Recently, when I was in group therapy, the term Chronic SI came up. I had never heard of it- I mean I knew about Suicidal Ideation- I have struggled with that for years now. But I had never heard it in terms that, some people may just chronically have fleeting SI. If you don’t know, there are two types of suicidal thoughts. Passive and Active.
Passive SI can include thoughts like, “I wish I were dead,” or “Things would be better if I were dead?” or even thinking “What is the point of my life anymore?” At some point in most people’s lives, you will have some form of this.
Active SI is the thoughts that turn into making a specific plan for going through with the action: so you start having thoughts like “I am going to kill myself tomorrow.” It could result in someone preparing a will or giving away personal items to loved ones.
Now that we know the difference, I have always struggled with passive SI. The worst it ever has gotten for me is that I started thinking about which way I would go about doing it the summer after I broke up with my ex. But I never made a plan on when I would do it, and anytime I would start thinking that deeply into it, it would scare me enough to talk myself out of it. And more recently, when it happens, it’s usually fleeting-only lasting for a little bit of time, or only happens when I am in my darkest moments. The thoughts that mostly come to me are “I wish I could just sleep and not wake up,” or “Everyone would be happier if I just wasn’t around to burden them.” For me, all these thoughts usually surface when my guilt or self-hate come back up. After the abuse, I began to have severe self-hate, because although I didn’t blame myself for what happened, I blamed myself for not getting out of it sooner than I did. I have always been a strong, independent woman. So after the breakup, I genuinely hated myself for letting someone do that to me. I felt like I was completely worthless like I just let myself down to a point I would never be able to pick myself up again. The hate was intense and constant. I lost all hope in my life because I had let someone abuse me for so long, who was to say I wouldn’t let someone else do the same again? I felt there was nothing that could possibly change the pain I felt and the incredible hate I had for myself, so I felt the only way to rid myself of the pain was to not be alive anymore. I never got far enough to make an attempt, but I had a plan. Because that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Most people don’t really want to end their lives, they just want to end how they’re feeling. We want to kill the pain, not ourselves. But, for a lot of people, we feel the only way to do that is to end our lives.
Nowadays, I still am constantly fighting my SI. And recently, I have been doing better. With doing about 12 hours of therapy a week, I have genuinely been feeling better. But recently, the SI has been occasionally rearing its head, and I have been sitting around contemplating “Why the hell is it still around when I feel I am getting better?” You would think if I was feeling better, the SI would stop, right? Well, that’s what I thought. But the other week, I was in group therapy and my group facilitator mentioned the term “Chronic SI.” I was confused and asked him to explain. He said it was when someone, no matter the circumstances, even when someone is feeling better in their mental health, has fleeting SI. It made so much more sense now, as to why I am still struggling almost daily with these thoughts.
When we usually think about someone having suicidal thoughts, it goes like this: A person starts to have suicidal thoughts. It eventually gets bad enough to turn into a crisis. The person gets help, and then the crisis is resolved within days or weeks. But for most people who have had SI that I have talked to, it is a recurring thing. It never actually completely goes away. It’s like a flare-up. Some flare-ups are where the condition gets worse than normal, and then they subside. But for me, and for countless others I am realizing, it never actually subsides all the way. Yes, passive SI is in some way better than active, but as it can be seen, it can still be dangerous. Some say that the more chronic SI one experiences, the more used to the idea they get, which results in them losing their fears around it. It also suggests that if one continues to experience these types of thoughts, that there might unhealed wounds that arise. But something that I am learning is how to identify when the SI gets too much or when it’s just something I need to keep an eye on. Something that I think people think when considering SI, is that it’s a fight or flight every time it occurs. But, you don’t need to respond to it as an emergency EVERY time it occurs. For someone like me, I am far enough into regaining stability on my mental health that I think I am catching onto when it gets bad enough to be concerened; for instance, I went to the E.R. 2 months ago before I started this period of treatment, because I felt unsafe with my SI. But right now, as it happens, I don’t feel unsafe. Because for me, I have had the same thoughts for years now. And for a long time recently, I have been so angry and confused about them; feeling as if every time it happens I take 5 steps back in my recovery. When in reality, I’m not. I need to learn how to accept them as they come, and just do what I can to let those thoughts pass. Because I am unsure, at this point, if they will ever fully subside.
A lot of times now, I do feel nervous or even scared to tell others when they happen, because I am concerned they will instantly want to send me back into a hospital or think that I have regressed so far back into my depression that I am too far gone again. I even feel guilty when they pop up because I feel like I have been doing well, and to have them is as if I just ruined all my progress- especially when I tell someone about them it seems. Like, “Oh shit, I’m admitting defeat.” But I am learning that it isn’t defeat, it just comes with the territory for me: and that’s okay. Maybe when I finally start learning how to love myself more and forgive myself for this ceaseless and unecessary guilt I have harbored, it will pass a little more each day. But for now, I am just trying to accept it, and learn about it by doing research, and being compassionate with myself even when it happens.