Like Dreaming, Backwards

By Kellie Powell

Like Dreaming, Backwards is a series of monologues and scenes about the suicide of a young college student named Nell. The play also includes monologues from Nell's mother, Leah, a acquaintance, Yale, and her friend, Natalie. For further information and advice on performing this monologue, read this note from the playwright.


Have you ever had a dream and suddenly, you realize what's happening doesn't make any sense - and you realize that you're dreaming? And you realize: if you know that you're dreaming, then you can control what's going to happen next? When I have an episode, it's exactly like that - only backwards.

The first time I tried to kill myself, I was ten. When I woke up the next morning, I was relieved. I was happy that I hadn't succeeded. I didn't tell anyone. And for a while, I was happy to be alive. But then, a year later, I tried again. I've lost count of how many times I've tried and failed. I tried to poison myself, overdose on sleeping pills, hang myself, drown myself, suffocate myself, and throw myself into traffic. Now, when I wake up after taking every sleeping pill in arm's reach and washing it down with a bottle of wine, I'm never, ever relieved. I feel trapped. I feel desperate. I feel like even more of a failure. And I have even wondered if the reason that I can't kill myself is because I'm already dead and in Hell. This is a living Hell. They say suicide is "taking the easy way out". Let me tell you: It's not that fucking easy. Your physical drive to live undermines your mind's desire to die. Your instincts to breathe are hard to overcome. You can't bear another second of misery - but your heart just refuses to stop beating. It has some nerve.

It's hard to tell the people I love that I want to die. So I spend a lot of my time and energy pretending to be normal. When I ended up in the hospital, it was almost a relief. Because I didn't have to act for anyone, anymore. I just cried all day. And no one took it personally. No one wanted to blame themselves. I could cry, and it didn't hurt anyone's feeling. The honesty was refreshing.

But then, I started to look at the other patients around me. I was surrounded by people who had been miserable their entire lives. There was an eighty-year-old woman there, who had been in and out of psych wards since she was my age. She stared into space all day, crying. And every day, she would look at me, and ask, "Why won't they just let me die?" And I didn't have an answer. And I realized: That was my future. I understood with perfect clarity that I was never going to get better. No therapy can help me. No medication can fix me. I can make everyone think I'm normal, that I'm coping, that I'm okay. But I've never been okay. I'll never be okay. I will always be one bad day away from killing myself. Until I'm dead. I spend my life trying to delay what I know is inevitable. And any day could be my last.

This monologue is from the one-act play Like Dreaming, Backwards by Kellie Powell. If you would like to read the entire play, you can purchase and download an electronic (PDF) copy of the script for $7.00.
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This monologue is brought to you by The Monologue Database and These Aren't My Shoes Productions.