High expectations made her try to kill herself
Three years of accumulated stress drove her to attempt suicide. Thankfully, she survived to tell her story.
It would have been her third death anniversary yesterday. Instead, Suki overslept in the morning and got to work late, overwhelmed by Monday blues. She was so busy clearing emails that she did not even realise the day’s significance. In the evening, she returned home and had dinner with her family.
It seemed like a normal day to anyone, but only Suki knew how different it could have been if she had succeeded three years ago.
Three years ago yesterday, Suki (not her real name) attempted suicide. She had been struggling with suicidal thoughts for almost three years before that.
“Everyone was out that day, so I was alone,” said Suki, as she recalled that Thursday afternoon in 2013 when she tried to end her life.
In her bathroom, Suki, then 16, ingested a concoction of medication she found on the shelf.
She remembered feeling nauseous. Afraid that she would throw up the medication and undo her efforts, Suki drank more cough syrup, hoping to fall into an endless sleep.
She had planned her suicide for months and thought of different ways to die.
“I didn’t jump because someone would have to scrape me off the floor,” Suki told Youth.SG.
“Slitting my wrists would mean staining the cement gaps between my bathroom floor tiles,” added the 20-year-old polytechnic student, who is interning at a creative agency.
She even considered walking into traffic.
“But Regina George from Mean Girls survived that and came to school in a full body cast. I didn’t want to survive at all, not even in a full body cast,” she chuckles.
Suki can look back and chuckle at her naivety now, but it was no laughing matter that day when her elder sister returned home and found her unconscious, sprawled on the bathroom floor.
At the hospital, doctors said if the overdose did not kill her, her penicillin allergy, which she was unaware of, would have.
Suki was fortunate to survive. The Samaritans of Singapore reported in July that 27 teenagers, aged between 10 and 19, ended their lives last year.
“Looking back, I have no idea why I did it, but life felt too overwhelming,” Suki recounted.
Her family was shocked as they did not spot any “typical signs” of depression.
At the time, Suki was a straight-As student who was into her first year at a top junior college. She lived comfortably with her family in a five room HDB flat, and although they were not very close, there were no major problems at home.
Nobody knew Suki was stressed at school, because they were not aware of the high expectations Suki imposed on herself.
She explained: “If I had scored anything lower for ‘O’ levels, 15, 16 points, I would have been okay, but I was now a six pointer, I needed to do well for everything.”
It did not help that her closest secondary school friends had decided that she was too good to be in their clique. They assumed she would be too preoccupied with JC life to spend time with them.
Looking back at her suicide attempt, Suki recalled: “It felt like a slow descent into unconsciousness. I knew I was going to be drowsy, I was just hoping for death.”
When she awoke on the hospital bed, she wondered why she did not die. Then she saw her mother and grandmother crying and blaming themselves for what happened.
“I knew [my parents and I] deserved to be happier,” Suki said.
Her journey to recovery has taken almost as long as the duration she had battled suicidal thoughts. She sought treatment after her suicide attempt and has completed almost 30 sessions with a psychiatrist. Although it has taken a long time, the recovery has been worth it, Suki admitted, as she prepares to attend her final therapy session next month.
“I’m about 90 per cent clinically recovered. It feels really good to know that I’ve made it this far,” she said.
So, was there anything that could have stopped her from attempting to end her life three years ago?
After a long pause, Suki replied: “Just a text message to show that someone cared.”
A support system is helpful for those who are suicidal, and it is about learning to cope, added Suki, who regularly writes poetry to help her express her feelings and to relieve stress.
“One thing that really helped was opening up to my family,” Suki said, “at the end of the day, they always stand by me.”
To those who are battling suicidal thoughts, she advised: “It doesn’t have to be a lover; it could be a friend or a therapist. It’s all about having someone who listens. Don’t be afraid to reach out if no one reaches in.”
She added: “You can find beauty in everything, but start from the mirror.”
This is part one of a series on teenage suicide in Singapore.