**Disclaimer: Kelly Speaking: I feel like since I started this blog, there have been so many celebrity suicides. I know I've written at least 3-4 blogs in response to the news of suicide and all the commonplace things said in response to these tragedies. It breaks my heart to see even more deaths resulting from the many issues regarding mental illness. One of the most unique (for lack of a better word) thing about mental illness is that it doesn't have a pattern. It doesn't affect certain populations, geographic areas, or economic classes. It doesn't matter your race or sexual orientation (though there is an increase number of suicides in the LGBTQ community). It shows no mercy. It can get it's cold grip on anyone. And when it does, it does all it can not to let go. I've been down these dark cycles. I can empathize and sympathize with whatever thoughts Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had before they made their tragic choice. I understand why they did it. I'm not mad at them for it. I understand it. I was in their shoes once too. But I hate that it's not until someone in the spotlight moves on from this life that we start re-creating dialogue about mental illness. Yes 2 incredible lights extinguished from this world, but according to the American Foundation for Suicide prevention, there are roughly 123 suicides A DAY in the US. A FREAKING DAY. And that number is probably an under estimate because of the difficulty getting others to discuss this topic full of stigma and judgement. I'm not sure I have any answers. But I'm trying to reflect on the one positive thing my brain is able to find when someone makes this tragic choice. For me at least, suicide is the one thing that immediately snaps me back, grounds me, and puts me in perspective. I see the sadness stemming from the loss of their lives. I see the comments, tweets, and posts. We cry and grieve with their loved ones. And it reminds me that we always have something to live for. There is love all around us - even when we don't feel it or see it. And maybe we, yes, collectively WE. We now have to take it upon ourselves to show gratitude and love to the ones we care about most. We have to reach out because Lord knows how impossible it seems to reach out when you suffer from mental illness. We have to before we lose another life. Things have to change. And I don't have the answers on how to make that effective change actually happen. But I'm going to continue talking about this subject. I know this isn't a pleasant topic. I know it's dark and scary. I know a lot of people don't want to even think about this. But it is a reality for so many. And if we don't start openly talking about it, if we don't stop the judgement, that number is only going to escalate. We have to be the change. Someone else trying to be that change is one of my dearest friends Tori. She also has a blog that touches on the subjects of mental illness/mental health. She wrote a piece after reflecting upon the news of Kate Spade's death and I think it's incredible. So much so that I asked her if I could share it with all of you. I'm so grateful she said yes, and that I have someone in my life who understands the complexities and challenges that I also face. <3
There are a few things that leave me speechless. The suicide of Kate Spade was one of them. For the past couple days, I have been wondering what I wanted to say. I have read many articles, posts, and, unfortunately, comments. It started a cycle that I’m afraid society is far too familiar with and I would say numb to. The sharing of suicide hotline numbers, the “you are not alone,” “#stopthestigma’, “that’s a shame,” “thought and prayers,” the list goes on and one. And then the questions, how could she do that to her family? How could she leave her daughter; she’s selfish, I could never do that to my child.
These questions often show a lack of understanding towards mental illness. I don’t want to say it is ignorance. There is such a lack of understanding towards mental illness. I don’t necessarily have the answers on filling that gap. I guess that is why I write these posts. I hope that by sharing my thoughts, it might help someone else understand a little bit more.
Kate Spade is an iconic fashion designer. I like to joke that her bags are either the most or least functional things ever. I downright adore Kate Spade. I own multiple bags, wallets, and jewelry. I got my grandma Kate Spade earrings this year for Christmas. My yoga-turned-work-bag (that I reviewed on this blog) was one of the best and most functional purchases I have made in awhile (probably behind my Honda Fit). Her style was simple, fun, classic, and chic all at once. It was light and airy. My phone case is of a Kate Spade design and says “Glitter is my favorite color.” Kate Spade brought fun into fashion while keeping a classic style with a feminine touch. Pinterest is filled with her quotes such as “I adore pretty things and witty words,” “She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes,” and “She’s bright like glitter and bubbly like champagne.” Do you get the theme here? Kate Spade’s style was radiant and confident. I aspired to be the level of relaxed (which I have no idea how to be) and fun, not a care in the world, while still emphasizing that I had it altogether and a Jackie O air of class. I thought she had it together. I was wrong.
Dealing with mental illness, you kind of get intrigued as to who else is and how the hell they keep it together, keep going, and living successful lives. So I always found it interesting to learn about which celebrities suffered from mental illness and what they did to overcome it. I had no idea that Kate Spade did. Her death at 55 was shocking enough; the cause of suicide simply flabbergasted me. Like I said, it is not easy to render me speechless. This did. Of course, she was due her privacy. But it appears in some ways she suffered in silence; fearing what it would do to her brand and image. And that is absolutely heartbreaking. Anyone with mental illness will tell you they’ve felt the stigma. Just recently, I had two people in a week question the legitimacy of my anxiety (which, I don’t get, because I can’t figure out why anyone would want to use anxiety as a reason for anything because I’d much rather enjoy feeling like I can breath at all times instead of feeling suffocated by anxiety and chest pain as it happens far too often). In the end, I’m no one. My mental illness doesn’t matter. My speaking out is not making headlines. But I also have the availability to speak out without worrying how it will impact my livelihood. The New York Stock Exchange isn’t going to be impacted by me dealing with depression and anxiety and talking about it publicly. It absolutely tears me apart that Kate Spade felt that she couldn’t take certain options because of the impact it would have on her company.
We got to talk about it more, guys. I have asked myself so many times why my brain is wired like this. I try to ignore the comments on how exercise and nature is all I need! Because I know that as much as I hate taking the medication every night, it can be the difference between me getting out of bed or not. This isn’t my fault. It’s not yours. It wasn’t Kate’s. There are a lot of things we can do for our health that we don’t, and we still don’t shame people the way society can for having mental illness. I have heard so many people say it’s okay not to be okay. But we need to help people learn how to acknowledge the not okay. And I know the mental illness doesn’t make it easy either. I am terrible about talking about what is bothering me. There are very, very few people – and I mean like two – that I really feel like I can talk to and let me tell you, it is a bitch when you lose that. Even if it’s not your fault, you’ll still blame yourself.
It is so hard for me to open up and really explain how I am feeling. I put a lot of it into my writing, it is a lot easier for me to have these conversations by some form of texting or even writing out what I want to say and either reading off of it or having the person read it. But honestly, I can’t imagine how hard it is to be on the other side. To want to help someone and not have a clue what to do. I have seen the look it brings into people’s eyes. Mental illness hurts more than person with the disease. Maybe it is so much harder because it is not something you can see, you can’t necessarily pinpoint a physical symptom that goes with it. It’s harder to comprehend than recognizing something like a cough. I know some people can tell when it’s coming back or when the bad days are. More than once, I’ve been told I don’t look depressed or anxious, or asked how can I do this or that if I’m really depressed or anxious? We have to talk about mental illness. It’s not the same in everyone. There is not a one size fits all solution.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it is really important not to invalidate how someone says their mental illness affects them. You wouldn’t question someone with a broken arm or a peanut allergy (God I hope not; I have heard stories of otherwise. People are morons). That is a huge part of whether or not someone will feel comfortable with you when it comes to things like that. I had someone who I care about very much tell me that I cut for attention. That downright broke my heart. I forgave the person for it, but I didn’t forget and that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt. And it really changed what I thought I could tell that person. Mental illness is a complex, dark thing. The surface hardly represents what is actually going on, and I know that it is not easy figuring out what the hell is going on. It will take time, effort, and understanding. But I can tell that it will mean the world to whomever you are trying to help. And, if they’re anything like me, they will never be able to adequately thank you for being there.
A really good way I can describe this is listening to the song “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. I think it is actually about a couple, but I have always interpreted it differently. I always listened to it as being there for someone. It is a really soothing song, and there’s an aspect of hope there. That someone, steady and strong, will be there with a shoulder to lean on when you need it.
Everyone has something to live for. I truly believe that. But life can be cruel. Mental illness blinds you from so much. Where there is a flower, it tells you it’s a weed. Suicide is not about transferring the problem to someone else or giving up or a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I’m sitting here, and it’s honestly hard to put into words what I am trying to say. It is such a dark place. You feel like you’re the problem and solving it for everyone else; not that you’re leaving anyone behind. It is a combination of falling forever and suffocating and feeling like you are being crushed by a weight. It is a pain that I can’t describe. I’ve been there, and I pray to God that I never go back. I know what kept me going then. And I can’t judge anyone else. It was a variety of circumstances that worked in my favor. I have no way to know if it was just luck or anything more. One of those circumstances was that I joined a sorority, and that helped me keep going rather than doing nothing. I’m forever thankful that it worked. I just wish that no one would ever have to experience that pain. All I wanted was to be free of that pain.
Kate Spade appeared to have it together. Her brand represented fun. It will live on, and I hope that the style doesn’t change. Whether she knew it or not, her designs made countless women a little bit happier. None of us would have ever guessed that she struggled to escape this dark place, a contrast from the world she created.
When Robin Williams died, it was a very similar reaction. How could someone so funny, who brought so much laughter to others, suffer so much? That death left me speechless too. Robin Williams made people laugh. Kate Spade spread her fashion like confetti to brighten others. I know I’m a people pleaser. I will do anything to try and keep others happy. And I know now that in some ways, it’s because I will do anything to avoid pain. It is almost like a reflex.
The suicides of artists such Kurt Cobain and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park are – and I hate to say this – almost romanticized by society of the struggling artist trope, how they turned their pain into art. I’m starting to wonder if the pain into art thing is a theme because we don’t know how to say the words. Never thought of that before.
An acquaintance of mine, a friendly one, but more like a friend of some of my friends, died by suicide a couple years ago. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t know he was suffering. But I saw the pain it caused. And the world lost a lot when we lost him. His funeral was the first time I saw some of my friends cry. The questions and reactions to his death was what led me to really start to be vocal about my struggle, in the hopes that if one more person could understand then maybe one more person could be helped. We need to do more.
It never really leaves you. Recently, I had my scars covered up by a tattoo of a beautiful daisy. I absolutely adore it. Before, I would be transfixed by my scar, disgusted by what it meant. Now, the daisy is a reminder that it can get better. Even when I do get that urge to cut again, which I hate to even admit that it has happened, I look at that daisy and somehow it’s enough. I can’t ruin that flower. Flowers bloom. Sometimes under not the best circumstances. It can get better. I also know that I can end up back in that dark place. I pray that I can fight and for peace for others suffering and that they keep fighting. I am so sorry for Kate Spade, Robin Williams, and the countless others that have lost their lives to suicide. I wish I could snap my fingers and cure mental illness. We never talk about a cure for mental illness. Maybe it’s too much to hope for.
I just hope that more and more people start to really talk about it. It’s not contagious. But it is an epidemic. And we need to fight it. We can only do that together. Even on my darkest days, I know that somewhere in me that I believe in hope and that it can get better. Hope can be powerful. Please take time to learn more about mental illness. I would be happy to talk to anyone about it. No matter how bad it gets, I believe that there is a chance that it can get better. The world needs you.
** Victoria runs the blog Vic Mike's POV. She has an English degree from Robert Morris University and Masters of Public Administration. from Pennsylvania State University. By day she is a proposal writer at a a financial institution. By night she's a volunteer firefighter/EMT. Tori is a self proclaimed nerd with a love for sports, reading, writing, and anything Star Wars. She is also a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon. Her motto is "be the change" and is doing all she can to be a mental health advocate.