Kyle was born in a small rural town in NSW. He was born into a family that loved and adored him. As a child he had endless energy and would never sit down. He was caring and empathetic, loved the family around him and was always happy to see people he knew. Being the first great grandchild, grandchild and nephew he always had some one around to spoil him, look after him, push him on a swing, pretend they were in a car as he endlessly ‘drove’ them around the house, or constantly repeated everything he said over and over again. In 2016 his family where devastated when Kyle, tired of the constant battle he had within his mind, made the decision to hang himself in the showground of the small country town where he had spent his life. Kyle’s battle was over but we had to begin to live in a new reality, one none of us where prepared for, or even wanted too.
As a child, his constant energy, fear of change, hate of loud noises, and difficulty being with strangers just seemed like a part of him. We made exceptions and just accepted that was who Kyle was and that was fine. We loved him for who he was. Little did we know that these little quirks would create a life for Kyle of trouble, and challenges we couldn’t even begin to understand. He would have difficulty fitting into a community because of them, and where his family just adapted to his needs, not every one in his life would be as understanding.
Being born into a small rural community made life hard for a young mother and her son. Although the family tried the best they could, they faced the same difficulties that a lot of rural country people face, and when Kyle was little his parents separated but still lived in the same town as each other and their extended families, they all still supported Kyle and he spend time with all his grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
As Kyle grew, the family began to notice that those little differences seem to affect Kyle in small ways, and when he finally went to school, he struggled with everyday tasks. The school couldn’t seem to understand that he wasn’t naughty he was just in need of extra support. His peers had a hard time seeing past his challenges. This is not a statement of accusation. Kyle was just born with Asperger’s Syndrome, and like a lot of people at that time, especially in small country towns, there was little understanding of Autism and what this meant.
Kyle was in primary school when he was first diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and ODD. It took him and his family years to finally get his true diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Suddenly all those little clues made sense to everybody close to him. We could understand why he did some of the things he did. During that time, all though Autism had been recognised in the medical community for many years, there was still a large misunderstanding around the wide range of diversity within the spectrum. Most people thought if you were Autistic, this meant you were suffering from the more extreme version, you would never be able to talk, communicate, look at people. You were locked inside your own little world that no one but you could enter. If you didn’t fit this norm then you couldn’t possibly be Autistic. The average person doesn’t realise that the spectrum is long and technically every one falls within the spectrum, it’s just were you sit that depicts how servre your Autism will be.
After his diagnosis we struggled to get the help he needed. He went to school everyday, and fought a daily battle, with the school community and department to get the aid and support Kyle needed just to get through the day. Many letters and conversations where had between different members of the family with the principal and department to try to make them understand that Kyle wasn’t naughty, or deliberately trying to disrupt the class, because of his Asperger’s, he needed things spelt out to him, like most Autistic people, he had trouble focusing and needed instructions given clearly and simply to be able to cope with all the extra stimuli he had going on in his brain. Never the less, Kyle fought, he kept at it, and all though he spent alot of time coming home from school early, he tried to stay in school. It finally became too hard and he left school in year 9, with the school, still not truly grasping the nature of Kyle’s disease.
We were in the small country town, where Kyle and the family had struggled all his life, planning his funeral when one of his former teachers approached us and said if we had only known! Just before his death a piece of paper was found at the school still listing Kyle as having ADD, not Asperger’s . This is the true tragedy of Kyle’s story, The school did know, they were informed and somehow that information didn’t get passed onto the people that needed it. All though no good at reading and focusing because of his Autism, Kyle was clever and smart and very mathematical, he could pull anything apart and put it back together without even thinking about it. The support now for children with Autism in schools and in the wider community is staggering, while some children still fall through the cracks, teachers and doctors have a greater understanding of what being Autistic means. Kyle was just born in the wrong era. If he had been born now, his story may have had a different ending.
Kyle was in high school when he experienced his first relationship. Someone other then us saw everything that was great about him, someone could see beyond his challenges and accept him for who he was. His girlfriend brought him out of his shell and got him to try many different things. He would even stand still long enough to have a photo taken and dress up and be silly. Due partly to the bullying he had endured when he was younger and his own insecurities Kyle hated to do anything different or stand out from the crowd, so dressing up in a silly costume and going out into the town was a huge battle for him. Kyle adored his girl friend and the new sense of belonging this gave him. As is the case with most teen romances, his relationship ended and changed Kyle in many different ways.
After the break up of his relationship, Kyle lost control of his world, and it became evident that he was susceptible to depression, rumours about Kyle began to circulate, he was labelled as a bad kid, who treated people badly. He was always responsible for everything that went wrong in town. Being from a small community, most of these rumours are believed whether they are true or not. Once you receive a reputation in a small town it sticks with you not matter how much you change. One night he was attacked and this is when he began voicing troubling thoughts and started to threaten suicide. Living in a small country town he was never very far away from his former partner and this proximity only exasperated the problem. Due to his state of mind, he was forced to leave his mother’s house, a stable environment where he only knew understanding and acceptance and move into his father’s house, who always tried his hardest. By this time both he and his father needed help, and that help wasn’t always there.
He was fourteen when he was first introduced to alcohol and other drugs. Finally after all these years of not being able to stop his mind, alcohol slowed down his thought process, and the world stopped spinning. He could finally sleep and his mind could go blank. He began self medicating, and although it helped him, suffering from undiagnosed depression, alcohol and drugs were the last thing he needed. They are depressives in themselves and although they helped relieve his overactive mind, they put him into situations that he no longer had control of. He couldn’t stop himself from saying things or controlling his temper. Autistic people have a hard time with physical contact, it often causes them physical pain. When sober you are able to justify the action and rationalised the situation, when drunk that basic control leaves you, and Kyle had a hard time when people where too close to him at any time of the day, he needed and liked his space, when affected by alcohol that close proximaty was even harder for him to handle.
He began to drift away from his family and spent more time around friends. His Autism and depression began to control his life and an endless circle of self medication began to help him get through everyday. Teenage years are hard for anyone, we all struggle for acceptance, an understanding of where we fit in the world and who we are. Being Autistic makes this time so much harder, rejection hurts more and those who have Autism seem less able to find a place for themselves in a world they don’t really understand, and who doesn’t understand them. Experiences stayed with him, and the memories of those times were experienced over and over again. That conflict, torment, and pain was experienced as sharply as it was when it first happened. The constant battle with his thoughts grew harder and harder to control.
During this time, he lived with his father and they spent countless hours fishing, talking and fixing things. They had a intense relationship and were each others constant companion, as some of his family grew further away, he always had his mother and other members of the family to lean on. They all tried to help get him through and would gladly of taken his demons off him if they could. He always had somewhere to go and someone to rely on and share what was happening to him. This was a comfort to him, but if he only knew that those that loved him, spent their nights worried that today was going to be the last day they had him, the last chance they had to help him, if he could of seen his way through the fog of depression and sought help, he may have found balance in the world sooner and his story may not have been cut so short.
We spent a lot of his life worried that we weren’t going to get him through, worried that he was always going to commit suicide, it says a lot that we never really pictured Kyle getting older, it was like he was always only going to be with us for a short time. He was only a fleeting image that if you didn’t grab onto when you could, he would disappear. You worry about kids growing up and going through high school anyway, especially those that seem to struggle more than others, but for someone with Autism who is an introvert the worry seems to be greater. When he finally got through his teen years, I took my eye off the ball and relaxed a little, forgetting that having Autism meant that Kyle was always going to be mentally and emotionally a few years younger than his actual age. He fit into so many of the categories and warning signs for someone to commit suicide, he was male, mentally ill, living in a rural community, and in the right age group. The odds were stacked against him. They won;
It’s the natural order of things, normal and the way it should be, but as your children grow older they start to spread their wings and make decisions for themselves. You often want to grab them, hold onto them and stop them from making bad decisions. Once they become adults all you can do is guide them, they can no longer be dragged along to doctors appointments or sent to their room because they’ve been naughty. They have to live with the consequences of their actions. The trouble in Kyle’s case is that due to depression and Autism, he couldn’t always see all the consequences of his actions. He couldn’t always see what was going to happen around the bend. If everything wasn’t straight in front of him, the next turn in the road was a scary unknown place, that was full of monsters and nightmares. His depression and anxiety left him unable to see the possibility of there being light at the end of the tunnel. His self medicating didn’t help this. When he got in trouble with the police, his world looked like it was going to end. The unknown sent him back into his own thoughts and controlled his every action. He just wanted to know what the outcome would be so he could move forward with his life.
Thankfully for us, he came through the situation, changed but still together. He began to reach out to more of his family, make more friends in the community and find a sense of belonging in his cricket team. He sought help from professionals and began to see happiness in the world. He finally had a sense of who he was becoming. He still however had to fight the old label, his mind and the places is would take him. Depression is an unrelenting monster, and if you don’t take control and stick through recovery it will become too strong for anyone to handle. When we could see that the medication was working but Kyle disagreed he stopped taking it. This left him struggling the way he had all his life, and fighting a familiar battle. This one he wouldn’t be strong enough to fight.
He was an adult, we couldn’t force him to take his medication, or seek help. He needed someone to pick him and grab him, take him away from the small country town and show him there was another way. The trouble was, Kyle couldn’t handle change, due to his Asperger’s he needed consistency and control and wouldn’t be able to handle the sudden change needed to truly help him get away. He needed to be ready and willing, and it wasn’t until it was too late, that he finally realised he needed help and was willing to accept the help that was always there for him. By the time he knew he was in trouble, the monsters were too real, the nightmare too unrelenting and the world too big, scary and unpredictable a place to survive in. He made the only choice he could to stop the battle and the pain. This however meant, that Kyle’s pain had to go somewhere, the world works in a series of balances, for every good, there is a bad, for every cloud there is a rainbow, for every tear there is a laugh, but for every pain stopped there is more pain to be had somewhere else, and Kyle’s pain went to the only place it could. US, the family who had fought the battle with him, stood beside him all the way and took every painful step with him.
Three days before Kyle committed suicide, he had a fight with a friend. This was nothing unusual as they fought and then got back together again all the time. This fight however seemed to be different, with all the other trouble in his life at this time, he would have felt like he had lost his world. He had trouble with the government, trouble in town and was looking for love. He desperately wanted someone to see the real him, accept him and love him for who he was. The last couple of days of his life where more scary than normal for him, it’s not anybody’s fault it is just a fact that when things get dark and you’re fighting your own mind, no amount of light will shine. The blackness will be too dark and endless to walk through, no matter how many people are walking beside you, holding your hand, cheering you on! On Monday morning he spoke to his mother, and spent time with his father.
On Tuesday morning, he went to his grandmother, phoned his mother and walked away from his father. When Kyle threatened to kill himself he always said “I may as well go neck myself” This was not unusual, when Kyle was down he always threatened to end his life, he had been doing it since he was a child, he always came back. For some reason this day was different, he just couldn’t take it any more. He was sober, if he wanted to drink and get alcohol he would have. He knew what he was doing and he made the decision with a clear mind. As he walked to the show ground, he waved goodbye to the neighbour across the street, something he never did, they only thing that was different that day. It was early in the morning.
Kyle was found that afternoon by some local kids that were riding their bikes. In the small country town this is a favourite past time, riding around the showground in between the trees and the race track, through the cross country track we had all ran as kids in school. The police had him at 8 o’clock that night and were with him until 1 o’clock Wednesday morning. The local policeman was amazing and a sense of comfort for us, his family over the next few days as we went through the trauma of giving statements and collecting all the information we could handle at that time. Because when someone commits suicide there seems to be alot of paper work that needs to be filled out. His Father was informed that morning. Then his mother and the rest of the family got the news around 8 o’clock Wednesday morning, for me it was 8:50 am and that is the time it has been for me ever since. That’s the moment my life stopped and hasn’t really started again. Every day feels like Wednesday morning and I’m standing at work organising all the orders that needed to go out that day, it was going to be a massive day, little did I know that morning that my life was going to change forever. That it would take something so huge for me to finally realise that the only important thing in life is family, the rest of the ‘stuff’, just doesn’t matter;
It’s hard to know that it took us so long to find out about Kyle’s death, but even harder to know that his father spent that night, in the house where Kyle was living, had been living for 10 years, he was alone, surrounded by Kyles’ stuff, with no one with him. He didn’t think to get his neighbour, who adored Kyle and made me see that someone besides us thought he was amazing, and helped me get over my initial anger. He didn’t contact anyone. We think he was in such a state of shock that he couldn’t think of what to do next.
Kyle spent his life fighting. Fighting his body, his image, his memory, the community, his family, his friends and finally his mind. His battle was over, he could finally close his eyes and rest in peace. His mind had finally stopped spinning and for the first time, the darkness could be his comfort not his torment. He could finally sleep a peaceful and complete sleep. He had a hard life, one not many knew about. Some of his family where unaware that Kyle suffered from Autism until it was too late to make a difference. Most people saw Kyle as a trouble maker, or an alcoholic. They put him in the too hard basket and in their mind that’s where he stayed. While planning his funeral and writing his eulogy, still the hardest thing I have ever done and hopefully will ever have to do again, we kept saying we hope people turn up, not the people who turn up at every funeral, and not the hypocrites that inevitably crawl out of the woodwork, but real people, people who knew and loved Kyle, for the flawed, funny, caring and wonderful person he was. We kept saying that we hope lots of people turn up, so if Kyle is watching he might finally realise he was well liked and never alone. We planned for a funeral and a wake of 50, so many more people than that turned up. A testament to how he had began to turn his life around.
I know Kyle was there watching, I believe he was looking down on us that day and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives. He will be our guiding light when we need him. He is with his great grandmother who thought he was funny and a handful but still loved him anyway. He will continue to walk beside us, and as we held his hand through every struggle and every painful step, fought every battle with him, he will do the same for us. The family sometimes want to slap him for putting us through this, and his mother wants to kick his grave when she goes to visit him, I maintain that due to his Asperger’s he would hate a hug more and that’s what he deserves, it will give me a sense of comfort and him a sense of dread. In the end Kyle deserved, so much more then he got, he deserved the very best everyone could give him and unfortunately that’s not what he got. He deserves now to rest in peace, away from the pain and anguish. We would have gladly taken all his demons and pain from him when he was alive, now we are destined to carry them with us forever, and that’s ok, because its the least we can do for him!
RIP Kyle, we love you!