I Could Have Been Kate Spade
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
I have been Kate Spade.
I have fought major depressive episodes for 12 years. I suffered through the first 10 of them in complete silence. I have gone to the edges of cliffs and begged for the wind to push me off. I have stayed under covers for days and thanked the universe for instant soup and Netflix autoplay, because that was all the energy I could find to pass the time. I have sat in practice rooms for hours and cried because taking my violin out of its case was too daunting. I have opened my fridge and found nothing but miso soup and ginger ale, because that was all I could keep down.
I resisted this for so many years. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak so I pushed through high school, and college, and graduate school with flying colors. I had no reason to be sad. I honestly thought I was just doing life wrong. And as much as depression made it hard for me to think, it didn’t change the fact that I am smart and clever and determined, so it has always been easy to hide. When I am there though, no matter how put together I look, it feels endless. It seems hopeless. It is hell. And the last thing I can work up the energy to do in my darkest moments is call a stranger and tell them I need help.
I am so grateful to all the people in the last few years who have come out to stand up for people with mental illnesses. Without them, I never could have admitted anything was wrong. Without them, I never would have gotten help. Without them, I would never have started working towards finding a combination of medications that I can tolerate and that makes it easier for me to be present in my life again.
But I do not march with them. I do not stand up for myself and say here I am, I have been sick for a long time, but I am still me. I still fight a brain every day that tells me my illness is not real or valid or just as important and treatable as somebody with a broken leg. I am still trying to rewrite the narrative in which my brain malfunctioning is something I should be able to control if I just try hard enough. I watch, and I cheer for all of these admirable advocates from the sidelines, but I cannot find the courage to stand with them and ask for compassion, because I still rarely feel that I deserve any.
So this is what I can do today, right now. I can say that, for the first time, I understand both sides of the story. I understand the darkness that Kate Spade must have been living in, but I can also see for the first time that Kate Spade and Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain lived with the same stigma that is so prevalent in our society, and that it almost certainly contributed to them not getting what they needed in time to help change the outcome. They are not different from me. Our positions could have easily been reversed. I cannot stand up yet and face those people who would disagree with these viewpoints. But I can listen to my friends who are struggling. I can help someone recognize that mental illness is serious, and it does not discriminate based on race, gender, intelligence or socioeconomic status. Covering it up, or telling others to cover it up, is like putting a bandaid on the wrist of someone whose hand has just been cut off.
Maybe I can’t do much, but other can and these deaths should be, and are, preventable. They are tragic, and they are misunderstood, and we should all work towards figuring out what we can do, and then doing whatever that is to try and help those who can’t fight their battles alone.
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Getty image via cyano66