How do you do it?

I started watching 13 Reasons Why at the recommendation of countless friends, including my best friend. I admit I was actually very intrigued by the show and I got hooked because I, like everyone else, wanted to understand why Hannah Baker completed suicide. There is a lot to say about the show, but I don’t quite know how to articulate it intelligently and I think I need to ponder it more before I give my opinion.

The show got me thinking about the past and it really brought me back to my brother’s suicide attempt. I have so many emotions about the struggles that have occurred in my family’s lives, especially about that evening. I actually wrote a paper about that night and my teacher told me I made her cry. I didn’t write it to move people though, I wrote it because I needed to talk about it. I needed to explain to someone. I needed to tell what I saw and all the emotions I never voiced. That night is not brought up much in my family, mainly because it was such a horrific time and we lived it so why recount what happened? My family has always supported me and my mom was always willing to discuss anything with me, but I’ve never been very good at talk therapy, I have always found more success with healing through my writing.

A lot happened the night of Ryan’s suicide attempt and, recently, when I think of that night I also think of my grandmother. We had been living in my grandmother’s basement for awhile before Ryan’s suicide attempt. At first I thought that living with my grandmother wouldn’t be so bad, but I was wrong. I was miserable there. My family was miserable too. When you have no where else to go though, it’s hard to complain. My grandma, my mom’s mom, had been like most grandma’s, she spoiled us with gifts and treats, and obviously us kids took that for her showing her affection. I love my grandma and I used to think about how lucky I was to have a grandma who loved me so much. My whole view of her changed after that night. I lost any respect I ever had for my grandma and I felt hurt in a way I never thought she’d hurt me. I lost my grandma that night, but I wouldn’t realize that till later.

That night, my mom and Ryan were in the “kitchen” (there was no separate kitchen space… nor do I think it could really qualify as a kitchen) and I was in my bedroom with my younger brothers. Ryan was about 13 years old, I was 11, Aidan was 7, and Liam was 6. I am amazed at how young that seems to me now, but at that time neither Ryan nor I felt like kids. As Ryan was breaking down, my mom was trying to calm him down and get everything under control while worrying about Aidan, Liam, and me. I took care of Aidan and Liam until my mom’s friend came to take over. I blasted music, played games, and distracted them as best I could. When my mom’s friend took over, I walked out of my room to check on my mom and Ryan and watched as my mom tried to keep my brother from going through with his plan. Later in the night, the paramedics arrived and my started tending to Ryan. He was situated on the couch when my grandma came down. She sat down next to him and tried to hold his hand, but he pulled away. My grandma responded with: “Now you won’t even hold my hand?”, then storming upstairs like a scolded child, passing right by me without a glance.

I have been angry with my grandma for many reasons, but I find that as much as I try to forgive her, I never truly get past it. Part of me thinks it is because I never said this to her face, but a part of me never wants to because I don’t want to hear her excuses, why I am wrong, why she is the victim, etc. I try to separate my feelings from my grandma, not because she deserves forgiveness, but because I need to move on. This is the tip of the iceberg in my reasons for being angry with my grandma, but that is what ensured I’d never be able to really think of her as my grandma again. I have thought a lot about why I am upset with my grandma and I realized that I am right to be upset with her. I should not feel guilty for being angry. I should not feel obligated to forgive her. I do not need to respect her because she never gave me a reason to. It is okay to be angry with her for saying that to Ryan. It is okay to be angry with her for not helping me take care of my siblings. It is okay to be angry with her for walking past me without a thought. It is okay to be angry with her for never showing up. It is okay for me to be angry with her for using her illness as an excuse not to watch my siblings’ soccer games when all the other kid’s grandparents came. It is okay to be angry at her for driving up to 45 minutes to go gamble and meet friends, but not be willing to drive the 10 minutes to come to my siblings’ awards ceremonies, concerts, or games. I am allowed to be mad at her for insulting my mom to us. I am allowed to be mad that she kept her bottles of vodka next to the one bottle of juice she brought for my siblings. I am allowed to be angry at her for being an alcoholic who couldn’t go to a restaurant without a bar and who’s first concern in the morning was vodka and lime juice. I should be angry at her for never caring enough to ask about our lives. I am angry at her. I have been angry at her for years, but then again, anger is hurt’s bodyguard.

I remember venting about this to friends and being asked “how can you talk about your grandma like that?”. This happened whenever I told the truth about my relatives. How dare I tell the truth about how they behave? How dare I be so blunt? How dare I not cover up their unacceptable behavior in front of other people? I have actually had friends make excuses for my relatives. I have had friends defend my relatives to me, like I was the one in the wrong. I will not sugar coat my relatives behavior, nor will I make excuses for them. I will not lie about who they are and how they act. I will not let my “friends” tell me what I mean to say, defend my relatives to me, make me believe my feelings about certain situations are wrong, or allow them to tell me that distancing myself from those who cause me pain is wrong because they are family. I will not let anyone make me feel like I need permission for feeling.

Never let anyone tell you how to feel or who to be. Never let anyone make you feel like you are in the wrong for trying to make the best life for yourself and those you love. Family is so much more than genetics. Family does not mean someone can treat you however they please. In the same way, friends should never try and change you or explain your feelings for you. You are the only one who knows how you feel and no one should ever try to explain your feelings for you.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott

Be odd. Be different. Be an enigma. (Normal is only a concept anyway).

Recommend: I’ve been listening to this song often since my friend performed an amazing dance to it. Click here to listen. I will warn you, it is a bit of an acquired taste, but there’s something about it that I really like.

— Noelle


2 thoughts on “How do you do it?

  1. Noelle, I’m not sure how to begin. I’m in awe at your honesty and your understanding of yourself and ability to express your honest, deep feelings. A lot of people don’t figure this out until much later in life and some never do, sadly. You will go far, you will do great things, and I look forward to following along and encouraging you along the way. I know we have never met. Your mom brought me to your writings. I hope to meet both of you one day. You are the kind of people the world needs more of. Jennie

    • Thank you so much for reading my post!! I really appreciate all the support. I would love to meet some day. Thank you so much for all the kind words. This means so much to me. Noelle

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