are kids really getting that much worse, or are our kids becoming too sensitive, too babied, too sheltered? They are being raised in this society to always point the finger- change other people, but not yourself. You HAVE to change yourself if you’re being “bullied” and you can’t take it anymore. The number one thing you can do is learn to love yourself, to know that everyone, EVERYONE has been “bullied” in some way or another in their lifetime, and that the tough times pass. There’s not always something you can do about other people, but there’s always something you can do about your reactions to how people treat you.

What happens to these kids who are “bullied”, once they leave school? Do “bullies” not exist in the adult world? Of course they do! And if you’re overly sensitive and can’t handle it, you still won’t be able to deal with it as an adult. Problem is, you can’t run to mommy and daddy and expect them to do anything about it. Someone in your life will always be a jerk. That’s just life.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s terrible that kids are killing themselves over “bullying.” I think it’s tragic, and I think something DOES have to be done, but not JUST with the bullies, but with those who are being bullied. There are two problems in the whole “bullying” situation in this country- the bullies and bullied. Both need examined and fixed, if that’s even possible. Bullies may never stop bullying, but we can teach our kids that suicide is NOT an option, that they ARE loved, and that life DOES get better.

Never once in any of the above situations did I feel like I was being “bullied.” To me, bullying was only in movies when kids beat up other kids for their lunch money. I felt like being teased was just a part of life. And it was, and I have turned out just fine. Now that the media is on this “bullying” frenzy, EVERYONE thinks they’re being “bullied.” And given how society is now defining “bullying”… I’m pretty sure ALL kids could say they are being bullied right now in one way or another. We’ve got to teach them how to deal with it before we lose anymore lives.

Note: All photographs are from from stock.xchng.