No Longer a Punchline

By Ashley Holstrom

Nearly every day, I imagine the many ways in which I could die. Or I list off, in my head, the reasons why I should be dead.

Every. Day.

I’m afraid to call it by its name—suicidal ideation—because it doesn’t feel that intense. I wish I were dead. I don’t want to kill myself. I assure my therapist I’m not a danger to myself or others. It’s passive, not aggressive, see?

Sometimes it’s that normal, run-of-the-mill depression speaking up. Other times it’s sparked by some inconvenience, be it major or minor.

When plans are too difficult to coordinate. When I miss my exit. When I snort-laugh loudly in a meeting. When I make a joke that doesn’t land well. When I accidentally delete all of my files and empty the trash and regrettably find out I didn’t back up said files.

“I wish I were dead.” 

“If I were dead, I wouldn’t have to deal with this.”

“I’m just gonna go jump off the roof now, bye!”

These thoughts have invaded my consciousness as far back as I can remember. I recall being a kid and lying in the grass, looking at the shape-shifting clouds, wondering why humans even existed. Why I even existed.

I’m working on figuring out the triggers. On noticing the signs. My depression is very predictable and arrives at the same time each year. I know that in July and August I need to take better care of myself.

Other warning signs: Staying indoors as much as possible. Taking couch naps. Listening exclusively to Lana Del Rey and Elliott Smith. Forgetting to read. Procrastinating showers—for days.

Step back. Sit down. Breathe.

The dark thoughts are coming. We can fight them off.

Take a breath. Watch your body and notice your thoughts. Find patterns. Give yourself a time out and work on some serious self-care. Tell someone you’re in a dark place simply so they know and can check on you later. Turn off your phone. Cook a meal (a real meal) for yourself. Go for a walk. Pet your cat.

Don’t burrow deep under the covers and wait for it to leave. You have to fight back. Then it will pass. It always does.

These thoughts happen. Life is hard. Mental illness is harder. Sometimes a bunch of tiny inconveniences pile up all at once and it’s all too much and death seems like the only option.

But it’s not.

Just getting these words out is challenging. There’s a stigma that surrounds suicidal ideation when there shouldn’t be. We’re living in a time where mental illness is increasingly discussed, yet suicidal thoughts remain in the rarely mentioned depths.

And I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, on a near-daily basis. Right?

We can work on this together. We can stop using suicide as a punchline or a solution. We can save a life or two or three.

Leave a Reply

Comments (16)

  1. Allie

    You’re not the only one!!

    Reply  |  
  2. Katze

    So that’s what it’s called.
    No, you are not the only one.
    But as long as it’s passive it’s ok, right? How often does passive ideation really turn into action?

    Reply  |  
  3. Debbie

    I understand completely. I have been having these feelings for about 35 years. It started in H.S. Many years and many doctors I have finally found Trintellix, it has helped reduce the feelings. They are not so constant. My family and children are the only reasons I never carried any thoughts through.. Good luck, keep fighting.

    Reply  |  
  4. Lisa

    My suicidal ideation is also passive. I think about just turning the wheel on a high-speed highway. What stops me is the thoughts that I don’t want to hurt anyone else and pain. I want a painless death. I want to go to sleep and not wake up.
    I have received some professional help with this bit it’s kind of a relief to read of others with similar ideation. The stigma is real.
    I’m okay right Now, but the thoughts are always there, in the back of my mind.

    Reply  |  
  5. Barbara

    I have battle the suicidal thoughts nearly every day, for nearly 50 years. I was actually going to post something to this effect, when this came across my feed. It’s real thoughts. I can, and do, get past them. But just reading this article let’s me know, that there are other people who go through this……..

    Reply  |  
  6. Susie Higham

    I was so ‘happy’ to read this post, because it could easily have been written by me. It’s so, so good to know that I’m not alone in my strange head space! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  7. Ronnie

    Same here it’s good to know that I’m not alone keep fighting and as long as it’s passive it’s okay, right?

    Reply  |  
  8. Nicole

    I honestly feel like someone fully understands me completely. This is article could have been written by me. This explains so much what I go through and what I feel. You are not alone in how you feel!

    Reply  |  
  9. Brittany

    Wow. I never knew what it was called; I never knew someone else felt this way too. Thank you. ♥️

    Reply  |  
  10. Azalya

    Hi Ashley, I have been feeling the same way since I was about 12, ( I’m 15 now) and I always thought that I was the only one who felt this way. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in my thoughts

    Reply  |  
  11. Anita

    I hear you. One more day… always maybe tomorrow. Then… maybe tomorrow again. Tomorrow may be better. If it’s not…well, one more day. Maybe tomorrow.

    Reply  |  
  12. Lauren

    I have never read something that so accurately describes this. Thank you for writing this. 💜

    Reply  |  
  13. Andrea F

    Hi Ashley. I myself too struggle with the passive suicide ideation. The thoughts are intrusive as loud screams and persistent. Thank you for sharing your story. I just want you to know that you are not alone in this. I continue to remind myself when I can that it’s just the depression talking & the depression is only a part of me.

    Reply  |  
  14. Patience

    TWLOHA has saved my life on more than one occasion and now I know that reading others’ stories that I can truly relate with is in fact a coping skill. This helped me more than I’d admit anywhere else. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  15. Kelli

    Thank you so much for posting this. This day has been particularly tough… but for reasons that shouldn’t send me into a tailspin but they are. I needed to know that I’m not alone.

    Reply  |  
  16. Denise

    Well said. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply  |  
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