My dark passenger

Since launching The Beautiful Mind Project and Urgent Care for Mental Health I have been publicly open about my mental health journey. I have shared almost every aspect of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. Almost every aspect. There has been one part I’ve held back because the stigma surrounding this issue is SO strong and SO deeply misunderstood. But that changes today. It’s time to bust open the door on a taboo subject that I KNOW so many others are experiencing. It’s what I call “my dark passenger”. That subject is suicidal ideation.

Suicidal ideation is simply the technical term for thoughts of suicide or thinking about taking one’s own life. A person can have fleeting, intermittent, or ongoing thoughts about suicide. There are different types of suicidal ideation: passive and active. Passive thoughts may include thinking you’d be better off dead, or that death would be a relief from current circumstances. Active thoughts have an intent to die by suicide, and perhaps including planning how it will happen. Active suicidal ideation represents an escalation in risk of self-harm. The most intense level of suicidal ideation involves having a plan.

Let’s be clear – if you are experiencing ANY form of suicidal ideation you must – MUST talk to a mental health professional immediately. Your safety is a priority!

My suicidal ideation is passive and intermittent, although there are times when it occurs daily. So, you may be wondering what that experience is like? For me, it typically is a very brief moment or two where thoughts of suicide invade my mind. It can involve hanging, slashing of wrists, over dosing on pills, or crashing my car.  I have NO actual desire to act on these thoughts but when you first experience them it freaks you the hell out. They first started 16 years ago when I began medication for my bi polar disorder. I didn’t share these thoughts with ANYONE – including my wife – until very recently. I didn’t want to worry her. It’s hard to explain to someone that you have thoughts of dying nearly every day but don’t want to die. How could they NOT worry?!?!  It’s a lonely feeling to have a secret THIS big and not feel like you can share it with anyone, including the ones you love the most.

So why talk about it now?  It’s because of that feeling of being the only one who experiences this. If we are going are going to have a conversation about mental health, mental illness, and work to eliminate the stigma we need to talk about ALL of it, not just the parts we feel comfortable with.

I’m not sure how this revelation will land with those that know me. Please know this, I’m safe. I’m the same person you’ve ALWAYS known. You don’t need to change ANYTHING about how you interact with me. If I’ve made you uneasy, uncomfortable, unsure just talk to me. I’m still Marc.

To those who have struggled with suicidal ideation. I get it. The only way we can make it better is to drag it out of the shadows and talk about openly and honestly with the people in our life. We can’t change things unless we’re willing to do the work. Let’s do it together. You know I’m in. Are you?