When Kate Spade took her own life, my Twitter feed was on fire with opinions. There was sympathy…but there was also judgment. People were shocked, wondering aloud how she could be so selfish, leave her family behind, and on and on.
I bet that Kate Spade thought she was doing her family a favor. She wouldn’t be a burden to them anymore. Not even a week later, Anthony Bourdain took his own life. I wonder if he was thinking the same.
I have personal experience with depression and suicide. I have attempted it; the first time at age 14, but I have a better support system now and feel stable. When I was in the black hole of depression, I felt that I would be doing everyone a favor if I didn’t exist. They wouldn’t have to deal with my moods, feed me anymore, listen to my problems. I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of existing anymore. That’s why I’m assuming Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain felt the same.
Now, I did my first attempt at the tender age of 14- an age where hormones raged, I was bullied, and school was a struggle. Adults repeatedly told me that these were the “best years of my life” and “wait until you’re working for a demanding boss and have to pay bills.” This was the best life had to offer? My days were full of bullies at school leaving gross things in my locker, slandering me. On my own, I felt increasingly awkward and ugly because of puberty. When puberty ended, depression still came in waves to plague me.
That’s the thing with depression. It isn’t a mood or a passing dark cloud. Depression is an illness. You would never tell someone with the flu to just “cheer up and think your way out of it.” Because it is a mental illness, people around you forget that it is there and that it isn’t your choice. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you are successful or struggling, female or male, child or adult.
You can’t just decide to cheer up- it grips you like a dark, scary monster, and you are trapped. Your brain is being kidnapped by a predator that takes over your thoughts and won’t let you out. Once, I confided in a friend that I was feeling very depressed and was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. She suggested I get a fish. I bitterly laughed. It is such a common misconception that if you have a reason to wake up in the morning- like keeping a fish alive- that it will magically make you feel better. I think, more often, you feel guilty, yet another thing relies on you being okay enough to feed it and it burdens you further.
That is why it’s called a mental ILLNESS not a mental “mood for a day or two.” It’s also why we really need to open a conversation about it. Depression is seen in our words, since it’s often easily masked with “normal” actions; it’s easy to fake normality. So, let’s talk. Message me if you need an ear, find an online support group, comment on this article, find an understanding friend. Let’s bust open the conversation.
I am deeply saddened that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain didn’t feel that they could get past the feeling. In Kate’s case, she had professional help and it still wasn’t enough for her that day. I am also deeply saddened by the thought of a bunch of people across the globe dealing with this, in and out of the news. One of the problems is it’s still taboo to admit. Many families feel that depression is too awkward to talk about or that you must “man up” and snap out of it. A lot of my extended family felt the latter. It made it very hard to bring up the fact that I felt hopeless and sad a lot of the time, since it was seen as a weakness. It isn’t a weakness- you can’t control it.
One good thing comes out of the tragic deaths of these two celebrities: two different fan worlds were opened up to the realities of severe mental illness. It has people talking: from where you can go to get help, how to spot depression in friends, how to help and messages of hope.
What can you do to help? What if your friend is so depressed that they don’t reach out? If they are low enough, they may not even mention it or leave their house. When I was in a deep depression, I was always sleeping and avoiding the phone.
I didn’t want people telling me to “cheer up”. I didn’t want to be told to buy a fish or to “look at the silver lining”. Forcing your depressed friend to laugh or saying it could be worse is not what they are looking for. I certainly didn’t want to be told that some “retail therapy will help,” for example.
What did I want? Someone showing up and just being there, even if it was in the next room. No judgment as I stayed silent, talked or cried. Listening to me talk about depression with understanding and NO advice. A friend suddenly showing up and just watching a movie with me, in silence, and not over-staying their welcome. A free coffee and meal delivered to me to make me feel less alone and suddenly loved. Or being randomly told, “If you need me, I’m here. It gets better. Also, you’re awesome.” And then ACTUALLY being there for me when needed- no empty promises.
Sometimes that isn’t enough, and the person just needs to be given the courage to reach out for professional help. Make it sound as normal as it is to go for help. Getting the appointment is hard to navigate and seems daunting so if you can find the number to call or make the initial call, that could be helpful, too. Once the appointment is made, go with the person if they need some support.
Depression is ugly and messy and complicated and invisible. Be kind. You never know what someone else is going through.
Author: Tianna Morison
Author Bio: Tianna is a writer, mom, and wife in Calgary, AB, Canada. Every week, she promises to stop spending half of her paycheck on plants (and fails). Tianna’s pride is her blog where she focuses on gluten-free and gut-friendly food, raising highly-sensitive kids and sustainable living, as well as mental health and awareness. You can find her on Instagram @babblingpanda or Twitter @_babbling_panda
Link to social media or website: Instagram @babblingpanda | Twitter @_babbling_panda http://babblingpanda.com/