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Passive Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Anna Borges speaks truth about suicidal ideation. In the midst of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, with its lists of warning signs and gearing us up for the crisis, Anna brings to light the sometimes everyday-ness of suicidal ideation.

I am not always very attached to being alive, she wrote in at article for The Outline, an online magazine. It's not about being in crisis, not about having a "plan," not about needing an intervention. It's more like an indifference to life that sometimes surges into something more serious and then falls back. Like the waves of an ocean.

At 27, I’ve settled into a comfortable coexistence with my suicidality. We’ve made peace, or at least a temporary accord negotiated by therapy and medication. It’s still hard sometimes, but not as hard as you might think. What makes it harder is being unable to talk about it freely: the weightiness of the confession, the impossibility of explaining that it both is and isn’t as serious as it sounds. I don’t always want to be alive. Yes, I mean it. No, you shouldn’t be afraid for me. No, I’m not in danger of killing myself right now. Yes, I really mean it.

Those who do not know this way of being in the world don't know what to do with it. They may be primed with their skills, ready to leap into action. I watched a video on Twitter at #SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth of someone literally leaping into action, pulling a man away from the oncoming train. Yes, this woman is a hero, and I am glad she was there to do it. But good golly, who wants friends who are always looking at you out of the corner of their eye, ready to be a hero?

I try to imagine the friend who could simply sit with me and a cup of coffee, me being able to say, It's back. Then the friend asks, How strong? I respond, Meh, quiet day at the beach. She nods, Yeah. And the conversation goes on.

I did have such friends before I moved a few years ago. We called ourselves The Batshit Crazy Support Group. We could get into such hysterical laughter that my wife would worry whether she should drop us off at the ER. That's the thing, getting to just be and not be a source of worry.

I guess I am not alone in my ache for such friends. Anna created a hashtag, #StillTreading as a place for us all to hang out.

Then she continues: But speaking freely need not solely carry the weight of prevention. It can simply be about the comfort of social connectedness and knowing you’re not alone. Like Beeson told me, the big picture is not as much about preventing suicide as it is about planning life and fostering social connectedness — which, in and of themselves, are major preventative factors.

The big picture is not as much about preventing suicide as it is about planning life and fostering social connectedness -- which, in and of themselves, are major preventative factors.

Oh yes. David Conroy writes, [suicide] happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. That is how we stay alive. We decrease pain and increase resources. Warning signs and hot lines, the memes you see for #SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth will not solve this epidemic. Decrease pain and increase resources. That's harder work, which may be why it hasn't caught on.

In the absence of good science, one of the most helpful things you can do for chronic suicidality is curate your collection of flotation devices.

This is work best done by ourselves, I think. We hear it better when we tell ourselves.

So I started my own hashtag #AfterIDidntKillMyself. #AfterIDidntKillMyself is a collection of the things I have enjoyed, the friends I have made, the life I have experienced since I didn't... The message isn't It gets better, some attempt at persuasion. It's simply an acknowledgement that I do enjoy my life now, most of the time, and I am glad I survived, and keep surviving. I am glad I didn't jump in front of that racing truck last week. Yes, last week. Actually, not a big deal last week. The waves are always there, but they are calm lately, but yes, they are there.

You are welcome to post there, too. What dreams are you fulfilling? What places have you gone? What things have you learned since all this got to be about you, too? I send a cake, well, a virtual cake, to celebrate the survivors who post there.

Anyway, the life I live now and have lived since, remembering it, is one of my flotation devices. Who knew that that life would introduce me to Anna Borges?

Anna Borges is a writer, editor, and mental health advocate. Previously, she was a senior editor and writer for BuzzFeed. Her first book, The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care, comes out in October. An Oregon native, she lives in Brooklyn with her two cats. Visit her website or say hi to @annabroges on Twitter.

photo of Mahia ocean waves by Mathyas Kurmann and in the public domain
graphic of balance scales by Belfius used under creative commons licinse


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