When it seems like someone has it all, seems is the word to key in on. Famed handbag designer, Kate Spade, was found dead in her New York City apartment Tuesday morning, dead from an apparent suicide.
Spade lived what appeared to be a glamorous lifestyle. She founded a company valued in the billions for its design and production of in-demand, iconic fashion accessories. She was just 55 years old.
Authorities reported Spade left a suicide note—and I can’t stop thinking about those words of hers.
I don’t know which ones she used or how she ordered them. I don’t know her story or why she chose to end her life. But I know I wish she would have used her words to reveal her pain and her struggle sooner. Before the fact, not after. Not once it was too late to help her.
A few years back, it may have seemed like I had it all to anyone on the outside looking in, too. I had a happy marriage, two healthy kids, friends and family who loved me. I’d also landed a sexy new job as traffic manager for a fast-paced advertising and branding agency. I got the good news I was hired the day before we flew to Jamaica to vacation as a family with some dear friends. Life was good, right up until it wasn’t.
That sexy new job? It sucked the life out of me. To date, it’s still the only job I’ve ever had I never felt good at. The role demanded extreme flexibility, ceaseless multi-tasking and skilled diplomacy at every turn. The kicker was the agency’s project management systems had been deemed archaic and my boss tasked me with sourcing new systems and software and onboarding the entire staff. This was not in my wheelhouse and was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. If this job had been my life’s focus, I might have been able to master it and feel good about my performance.
At the same time I was flailing at work, our two kids became textbook teenagers and were running at full tilt angst, hormonal imbalance, and something near burning hatred for each other. Parenting them tugged at my attention throughout my workdays, making it even harder to focus on my job. I kept hearing the words of those who’d gone before me ringing in my ears. “It’s just as important to be home and available to teenagers as it is for babies and toddlers, maybe even more so.”
During this same time period, we decided to sell our big, beautiful house that we were rarely together in as a family to enjoy. My husband and I noticed our kids were only getting more expensive to raise, prompting us to downsize about 15 years ahead of schedule to reap the benefits from a smaller housing footprint.
The hiccup in our plan was that after selling our house, we couldn’t find what we were looking for in an existing home so we undertook building one of our own. Building to suit was something my husband had always wanted to do and something I had never wanted to do. I’d heard too many tales of blown budgets, ongoing delays, and general construction woes. Nonetheless, we found ourselves building a new house and taking on some of the general contractor’s duties in order to save money and still produce a quality home.
The attention to detail building a house demands is intense and relentless and when I added my share of the project’s weight to the heavy load of work and kids I was already carrying, I buckled. At the apex of the difficulty, I had a startling and scary thought.
I heard myself think, I don’t want to be here anymore.
The thought was so chilling, so completely disconcerting, it propelled me into action. I didn’t pause to try to understand what I meant. I did not ask myself, “Where is here?” I did not ask myself how long I wanted to be gone. I was terrified of what my answers might be.
Too scared to flesh out my thought on my own, I picked up the phone and called my doctor. She made room for me immediately. I showed up half-crazed with fear, half disbelieving I was now a person who was unable to cope with life on her own. When I explained the state of affairs bringing me to my knees, she cleared the haze and helped me to see everything I was dealing with was situational. Not one thing causing me grief was permanent.
The granite-hard project at work was nearing completion, the hardest parts were already over. Our house would be finished in few more months. The kids’ issues and challenges were phases like any other and would soon come to pass as well. My doctor guided me to the knowledge depression was not my new normal, I was merely in a period of overwhelm with an end date in sight.
I’d been so caught up in the hard of it all I’d lost any hope I’d ever be able to cope any better. She pointed out better was indeed on the horizon and through her eyes, I could see it again, too.
In the meantime to help me through, I chose to start a course of antidepressants and to begin weekly therapy sessions with a counselor who specialized in family therapy. In conjunction with each other these interventions were equally effective and six months later, I didn’t need either one any longer.
When I think about Kate Spade and the words she left only after time had run out for her, I realize that could have been me.
It could still be my neighbor or my dear friend.
It could be my daughter or my mother.
It could be my husband or my son’s teammate.
Depression can afflict any one of us at any time. No matter our seemingly envious lifestyle. No matter our financial standing. No matter the brilliance of our career.
Depression is a disease and no one chooses it, nor is anyone immune from it. One of its most dangerous symptoms is an inability to see yourself ever being free of it. Depression will stand in the way of all that is good in your life, entirely blocking your view. While you’re blinded, it will steal your hope. It will convince you pain and suffering is all you’re ever going to feel. It will make you believe you’re alone, that no one can help.
There IS help for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, though. Please, please, please reach out with your words and ask for a leg up, a helping hand, or a shoulder to lean on if you’re feeling hopeless or alone in your struggle with this disease. Please tell your spouse you’re hurting and you don’t know how to stop. Or your best friend, your parent, your co-worker. Please tell your doctor or your therapist about your scary thoughts you don’t understand. Please use your words out loud so someone can help you see the temporary quality of your situation. Please let someone help you see past depression to the hope on the horizon.
There is no shame in disease. There is no shame in feeling weakened by it or unsure of how to recover from it. There is love and understanding waiting for you. Help is just a few words away.
According to CNN, suicide rates in the United States increased from 1999 to 2014 for everyone between the ages of 10 and 74, according to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study found for white women, the suicide rate increased by 60 percent during that period.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
You may also want to read:
An Open Letter to the Family Who Just Lost A Loved One To Suicide
New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea