PTSD and Awareness

Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion #3

**Trigger Warning — This post covers a broad spectrum of potentially triggering topics, such as abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and suicide. Please read with caution. If you need to find help for any reason, go to 13ReasonsWhy.info.**

The Problems: Part Three

**Spoilers Ahead — proceed with caution.**

I’m back with another discussion post about the controversial TV show, Thirteen Reasons Why. If you haven’t already, feel free to read the introduction, The Problems: Parts One and Two.

In this discussion I’m going to talk about the tapes. However, this is a two-sided discussion, because there was definitely a problem, but there was something the writers and showrunners did right. I’ll discuss the latter in a later post. This one is going to center around the “revenge plot” the world is up in arms about.
In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah Baker goes through a series of devastating events that build up over time and eventually take away her sense of self. In reason number ten, Hannah’s thoughts start to take a turn from lonely, objectified, and dejected, to something much darker.

After that (mostly) disastrous night at Jessica’s party, Sheri offers to take a drunken Hannah home. While distracted, Sheri ends up knocking down a stop sign and then abandons Hannah when she insists on calling the police. Within the minutes it takes her to reach the Blu Spot Liquor Store, a fatal accident occurs at the same intersection.

When Hannah realizes the location of the accident, she confronts Sheri, who then warns Hannah, “Keep your mouth shut,” and informs her that they shouldn’t be seen together going forward.

Being the kind of person Hannah is (continuing to be a friend to people that continuously turn their backs on her) she stays silent about fellow classmate, Jeff’s death. But, at the same time, she begins thinking, “It was becoming more than I could live with.” And from there, with increasing conviction, she believes that all she manages to do is make lives for everyone else worse, and that the world would be a better place without her.

Reason number twelve, arguably the worst of all the other reasons leading up to her decision to make the tapes, solidified her resolve. So, Hannah begins to write down a list of names and works out all the things that happened and who was responsible for them. As she finishes mapping everything out and the puzzle becomes clear, she makes the determination, “No one would ever hurt me again.”

Having heard of countless other people talk about their thoughts after experiencing similar events at school, I can understand Hannah’s last effort to stand up for herself. The problem is that she lacks the ability to see what kind of an effect her tapes would have on other people.

The thing people have a problem understanding is that Hannah has had everything stripped from her and she feels that the people responsible need to know what they’ve done to ruin her life. But why does she think that?

Many adults seem to forget what it was like being a teenager, and how everything seemed infinite. Permanent. That’s because the frontal lobe of a teenage brain hasn’t fully formed yet. Hannah was in the same situation. She couldn’t fathom any other option. And unfortunately for her, she didn’t have anyone to tell her otherwise.

The decision to include Clay in the tapes was arguably the worst part. Leading up to not-so-reason-number-eleven, he was tortured. Even awaiting reasons twelve and thirteen, Clay faced the reality of Hannah’s proverbial final nails in her coffin. All the while, Tony continuously tells him to listen to the tapes, because,  “It’s what Hannah wanted.” But, as a result, he felt constant fear and anxiety.

Even Hannah admits that Clay did nothing wrong, but she wanted him to know her reasons. Perhaps the most tragic thing she says to Clay in order to justify pushing him away is, “I would have ruined you.”

I know from my own past that if I was alone when the worst of my memories resurfaced, I don’t know how I would have survived. But more importantly, as I continue to try to push through my reality of complex PTSD, those very same thoughts pass through my head on a daily basis. I constantly question if my husband would be happier without me, because it feels as though my problems shouldn’t be his to bear as well.

As probably the only person that could have been there to change Hannah’s mind about suicide, Clay was ultimately clueless about what she was dealing with. She may not have realized how much damage she was doing to Clay, and her “revenge” on the others was her last, and she believed, only way to fight back after her death.

Right or wrong, making those tapes gave Clay — and, to a lesser extent, Tony — the chance to find some justice for her, when she couldn’t get it for herself. In a later post, I’ll discuss the other, positive side of her tapes.

© Sarah Doughty

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10 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion #3”

  1. the episode 11 is indeed one of the most heartwrenching one. i stayed until 4am to finish that part. and my thoughts reflect yours, love. i understand the bashing on Hannah seeking revenge through tapes but then indeed Hannah is a teenager, who has been tired and left with nothing and no one (as she felt).
    the beauty of this show is it makes people understand depression. and it makes more people care.
    though yes, my heart goes to Clay to. his anxiety and the turmoil the tapes brought to him is immense.

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  2. “Clay was ultimately clueless about what she was dealing with.” Whether demons are/were tactile or chemical imbalances or the product of a vivid and over-active imagination, that line right there is a truth told. We can never know another’s mind, and as long as they tend to run along expected lines we can cope. Take anyone too far outside the realm of their experience and they become Clay. We can offer solace, love, cheeseburgers and a shoulder or ear, but just like Clay we will never “understand.” If the demons lead someone to take themselves away? It becomes difficult to be heartbroken over what one will never understand.

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  3. I agree completely. As someone whose been through some traumas of my own, I understood completely where Hannah was coming from, and I honestly don’t think she was making these tapes with revenge in mind. I think she made them to let those who hurt her know what they did was wrong, to stand up for herself since nobody else did when all of these events unfolded. And while it might not have been the best way for her to go about it, I think in a lot of ways Clay and Tony hearing those tapes helped them too. Not only bring justice for her, but hopefully to bring some peace to them and to let them know that they weren’t at fault for any of her actions.

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    1. I couldn’t agree more. It may have sounded like revenge, and perhaps wanting people to know what they did to hurt her was considered that way, I don’t think she meant it. And yes, both Clay and Tony were able to see the consequences of what happened to her, and do what she couldn’t. I think it would have had less of an impact on them if she prefaced the whole thing with a separate tape. So, even though they both suffered a little, they still came through for her. Too late, but, still.

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      1. Well, its not like they knew all of this stuff happened until it was already too late. It’s just unfortunate that she didn’t try harder to get the help she really needed, though I know that wouldn’t have been easy for her anyway. But at the same time, if she’d lived, Clay and Tony would’ve had no clue about any of this unless she told them.

        If you read the book, its nothing at all like the way the show is portrayed.

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      2. I’m planning on reading it, I just didn’t want to get anything confused between the book and the show. And you do make a good point. It’s already so difficult as it is to tell someone if they’ve been assaulted, let alone anything else because most schools will turn a blind eye.

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