“I Don’t Care If I Die”

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The way people think about suicide is an interesting thing. Mention suicide, and most people will think of the stereotypical perception that a person who doesn’t know if they want to live or die is teetering on edge. They may tip forward off the edge, or they may step away from it.

In media, suicidal thinking is often portrayed in a way that is easy to visually digest because they’re using a visual storytelling medium. However, portraying what is going on in a person’s head is far more difficult. It’s much easier to show the suicidal person losing loved ones, suffering from mental illness or trauma, or whatever else is pushing them toward the act of taking their life.

That portrayal is often blunt and direct because it has to be so there is no ambiguity. Two examples spring to mind.

The first is a veteran’s suicide awareness commercial. In it, a person in civilian clothes was standing in front of their bathroom mirror, holding a gun to their head. In the mirror, the person was instead in their military uniform. All of them were crying. This cycled through numerous people to help highlight the need for suicide awareness and action to help veterans struggling with suicidal ideation.

The second is from a piece of semi-popular media. In it, the main character was sitting alone in a warehouse, drunk and drinking off a fifth of whiskey. Around him were pictures of his lost loved ones. He cried as he picked up his gun and put it to his head. Then he would put it down, pick it up, put it down, pick it up, and put it down. All the while, sad music plays while ethereal images of happy times before his family was murdered are flashing on the screen.

This kind of imagery is common because it’s easy for people who haven’t been suicidal to understand. Service members go through a lot while in the military; they’re traumatized, get out, and may struggle hard. A man loses his family violently. He struggles with wanting to stay alive, using liquor to soothe his feelings, and trying to pave the way to committing the final act.

Suicidal ideation can indeed look like these examples. But, if you’ll notice through their description, they are a visual depiction of that mental struggle that is easy for anyone watching to understand. Because it’s easy to understand, it’s how most people think of suicide.

Suicidal ideation isn’t necessarily that clear or simple. There are different types of suicidal ideation. The previous examples are known as “active suicidal ideation.” That is, the person experiencing the suicidal thoughts may have thoughts and plans to take action to kill themselves.

A person may also experience “passive suicidal ideation.”

What is passive suicidal ideation?

Passive suicidal ideation is a bit more complicated to understand than active suicidal ideation because it’s not so readily apparent. The person experiences thoughts or desires of wanting to die, but they don’t take any active steps to make it happen. Instead, they passively have these thoughts and don’t necessarily act on them immediately.

But what do those thoughts look like?

The person may not care whether they live or die. They don’t have the drive to live like a person in a healthy mental state. They may be fine with the idea of getting hit by a car, just not waking up one day, or falling victim to anything that can end their lives. During COVID, some with passive suicidal ideation hoped to contract the disease, even though they didn’t go out of their way to put themselves around it.

And still, many people who experience passive suicidal ideation feel guilty. They may look at other people who are struggling and compare their lives. “Well, this person has it worse than me; I shouldn’t be so dramatic.” or “I know it’s terrible for me to want to get sick and die. What is wrong with me?”

The person experiencing passive suicidal ideation may also fully realize just how bad it is to feel that way though it may be expressed indirectly. For example, “I don’t care if I live or die, but I don’t want my parents or loved ones to feel bad for me.”

For others, a deep emptiness can leave them disconnected from life. Many speak about the nature of not fitting in with society. They may not desire the work grind for decades with a possible chance of retirement. They may not feel a purpose or a reason to live.

These are valid thoughts and feelings. Life can be hard to figure out and live. But these feelings are often driven by circumstances other than the feelings themselves.

Depression And Passive Suicidal Ideation

Depression is spoken of so often nowadays that it is almost seen as cliché. That’s unfortunate because depression is a real and serious problem that can dramatically harm a person’s ability to feel emotions, enjoy life, look forward to the future, and want to live.

Far too many people don’t understand the full scope of depression either. It’s common to hear people who are passively suicidal say things like, “I’m not depressed, but I don’t care if I live or die.” The cognitive dissonance here is that not caring whether you want to live or die is a symptom of depression!

Depression itself can be a tricky word because of the way people perceive it. Some people just don’t believe in mental illness for some moronic reason, as if it’s so hard to conceptualize that the brain is just an organ that can be afflicted by a health condition like any other organ.

Then you have people who see depression as a byproduct of a circumstance. Oh, your parents died? Yeah, I’d be depressed too. Did you go through a terribly traumatic circumstance? Depression makes sense. You’re afraid of the future and see no hope for yourself? That kind of makes sense. Are you sad and numb for no reason? But can’t you see how good you have it…what do you have to be sad about?

The truth is that depression is a complicated creature with many causes and manifestations. Most everyone will experience some lowercase “d” depression in their life. Everyone goes through hard things that can have a dramatic negative impact on their mentality. It might be a relationship ending, finding out a spouse was cheating, losing a job, having problems with your family, not being able to pay the bills, being in a bad situation and not seeing any way to get out of it. These things can cause temporary depression that may be resolved by fixing the problem or treatment.

Then you have upper case “D” depression which includes disorders and mental illness. This type of depression may directly result from disorders like Major Depression Disorder or Bipolar Disorder. It may also be an indirect result of other mental illnesses like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which feature depression as a symptom.

Ironically, people seem to miss the connection between the feelings of depression and the word “depression.” Depression depresses one’s ability to feel the full spectrum of emotions. It smothers feelings of hope, anticipation, desire, looking forward to the future, and happiness. Depression can also smother the negative emotions that we experience, like anger, sadness, and fear, depending on how severe it is.

Anyone who’s experienced depression may be aware of the amplification of negative emotions one can experience while depressed. But those with more severe depression may not feel anything at all. There is no anger, happiness, sadness, or joy—just a resounding and deafening emptiness. People with milder depression may still even feel positive emotions like happiness or joy; they are just more muted.

That suppression of the emotional scope of the human experience can lead a person to simply not care about living some days. That can be true for people who experience happiness, yet still live with depression. Depression isn’t always a complete and total blanket. Sometimes it ebbs and flows.

A good example of that type of depression is Robin Williams. He’s a man that was joyful, created joy and happiness, experienced joy and happiness himself, yet still lived with recurring depression that he dealt with for most of his life.

Philosophy And Passive Suicidal Ideation

What is “philosophy?” For that, we turn to a definition provided by Wikipedia:

Philosophy is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language.

The nature of our modernized industrial society has disconnected many from the richness of spiritual and philosophical growth. Who has time for that when you’re working 2.5 jobs to pay rent because you’re buried in debt? Or caring for your family? Or just trying to get by day-to-day?

Spiritual and philosophical needs are just as important as any other. Now, in the context of this article and in mental health care, “spiritual” does not mean metaphysical or religious. Instead, spiritual activities nurture your inner self and typically provide fulfillment or joy.

Examples include creating art, volunteering, spending time with loved ones, gardening, or anything that provides fulfillment.

Philosophy pairs with spirituality because it largely examines finding a way to live that is right for you. Of course, the answer to how and why to live your life will be as varied as the many different people on this planet. Everyone is motivated by different things. Or, in the case of someone that doesn’t care if they live or die, they may not experience that motivation at all.

Some who don’t care whether they live or die feel that way because they don’t have a direction or purpose. They look at the massive scope of existence and can’t find a path that makes sense for them. Diving into philosophy can better help find an answer that makes sense and can provide a meaningful direction; or not, depending on the philosophy.

Finding A Path

People complicate the idea of finding a meaningful path. It’s not hard. All you do is pick something and start walking toward it. That’s it. That’s all you do.

“But what if I make the wrong choice!?”

You’ll make the wrong choices. That’s just life. Once you figure out it’s wrong for you, you pick another direction and start walking that way.

“But it takes so much time! How will I know if this will be successful!?”

You won’t know. You can’t know the future until you get there. Then there is the matter of defining success. Is success the attainment of the end goal? Or is success just the act of getting up and walking the path? It depends on how you define it.

“But will this lead me to happiness!?”

Depends. What do you think happiness is? Do you believe happiness is some perfect state where you never experience negative emotions? Never have problems? Never have to deal with the ugliness of life? If so, it won’t because that type of happiness doesn’t exist. Emotionally healthy people feel the full spectrum of emotions.

Happiness is something that comes and goes. It’s temporary. Sometimes you should feel happy and fulfilled; other times, you won’t. And suppose you are dealing with depression or passive suicidal ideation. In that case, it may be all that much harder to accurately feel those emotions.

Many tend to think they can just look at a path and determine whether or not it’ll bring them happiness or fulfillment. The problem is that an assumption is being made about how the person interprets that path.

For example, a person who is passionate about animals may decide they want to become a veterinarian. They love animals, want to help care for them and keep them healthy, and help pet owners. Undoubtedly, they’ll be able to do that. But, on the other side of the coin, they will also have to deal with putting animals to sleep and seeing the cruelty humans inflict on innocent animals. That is enough to kill passion and drive people from the field. It’s just not something people tend to consider.

Finding a path or something to live for is all well and good. Still, it’s really only a temporary bandage over a hemorrhaging wound.

But how do you find a way to care whether you want to live or die?

Seek professional help.

You’re probably going to need professional help. Not caring whether you live or die is a serious symptom of depression that will likely need medical treatment to get under control. In addition, you may have a mental illness or trauma affecting your perceptions of life. If that’s the case, it likely isn’t something you can resolve by yourself.

The best thing you can do is talk to a certified mental health professional about those feelings. They should be able to help guide you on the path that you need to treat the problem and hopefully find your reasons to want to live.

A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

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