Trigger Warning: suicidal ideation
Generally speaking, I am not actively suicidal in the ways I used to be. Nowadays, the amount of time that I am actually unsafe as a result of active suicidality is negligible; and I have not made an attempt on my life since before I went to America for treatment, almost two years ago.
However, there is another type of suicidality – of a more hidden nature – that remains a struggle for me today, and which I am regularly having to battle. What I am referring to is termed “passive suicidality”.
Unlike active suicidality, (which is accompanied by specific plans to act on the urges, meaning that people are in imminent danger of attempting to kill themselves), people who are passively suicidal experience the desire to die, but without the accompanying intention to make that an immediate reality.
When passively suicidal, the exhausting rumination is still there, the thoughts easily border on obsessional, and sometimes they become so intrusive and persistent that they take over my entire brain. When passively suicidal, I feel suicidal, and yet it all stays inside of me and I doubt others would recognise it as such. I may feel unsafe within myself, but ultimately know that I am safe and that I won’t do anything. The difference is that there is enough control to stop myself from actually acting on the thoughts. Suicide remains a fantasy, rather than something I actually have a plan for.
The truth is that after many many years of feeling passively suicidal, it is so familiar to me that I never really bother to express it to anyone, nor do anything about it – it has become just one of many daily struggles I face in life and something I have somewhat learnt to navigate using DBT skills, distraction and a helluva lot of sleep.
This may seem like a positive thing most of the time, and could even be seen as progress. However, when the ideation gets especially intrusive, it takes me over in a whole other way. Recently, I have been struggling with passive suicidal ideation of a slightly different nature.
I have been wanting to be dead, but without having to actually kill myself. The current thoughts are along the lines of wishing a life-threatening illness upon myself, being ‘accidentally’ run over by a car or bus, or being a victim of a terrorist attack etc – and dying as a result. They become obsessional, and I even succumb to researching around and dedicating far too much headspace to a vast array of related scenarios and outcomes. I also spend hours ruminating and fantasising about my ‘accidental’ death, then imagining my funeral plans.
I start thinking this way when I am in emotional pain because I want the pain to end, but because I don’t want to have to take responsibility for the action of actually killing myself in order to achieve that actuality. If, however, I could die in a way that was totally beyond my control, then I would be free of my demons, surrounded by feelings of sympathy and love in death – and it would not be my fault. My family and friends could not get angry, I would not have disappointed anyone, and people would show me sympathy instead of judgment and frustration.
My therapist reckons that I get so preoccupied with these thoughts that they serve as a coping mechanism; I can avoid all the pain – all the actual feelings – underlying it all.
Living is really hard this week, especially when my brain is fantasising about the total opposite. Yes, I am safe and alive and there are things to live for and…. blah. But no, it doesn’t feel like a “life worth living” when I am being constantly bombarded with thoughts about dying, whether they are passive or not.