My Suicidal Ideation Doesn't Mean I'm Planning on Killing Myself
First you might be wondering what I mean by suicidal ideation, and if it means suicidal thoughts. By using the term suicidal ideation, I am referring to thinking about suicide and planning suicide, but it does not include the act of following that plan through. The term “suicidal ideation” includes a wide spectrum of suicidal thoughts that range from having a momentary thought about it, creating a partial plan that may not be well thought out, to creating a plan that is very detailed, from start to finish.
Next you might be wondering if having suicidal ideation will ultimately lead to suicide attempts or suicide death. While it is commonly understood that suicidal thoughts can lead to both attempting to kill oneself and/or suicide itself, and that these thoughts can raise your risk for suicide, it is less known that people can struggle with thoughts of suicide with no intention to ever see them through.
An individual who experiences suicidal ideation might engage in risky or dangerous behaviors, like having unprotected sex with multiple partners, driving fast and recklessly, consuming excessive amount of alcohol and/or drugs and/or self-harming (cut, burn, scratch, etc). The risky behavior and activities may not be premeditated, and the individual might not even be aware they are engaging in an activity that could cause harm or death. While many people who experience suicidal thoughts will never see it through, they may make an attempt (or several attempts). Other individuals may never want to ever execute their plans.
Suicidal thoughts tell you lies, like everyone else would be better off without, that you would be doing everyone a favor and that your pain and suffering will end when you are gone. Simply having suicidal ideation does not necessarily mean an individual will be (or is) suicidal.
That has been the running commentary in my brain for a little over two and a half decades (26 years), along with the negative commentary that depression has been telling me for the past 32 years. I also have “what if” scenarios that play out continuously in my mind due to my anxiety (also ongoing for 32 years now and counting). Not exactly a fun head space to be in, which puts an ache in both your heart and soul.
Having suicidal thoughts/ideation doesn’t automatically mean you will carry out your thoughts, fantasies and plans. I think most people (I know I certainly do) hide their suicidal ideation from others, as some would overreact to you disclosing this and jump to conclusions that are not necessarily true, and/or take drastic actions that are not required.
I only started wishing, thinking, hoping to die, hoping to be killed or killing myself, once I reached about 11 years old. Yes, I did survive a suicide attempt when I was a pre-teen, but I realized that was not the answer to my problems. My plan was not fully thought out or well-planned at all. In fact, it would have been pretty much impossible to kill myself that way, but I thought it would work at the time. My negative (personal inside) voice told me I was trying to take “the easy way out” and that I needed to fight for me. My negative voice told me I needed to stand up for myself, that I needed to make changes in my life and that I really didn’t want to die. I realized what I really wanted was things to change and the only person who could do that was me.
I wish people understood that suicide is not the answer to your current painful and difficult situations, change is the answer.
I daydream about how I could die or be killed quite often, and sometimes I have nightmares about a loved one or a stranger killing me. However, just because I have these fantasies, it doesn’t mean that I am going to act on it; because: I have received treatment, I am on medication and I am aware of these intrusive thoughts.
I do not tell others how I think or feel as I don’t want to risk being mislabeled as either suicidal or “psychotic” just because I have vivid daydreams about how I could end my life, or the random thought of a loved one or myself dying. I would never bring these dark and negative thoughts to fruition because I do not want to ever hurt anyone or anything in any way possible. These dark thoughts and images typically involve myself, my loved ones or my beloved pets, beings I would never want to see be hurt in any way, shape or form, because I love them and care about their wellbeing. These dark and negative thoughts come out of nowhere and are not welcomed. I know these images and thoughts are disturbing, unsettling and unnerving, but I can’t keep them from occurring, even though I wish I could stop them from happening. These types of dark thoughts and images are definitely not wanted and they are one of the many dark parts of my depression and suicidal ideation I must contend with on a regular basis, even though I have to deal with my negative thoughts and my depression on a daily basis. Despite the fact that I daydream and fantasize these awful thoughts and images every once in a while, I will never act on them.
I know why I have these dark images and/or thoughts passing through my mind, as they are a response to my stress, anxiety and depression. I realize these fantasizes indicate that I am stressed out, anxious and slightly depressed due to a stressful and/or anxiety producing situation I am in. They are a signal from my brain that something isn’t quite right. The presence of these thoughts means that something needs to be done in order to alleviate my stress and anxiety. These types of thoughts signify that I need to step back and step away from the person, people, place and/or situation. The appearance of these types of thoughts indicates that I need to; take my medication, remove myself from the stressful situation, talk to someone, step back and reevaluate my current situation, make the appropriate changes and then I need to take some mental health “me” time.
My therapist surmised that I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for much longer than the past 19 years, and that there was evidence of suicidal ideation beginning since I was just 5 years old. I know what you may be thinking. No, I didn’t want to die or kill myself at the young age of 5 years old. However, I did daydream about running away and even about becoming a mother, so that I may have the kind of relationship I really wanted and desperately longed for. I realized that these plans were not feasible because there were very dangerous people out there, I had no money, I was too young for a job and I was too young to become a mother. My therapist suggested that the idea of running away from home was a strategy I had came up with so I could escape my life. He believed that when I realized it was problematic, I chose to live in the dream of following it through.
He believed this “escapist daydream/fantasy” was an early indication of me possibly seeking further ideas that could help me escape my unhappy life. He told me some people escape into addiction and I needed to be aware of this, as I had disclosed that a few members in my family have varying addictions they used as a coping mechanism of escaping their reality. He then went on to tell me that sometimes people look for a more permanent escape solution, such as suicide (which I disclosed to him that I already had attempted it once). He went on to say that he believed that because I was so young when I fantasized about the idea of running away, that I was too innocent to come up with the idea of killing myself, being killed or dying. So yes, my therapist seems to be correct, I may have in fact been dealing with these three mental illnesses for the past 32 years, a lot longer than I had previously thought.
I keep quiet about my suicidal ideation because: I will never act on them, I do not want to be labeled as being suicidal, I do not want others to see me in a bad light or think poorly about me, I am aware of my intrusive thoughts, I have received treatment (or I’m currently getting treatment), I have gone to therapy/counseling (or I am currently going to therapy/counseling), I am on medication, I do not want to burden others with my problems, I do not want to bring attention to myself, I do not want to appear weak or dependent upon others, I do not want to make others feel uncomfortable, I have dozens of healthy ways to cope with it (skills, techniques, strategies, methods, plans, etc), I truly think no one would care anyway (so there is no point in telling anyone) and I worry that others may overreact, jump to conclusions and take drastic measures that are not necessary (as I do not want anyone to make a big fuss about me). However, first and foremost, the main reason I keep silent about my suicidal ideation is because I know I will not act on these thoughts and feelings.
Can you relate? Let Samantha know in the comments below.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash