This collective document by young people has been generously shared by Narrative Therapist, David Newman, Sydney, Australia. If you would like to share anything on how you have dealt with ‘way out,’ ‘suicidal,’ or ‘die,’ thoughts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are young people who have to deal with ‘way out’ (or ‘suicidal’ or ‘die’) thoughts. There are many difficulties that arise. One of them that concerns many of us is that the ‘way out’ thoughts sometimes don’t leave us easily and that can bring fears that those who support us may find it difficult to continue to do so; ‘I do have a lot of supportive friends, some with problems like me. But because suicidal thoughts don’t go away it can get hard to talk. It can be so annoying and it can get repetitive for those who care for me. I worry they won’t continue to support me.’
And another concern is that asking us to live can be like asking us to ‘move a mountain’; ‘life doesn’t feel worth it for the amount I have to give, in order to get somewhere. With the amount of work I’m going to have to put in, the mountain feels too tall. It’s like having bloodied feet and having to keep walking. My back is tired, my shoulders are always sore. I don’t know which way to go. It feels like the chaos symbol but the other way around; instead of everything going out, everything goes inwards through each other and intersects – the voices, the thoughts, the ideas. I feel like I’m missing things, like instead of a soul I have a hole in my chest. Asking me to live is like asking me to move a mountain.’
The following words offer just some of the ways we are dealing with way out thoughts despite all the immense difficulties they can bring and the mountains that have to be climbed.
Remembering my loved ones
Many of us thought about the fallout for others of ending our lives. The following words show how this can help us to continue on.
One of us said; ‘I told my mum recently that I used to think about the end of my life and would ask myself “what if I wasn’t here? How would others react?” She started crying and said “you know I wouldn’t get over it in six months, I’d never get over it.” I thought not only would I fuck my life up, I thought about the ripple effect for friends and family too. I’ve had friends die from OD’s and other reasons. It’s awful. People don’t get over it. You change people’s lives forever. So I don’t want people to feel that way.’
Another comment included; ‘Sometimes you get to the point where you think “fuck this is so hard, I’m doing all the right things but it’s exactly the same.” I OD’ed two weeks after my first six week admission to a psychiatric unit. I used my dad’s medication. Up until that day I had never seen him cry. I was lying on my hospital bed and I saw him crying. It was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. I think the main thing that stops me is thinking I can’t do it to him. I just know it would be too hard for him.’
Another of us said; ‘The other day I was talking to my dad and he told me about the death of my sister. She died in uterus and my mum had to give birth to her. My dad said she has never got over it. And he told me “your mum couldn’t handle two dead children and I couldn’t handle it either.” So remembering my loved ones helps me control suicidal thoughts.’
One more of us said; ‘I had a close friend suicide when I was in year six and another one last year. Also my brother unintentionally OD’ed two years ago. I saw how it affected my family, my community and me. I think I don’t want to put people through that.’
When I can’t live for myself I live for my family
I can live for others too. When I can’t live for myself I live for my family. Experiencing daily suicidal ideas can overshadow everything the people who look after me have done. But looking back on every hard experience I see that mum has been by my side. I look back on Christmas day last year, I was ready to die and I had a plan. I sat on the floor panicking and screaming and telling my mum to leave me, to leave the house, but she just wouldn’t. I have a support system who have unconditional love for me despite everything I’ve been through and put them through. To take my life would disrespect everything my mum and my family have done for me.
That’s enough right now
For me, thinking about all the people my death would hurt doesn’t really stop ‘way out’ thoughts. I reason to myself that if the people who loved me knew the pain I was in, and had been in for years they wouldn’t blame me for taking the ‘way out’. I feel guilty that I don’t love them enough to want to stay alive, but the ‘way out’ thoughts don’t care. I won’t be there to deal with the consequences, not my problem. One thing I have found recently that helps is thinking about what I’d miss in my friend’s lives if I died. Maybe I’m too much of a fuckup to ever be happy or do anything with my life, but I know that they will go on to have jobs and babies and partners and birthdays and I want to be there for that. I want to see what they will look like when they are forty years old, I want to know how many children they will have or if they will have any at all; if they stay in the same jobs they started when they finished university or if they will travel the world and become rich and famous. I know that almost anyone can be a good friend and someone could replace me in a heartbeat, but for me that’s enough to keep me going right now. I would be living not for anyone else, but for myself, and when I am distressed that is the only thing that can make the thoughts go away. It’s a role that only I can fill, and I am good at it, and I get contentment from it. That’s enough right now.
We deserve to live
I actually made a plan of how to do it and tried to go through with it. When I tried to act on it I thought of my family. And when I thought some more about it I thought ‘it’s other people and thoughts that are doing this to me’. Then I realised I deserve to live and so does everybody in this room. I truly believe that. We have thoughts and people who make us feel like garbage but we deserve to live. My grandma passed away a couple of years ago. It made me start questioning what there is to live for. But if I do end things and see her sooner rather than later I know she’d belt me.
Thoughts can overtake the medications
Medication can help a little bit but it can be superficial because your thoughts overtake your meds. You can be put on stronger and stronger medications but there’s only so far they go before the thought overtakes them again. And you can feel worse with medication. You can feel you are not in control of your life, that you are a slave to the medication.
Out of all unlikelihood we happen to be and we ought to try and enjoy it
There’s a story about the earth and the sun and the universe that I use that helps me in tough times. I think of how we’re all made of stardust in a sense, of how the sun and stars work in nuclear fusion. And I think of the chemical elements in this process and that the hydrogen is eventually used up in stars and stars explode. So the elements that make up our bodies had their origins in the death of a star, an exploding supernova. Then I think, out of all unlikelihood we happen to be and we ought to try and enjoy it.
I would miss out on the changes
I like to remind myself a lot of the things I’d miss out on. I’d miss my horse. I know he’s reliant on me. And I’d miss not just things like not being able to get married, but little things too like if my favourite band releases a new album or stories that are sad. Even if they are not necessarily hopeful things, stories are always interesting. The world and stories are always changing and I would miss out on the changes.
Loving and truthful
When I’m thinking about things such as ‘how easy would it be to jump off that cliff there?’ I try to have a second thought that says ‘what you are now thinking is absurd because it is neither loving nor truthful. It is not loving to end my life and it is untruthful to not deal with the causes of my thoughts’. That thought has saved me many times.
I know I don’t have to be happy all the time
Suicidal thoughts come with weight. I can ascribe power to them or I can let them sit there. I know they’ll happen, even frequently, but I can lighten them. Then I find I can go about my day. This doesn’t work always but I know also I don’t have to be happy all the time.
People do care
Despair tries to tell me ‘nobody cares’. I find it hard to say something back to despair. What I’d like to say back to it is ‘people do care and they’d be hurt if I did anything.’
By that time I’ll have something else to live for
I was watching a TV show years ago and a kid died. My mum said ‘I couldn’t handle it if one of my kids died’. And I knew I couldn’t do it to her. So I thought – and I know this gets a little dark – I’ll have to wait until she died until I end my life. However I think by that time I’ll have something else to live for…. And she’s pressuring me so she can have grandchildren!
When I don’t speak to people about the thoughts I can think they are true
Suicidal thoughts try to tell me ‘they’d all be better off without you, you’re a burden. If you leave the world they’d be sad but they would not have to worry anymore.’ I know when I don’t talk to anyone about what suicidal thoughts are trying to say, then they can become a delusion and I can think that what they say is true. In these times I try and find someone who does love me to talk with. Yet my parents seem not very supportive so it can be hard to speak with them. They do not say they love me, yet I know they don’t mean it. They just don’t know how to express their feelings.
I surround myself in any type of love
When I get in that state I tell my mum, I go outside, I look at the moon. I surround myself in any type of love; family, friends or animals. I try and remove myself from the situation. And I think ‘don’t let it beat you’. I’m competitive; I don’t want it to beat me.
I need to be with someone
I do have a list of people who I think about to stop me from doing anything. But when I’m really bad it doesn’t work. I know when I’m at my worst I don’t connect with that. I think I need to be with someone, literally holding my hand. And often I don’t need a deep and meaningful conversation. Silence can be important. I just need someone to be there. And I can be better the next day.
I don’t want someone to think ‘what could I have done?’
I’ve thought about what would actually happen if someone close to me actually does it. I know I’d be constantly thinking ‘what could I have done?’ I don’t want someone to experience that.
They may not sound like big dreams
In my head I’d like to have a life. I think it would be nice to have a job, a few hobbies, some nice friends, to be productive, to take pride in myself. They may not sound like big dreams, it might seem insignificant but they’re my dreams. What’s helped me with these dreams – it’s hard to put it in words – is my plan looking a little bit more realistic. The plan involves moving out to the country and starting a small farm; it involves a Saffron farm. The ‘way out’ thoughts are still there when I think about the plan, they are offering a back up. They co-exist with the plan but the plan takes precedence. The other thing that helps me not act on the ‘way out’ thoughts is courtesy. I don’t want others to experience the fallout. It’s important for me to be a good person – I try to at least.
‘Am I willing to deal with the consequences?’
I tend to ask myself ‘am I willing to deal with the repercussions of my death?’ And I realise I am not. This is helpful, as I know I care enough about others to not do it.
I’d be throwing away other’s investment
I resonate with living for others. I think about my family, friends, partner, doctor and psychologist. They have been there, they have listened, they have clothed me, given me a house, provided schooling and so much more. They have invested in me. By throwing away my life I’d be throwing away an investment. I don’t want to do that. What can help me now is my nursing. I remember having a chat with a nurse a few years ago when I was giving blood. I remember thinking at the time, ‘what would I rather, to die now and end up as worm food that wouldn’t last long or utilise the fact that I have a healthy body?’ I want to utilise my healthy body and not to throw away such investment. I don’t want to let the dark days take hold of me; I want to contribute by helping others.
I picture myself there
What keeps me going is imagining myself being happy, being content with life and having a family. It can be hard to remember that. I pretty much picture myself there. I know I’m a strong person and I think ‘if I’ve gone through this much I’ll get there.’
I couldn’t help others with my own death
One of the things that keeps me here is thinking ‘I wouldn’t be there to help my friends and family to deal with my death’. I like to help others more than helping myself. I would feel bad for not being able to help others in my own death.
Deliberately protecting myself by not reaching out
I can feel alone in the world. It can feel like there is nowhere for me to go to, no friends, no family. It seems that no-one understands and there’s no-one to reach out to. Or when I reach out I can feel disappointed with the response and can feel even lower. All this can make me feel like there is nothing to live for. Now I mostly don’t reach out. My intention is to protect myself from further hurt, as well as a little spite too. But mostly this is the positive intention of protecting myself. It is good to know I hold a positive intention because I don’t have many positives. And if I’m protecting myself from further hurt it makes me think I’m doing something deliberately. That to me is a small success. I don’t see it as a success at first glance but when I think about it in retrospect it is.
The instinct to live might come from the unknown of death
I guess it’s human instinct to want to live. It’s part of my genetics. The instinct might come from the unknown of death, of what happens after I die. I also feel like a lot of people have put time and effort into me getting better and I don’t want to throw all their effort away.
He knew they would help keep me safe
I relate to the ‘others do care’ story. I have an older brother. He acts like a typical older brother and I often think he really isn’t interested in me and my life and doesn’t really care. The first time I wanted to kill myself I yelled at him about how I wanted to die. That was the first time he’d seen me have a breakdown. He showed that he cared even though he’s that big brother and I often think he doesn’t. He brought my cat and dog up to me because he knew they would help keep me safe while I was waiting for the ambulance. We’re really close now because of this.
What it would be like for others if I did take my life
One thing that resonated for me in these stories is what it would be like for others in my life if I did end it. I think of my long-term partner. If I got a phone call telling me that he had ended it I’d never get over it. And I think of my mum from beyond the grave. I have an image of her in heaven greeting me and saying ‘what the fuck did you do that for?’ I know she wouldn’t want me to throw away my life because she passed away.
Like her, my story isn’t over yet
My tattoo has helped me. It is a semi-colon. I keep looking at it. I got this tattoo with one of my best friends, who also got one. I’m connected to her how. I think how would she feel if she found out I had taken my life? How would she feel? Like her, my story isn’t over yet. There’s a reason I’m here.
When I am hounded by suicidal thoughts, even with intense thoughts of the things that I could do, there are three things that prevent me from ending my life; each relating to fear. They are a fear of leaving and betraying all those I have made connections with. My second fear is of the pain that would happen if I take my life and how it would transfer to others. My third fear is the fear of oblivion, of nothingness, of the unknown. My fear of oblivion isn’t as strong as my fear of hurting those I have connected with.
If I survive
There’s one thing I think of when I’m suicidal and it helps. In year 11 I was suicidal every day. I did scientific research on ways I’d do it. And I thought about what happens if I make a mistake. I read about paralysis and about brain damage if I survived. I knew I didn’t want that. This does help on one of those days.
A small amount of hope that I didn’t know was there
I have had such hopelessness. I welcomed death, now I fear it. It all started with a small amount of hope that I didn’t know was there. It was small but it was there. I clung to that hope. The more I clung to hope the more strength, courage and determination grew. As time went on I continued holding on to that hope, and as it grew, the hopelessness began to shrink.
I can relate to the story about missing out on the changes. I love the process of change and a lot of my art is about change. When I did art for the HSC it was centred on growth and the birth of new ideas. I know if I wasn’t here I’d miss the growth and I’d miss seeing how my painting technique would change over time. This makes me think I’d like to live to my full potential as an artist, as a person and to hit the ground running. When I think of being old and having produced a lot of art, I imagine a young person seeing my art and getting inspired. This keeps me here too; to give a spark to others.
I think people under-estimate hope. My life has been shit, I think I can say that. Someone on the Allied Health team said to me the other day that I have been such a fighter. At first I didn’t believe her, as I usually don’t believe the things that people say to me, but then I did reflect on it and I can see it. There is some scrap in me. We under-estimate little things we do for ourselves, they are about hope; little things, like going for a coffee, doing something for yourself. It is in little things I’ve done that I have been such a fighter, that I’ve had some hope.
Being able to say why
I know what people mean about feeling guilty about hurting other people. I had a conversation with my sister about suicide. She listened to me and then said she understood why I would consider it as an option. She could understand how I got to that point. But then she started to cry. She said she wouldn’t judge me if I did choose to do it, but that she wouldn’t know how to explain it to my nephews. It felt good that at least she could understand why I felt the way I did. I think other people had been focussing on survival, but had not really understood why I had got to that point.
There is the world and then there is my family
When I’ve thought about suicide I have pictured myself and my family finding me. Imagining my family finding me distresses me, but it does keep me here. I feel guilty. I love my family so much. They are the reason I’m alive. My Mum has dealt with this in her family. She says ‘it’s a selfish thing, to leave everyone behind.’ What she says does make me feel guilty, but I do know she says it from a very loving place. I think a lot of the guilt I have stems from that. I know my family love me and I love them so much. The world is not a great place, it’s a God awful place, but my family really are good people. They world is bad, but they are not. My family do keep me here.
I want to see the changes
I related to one of the stories about changes and missing out. There’s so much change going on at the moment. There could be a female president of the United States some time soon. There is so much to live for, and I deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to die. It’s hard to make sense of all this when you feel like shit, but despite that I do feel I have a lot to live for. I want to be here to find out what happens.
Which thoughts are helping me?
I’ve had experiences with my family where they didn’t understand. They said I was just being selfish. I know that we all get negative thoughts. It is why we are here, we are here to get help. I’ve got a few things to say about dealing with thoughts about dying. There are external things and internal things. The external things are the safety precautions that other people put in place for me. Being in a hospital is a safety precaution. But this means I’m relying on others. It’s external. In terms of internal things, I think to myself that I’m not in a state of mind to decide whether I should live or not. When I get a thought about hurting myself, I ask myself whether the thought is helpful to me or not. When I’m having a thought about dying I ask myself whether the thought helps. I say to myself that it’s not dying that I should think about it. I should think about whether the thought about dying helps me in any way.
A painful death
Fear of a painful death keeps me here. I get really pissed off about feeling guilty, about having to be here for other people. When people say that stuff to me, that stuff about having to be here for others, they don’t realise that it is because I feel so bad that I don’t want to be here. When it does feel that bad, the thought of being here for others doesn’t seem enough. In my view, you have to want to be here for yourself.
Using your powers of procrastination for good
I’ve wanted to die on and off since I was 12. It’s never not an option, but I think to myself ‘this is something I don’t have to rush’. A friend of mine told me she says to herself, ‘you can always kill yourself tomorrow’. This has been so useful for me; it’s like using your powers of procrastination for good. Also I’ve got a stack of books I’m meaning to read. And I have told myself I can’t end it all until I watch all of Star Trek. I choose projects that I know I want to complete. Because I am such a perfectionist, I know I’d be too anxious to die and not have the project completed.
I realise that my little sister – who is ten – helps, but doesn’t realise she does. She has a big impact on me even though we have such a huge age gap. She puts such a good view on mental health. Even when I am upset, even when I am doing what my mum says as, ‘faking it until I make it’, my little sister hugs me and tells me it’s going to be okay. There was one time, six or seven weeks ago when I was going to OD. She sent me a text that read ‘where are you? Are you coming home?’ I couldn’t do it then. When people talk about our ‘safety nets’ I have my people; my mum, my boyfriend and others. Adults so often don’t know what to say or what to do. But my little sister is the one who can stop me as she’s so little and so positive. She just jumps into my bed and watches a movie with me. It’s perfect.