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On a Spectrum of Suicidal Thoughts, I'm 'Passively Active'

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I recently read an article about active suicidal ideation vs passive suicidal ideation. Passive suicidal ideation is when someone has thoughts and ideas about suicide, but no real tangible plan for carrying it out. They may be hoping to die in an accident of some sort, die in their sleep, or by an illness, and not necessarily directly by their own hand. They just know, for various reasons, they would rather not be alive.

Active suicidal ideation is when someone has constant thoughts about suicide and has a plan to carry it out. They may be making plans to obtain the means by which they plan to die. Anything can come to mind when you’re desperate. It can take over your thoughts when you retreat into a darkness like that.

The words struck a nerve. These words also reinforced what I already thought: There absolutely is an active and passive way to suicide, and I feel like I’m stuck in the middle.

What happens if you feel you’re in the middle of the two? I would say I’m mostly passive, but with some dangerous active attributes. How is that? I think because both have the same ultimate goal of ending life, and both are one step or another away from doing something that can set into motion irreparable consequences.

I have thoughts of suicide, thoughts of what it would be like to not feel the physical and mental pain, or the agitation and the feelings of being lost or trapped, or the anger and the numbness that can last for days, weeks, and months at a time. The list can go on. But right at this moment, this week, this day, I’m not dwelling on it. Suicide is not in the forefront of my mind, but it is hovering in the back of my mind. It’s always there.

And while suicide isn’t consuming me right now, I do have a plan. I do know what I would do. I do know the order in which I would do things, too. It’s a little reassuring to know I have a plan if things get to “a certain point.” It also brings me a profound sadness I have a plan at all. I’m on a cocktail of medications to treat my anxiety and bipolar disorder, and so that “certain point” hasn’t presented itself as persistent as it has in the past. The lows aren’t so low and the highs aren’t so high. I haven’t had the deep sadness that can reduce me into a pile of muddled pain and hopelessness in a while. My medications have tempered the war inside. But nonetheless, I still have a plan. I’m passively active.

So, whether or not you’re active or passive in your relationship with suicide, both ideations are equally dangerous and life-changing. Passive can turn into active, turning thoughts into actions, turning life into death.

The stigma of mental health is what needs to become passive, with understanding, acceptance and empathy being the active factors in helping to prevent suicide. In the meantime, I’ll remain passively active, with a real plan, for a possible distant moment.

Getty image by Maria Komarova

Originally published: November 14, 2021
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