I want to kill myself

a film by Vivek Shraya

Photography by Zachary Ayotte

I wanted to kill myself when I was eleven.


I learned I had a body through your condemnation of my body.
Please god don’t let me wake up.

I wanted to kill myself when I was thirteen.

head on pillow

I often tried to suffocate myself with my pillow.
Please god don’t let me wake up.

I wasn’t strong enough to defeat air, to not inhale.
Disgusted by my breach, I would rehabilitate pillow from weapon back to head support
and fall asleep.

I wanted to kill myself when I was fourteen.

eating w/ parents

My mother told me that I would end up like my uncles—“This is your destiny.”
Years later, I discovered both of my uncles had killed themselves before I was born.

Can the desire to die be inherited?

I wanted to kill myself when I was fifteen.

writing in notebook

I wrote suicide notes.
Red ink to leave behind tangible proof of my flair.
I wrote about why I was killing myself and who I was leaving various belongings to—
clothing to my brother, cds and cassettes to Jason.

By the time I folded the lined paper into three equal parts and licked the envelope,
my resolve was exhausted.

I wanted to kill myself when I was sixteen.


But she beat me to it.
I watched my community grieve through ritual, wailing and pointing fingers.
I listened to adults conjecture about the precarious destination of a suicide soul.

Suicide killed community for me.

I wanted to kill myself when I was seventeen.

w/ Shamik

I learned about carbon monoxide from Magnolia. Julianne Moore looked peaceful. Or resigned.
Maybe they’re the same thing.

I put on cream kurta pants and a blue and cream striped baggy sweater.
I went to my parents’ bedroom where my brother was watching tv.
I told him that I was going to look for something in the garage. Don’t bother me.
I grabbed the car keys from the corner of my parents’ chestnut dresser.

The phone rang.
It was Jason.

Why are you calling me?
I don’t know. Just because?
But you never call me.
Something told me I should call you.

I wanted to kill myself when I was twenty-nine.

hanging off fence

I became obsessed with researching the tallest bridges in Toronto.
Edmonton. Canada. Everywhere.
And subways. I had heard stories of passengers being pushed onto the tracks.
Sometimes I would stand with my toes hanging off the edge, waiting for a compassionate shove.

Don’t tell anyone you are struggling with aging unless you want to elicit a laugh or an eyeroll.
“It’s just a number.”
It’s just a body. It’s just a life.
And I had had a good one. I had a big love. I had travelled. I had made art.
To want any more, to live any longer seemed greedy.

This is the gift of trauma—
never having the ability to see ahead, build a future.
Instead, the opposite—the instinct to destroy to mirror my internal devastation.
I destroyed my home, my marriage. I destroyed friendships.
Especially the ones that told me “When you are ready, you will fix it!”
I came close to destroying my job.

Then my childhood guru died.
The one I used to pray to kill me at eleven, thirteen.
The one to whom I used to pray that we would die at the same time.
Was his death a sign, a beacon to follow?

I wanted to kill myself when I was thirty.

cutting a tomato

Have you ever heard a knife speak to you?
I was in my bedroom when I heard it call me from the kitchen drawer, by name: Vivek.
Then the prescription for the sleeping pills I never filled out joined in,
calling in unison.

I wanted to kill myself when I was thirty-four.


I have always resented the subtext of selfishness that accompanies suicides:
They were only thinking about themselves.

Shemeena’s balcony was on the fifteenth floor. Is fifteen high enough?

(Planning a suicide often comes down to metrics—
how high, how deep, how fast, how long, how many.)

Would she find me on her way home?
Would she have to move out?

I wanted to kill myself when I was thirty-five.


I was tormented about how my writing would fail you.
(I am not supposed to disclose this because I have a duty as an artist,
as a girl, as a brown person to perform gratefulness).
It’s fitting then that I wanted to walk into the lake,
walk in the footsteps of a great authorly tradition.

But this is not about drama or romance, a love affair with the idea of death.
This is not about retribution, to “show them.”

Or maybe it is, at times.

But at the core, wanting to kill myself has been about wanting the pain to stop. Logical.
Sometimes no amount of swimming, yoga, eating clean, sleeping, socializing, talking,
therapy, leaving town, art making, friendship or love
can relieve.

I asked Shemeena and Adam to kill me. Begged them.
I said the words over and over again: I want to kill myself. Help me.

I have long known the freedom and necessity of naming
but until this year I had never said I want to kill myself aloud.

I’m fine.
I’ll be ok.
I am not having a good day.
I feel sad.
I can’t talk about it.
I don’t know how to talk about it.
Leave me alone.

Saying I want to kill myself felt like the first time I wasn’t lying to myself or to you.
Or pretending. For myself or for you.
Saying I want to kill myself made my pain explicit.
Saying I want to kill myself to the people who love me
meant I was shown an immediate and specific kind of care that I desperately needed.

Saying I want to kill myself kept me alive.

bench w/ Shem and Adam