When I was 16 years old and in Year 12, I wanted to end my life. I got as far as getting my wallet and walking out of the house without telling anyone with the sole purpose of buying what I needed to end my life.
Halfway through Year 11, I had finally realised I wanted to become a psychologist. Over the holidays, I figured I wasn’t really cut out to become a journalist and perhaps, becoming a counsellor for teenagers was the best option. After all, in India, teens struggled with no one to talk to. A few months into my HSC year, I was struggling too. I wanted to do well academically in order to get psychology as one of my subjects the year after.
If you know anything about the Indian culture, you probably are aware of the academic pressures from a young age. In my Year 10, I’d had a bit of a breakdown in school when I was around my friends. I’d cried about how I feared disappointing my parents. HSC was no different. If anything, the pressure was more from my end because I had convinced my mum that I’d wanted to take up Arts after Year 10 and not science like she’d hoped.
While Psychology was fun, and Sociology quite interesting, some of my other subjects — particularly Economics, French and Maths, were not as great. I enjoyed maths to an extent — calculus was challenging but interesting at the same time. What took the joy out of it was my tutor. I did not like him.
He would make negative comments in a way to try and motivate me in front of three others being tutored with me. I can’t remember exact details but I wasn’t a fan of him. I didn’t like the others I was being tutored with either. They were science students who thought they were better than me because again, in India, science is perceived as being better than arts. Anyway, I was being tutored since early Year 11 and I think I finally cracked it with the pressure. I felt like I couldn’t solve problems during tutoring but when at college, I was fine. I also felt like I was spending more time on Maths and not enough on other subjects and was worried I’d perform badly in those.
I remember finally, one evening, just not coping. I can’t remember if I had a fight with anyone at home but I was teary. It was just my sister, grandma and me at home. Mum had gone to someone’s house. My dad was at work. All I could think about was how I just wanted to give up.
If I gave up, there wouldn’t be any more stress. If I gave up, I wouldn’t disappoint my parents. If I gave up, things wouldn’t be so confusing. If I gave up and ended my life, I wouldn’t have to face my maths tutor and be deemed a failure. I knew someone who had successfully ended their life three years before that. I knew the means they had used. I figured I’d do the same.
I wrote a letter and addressed it to my sister and one to my parents. I think I left it somewhere on my desk or in my diary. My memory fails me. I walked out of the house with my wallet in hand intending to go to the shops and purchase my means to end my life. But I met some neighbours along the way and took a detour. I walked to back of my apartment block which had a garden and walked there while crying to myself in the dark. I kept thinking of how easy it would be to end it all.
Except, it wasn’t. I then thought of my parents and my sister. Sure, I wasn’t getting along all that well with them at the time but I knew they’d be broken. I thought of my friends. The ones who I hadn’t seen for a while.
And for some unknown reason, I thought of a song. A song by Westlife. The lyrics go ‘If I let you go, I would never know, What my life would be, holding you close to me‘. Sure it’s a love song. But in that moment, in my 16 year old head, it told me that if I let this life go, I’ll never know what the future holds for me.
With that, I walked back upstairs. I think I might have told my mum or sister about it. I can’t remember. But I did tell mum that I was tired of being tutored for maths and that I’d prefer to go it on my own with the help of my teacher at college. She agreed.
I didn’t fare too well in Maths. But hey, I did get into psychology the year after. If anything, my experience made the yearning to become a child psychologist even stronger. Since then, I’ve never had any thoughts of wanting to end my life no matter how difficult it has been. There is still a lot to live for.
I see a lot of teenagers these days who want to give up. I yearn to tell them that I was there too. But I don’t. Instead, I try to get them to see reasons for living. It’s hard though, when some of them are so hopeless, they cannot see any possible future. But I persevere.
Because in the end, there is a future. And we’ll never know it if we let this life go.
***Please ring Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 , Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or MensLine on 1300 78 99 78 if you need to talk to someone or are in distress***
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Until next time,