“I didn’t know she suffered from depression!”
“We never expected it.”
“We didn’t see it coming.”
So, what are we not seeing exactly? I see a full blown mental health crisis with no end in sight.
Five years ago (this month, in fact) I moved in with my mother after what can only be described as a severe mental health crisis.
It’s a story that I’ve told time and time again. Years of repressed feelings, depression, and anxiety came to a head when my cat died (yes, that was the last straw) and I lost it. I cried for two weeks. My mom was scared to leave me alone. I went to stay with her for a few days and ended up never going back to my apartment. Anxiety and depression pretty much crippled me for the next year and a half. I wrecked my stomach taking ibuprofen for my migraines. I felt nothing, didn’t care about anything. I slept a lot. My work suffered. The uncontrollable sadness fed my eating disorder and I gained another 30 pounds.
And yes, I thought about dying. I thought about dying a lot. Not because I didn’t want to live, but because I just wanted the pain to stop. I would have given anything to get my brain to shut up.
The main reason I made it through that period of my life is because my mom was watching me like a hawk. I was almost never alone, and if I was, she was constantly checking in on me. She threatened to take me to the hospital. I had friends telling me, on repeat, that I would get through it. Finally, I began taking my medication regularly again and I began focusing solely on mindfulness and meditation.
Only a few people know how bad of a time that was for me. While I’m not ashamed of my experience, I definitely kept most of the details to myself. I’m a trained therapist y’all. A goddamned life coach even. I’m supposed to know how to do life.
Knowing what I know didn’t protect me.
Outwardly, I was just a normal person going about a normal life. Done with school, owned my own home, had a well-paying job. Friends and family that love me.
None of that matters to mental illness.
Mental illness doesn’t care if you have a degree or if you never graduated from high school. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, if you’re married or single, if you have children or pets.
It doesn’t care that you have many things to live for. It doesn’t care that people you love will hurt if you’re not here anymore. It doesn’t care about all the wreckage it does inside your head.
All it cares about is convincing you that you’re not worth saving.
Intellectually, we all know that Kate Spade was a fantastically creative and successful woman. None of that kept her safe. She couldn’t escape it.
No one can escape their mental illness. It’s always there, challenging every good thought, every positive intention. It counters every goal with millions of reasons why it won’t work. It tells you that you should just give up. It tells you you’re unworthy of love. My intellectual brain kept telling me that I had no reason to be sad, yet the sadness was unbearable. It’s impossible to reconcile the two. The feelings aren’t rational and that lead me to believe that I was failure and that I couldn’t do anything right.
It’s a dark place to be.
If you’ve been in the darkness, you know what I’m talking about.
It was my rational brain that kept me from reaching out. I thought that I was weak. I believed everything that my mental illness told me.
The stigma of mental illness is what really gets my riled up these days. Every time I watch “Dateline” there’s always a statement that goes something like this: “Her (it’s always a woman) friends and family said that she had been unstable and had even been prescribed antidepressants.”
NOOOOOOO NOT ANTIDEPRESSANTS!!!!!
It pisses me off every time. As if this is an indicator of anything other than a person was attempting to treat an illness. You know, being proactive and shit.
Every time I hear it I wonder about the state of our understanding. We still think that people who take medication are weak? That we’re broken in some way? That we’re unpredictable and impulsive?
I can tell you that that just isn’t the case. Living in Utah, a state with a high incidence of antidepressant use, I can tell you that people aren’t going on antidepressants and then shooting up the 7-11.
These are people who are suffering in silence. Afraid of what people would think if they knew. Afraid that their lives would be affected, that people’s perceptions of them would change. That people would think they are weak.
People like me who don’t want to die but are sick of being in pain.
Kate Spade was not weak. She was not selfish. She was in an extraordinary amount of pain. The kind of pain where the only solution is death.
The solution for me was medication, mindfulness, and a support network. It’s the main reason that my sole focus is now on mindfulness and why I preach it to just about anyone who will listen. It was a huge factor in my recovery. It’s a daily committed practice for me now.
Others may need to see licensed therapists and/or medical doctors. Some may need different combinations of drugs or different therapy techniques. My hope is that people stop letting the stigma keep them from getting help. My hope is that when we hear someone is suffering, we say, “How can I help?” instead of rushing to judgement.
If you are suffering, get help. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Let a trusted friend know you’re suffering. Call your doctor.
And while I know that even the most supported person can still choose to take their own life, I hope that being more vocal about our struggles fuels lasting and sustainable change. The more we talk about it, the easier it will become to seek help.
Sending love to you,