If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Kate Spade was found dead today in New York City, of an apparent suicide. I don’t need to tell you any more about it. You can Google it. That’s not why you’re here.
I feel compelled to say, to write, a few things because I’ve seen mutterings online along the lines of oh it’s so sad, she had everything, I guess money doesn’t buy you happiness, but she was so colorful and seemed happy.
Privilege — be it money, success, skin color, gender, social standing — is irrelevant in the face of mental illness.
Privilege and depression are not mutually exclusive. And moreover (and I’ve said this before), gratitude and depression are not mutually exclusive. And sometimes the ones shining the brightest are in the most pain.
The first time I actively thought about killing myself, I was seven. I wanted not to exist. I wanted not to be swallowed whole by the pressure of the world around me. I wanted to get smaller and smaller until I just disappeared.
And I had everything. At least on the outside. I grew up with access to clothes and private school and horseback riding and travel and a lovely home and everything I should have wanted.
And still, I wanted to die. I wanted to disappear.
My coping mechanism became heroin. I used secretly off and on for ten years. When I got caught, at age 23, and went to rehab for the first time, the nurses in the detox ward clucked their tongues and said, “Why are you in here? You’re a nice girl? You have a good family. Why would you do this to yourself?”
This was echoed by friends and family. How could you? How could you? How could you?
That same question swirls around the news whenever someone (famous or not) dies by suicide.
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And the voice inside me, the one so well-acquainted with that particular brand of depression that gets on top of you and presses into your chest with all its might, says because I needed just not to be.
It’s impossible to explain this to someone who has never felt suicidal.
It’s impossible to articulate why you feel this way. People suffering from suicidal ideation get asked why all the time. How does one answer that question?
Why? Because I have depression. Why? Because no one and nothing — not spouses or children or parents or friends or success or money or everything you ever wanted — can explain it or fix it or make it go away.
And that’s sad and confounding and frustrating and brutal, but it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not cowardly or selfish or any of the other things people say when someone dies by suicide. All it is — is heartbreaking.
My heart breaks for Kate’s family, and it breaks for Kate.
My first thought was that could be me. It could be any of us who have known that kind of desperation to exit.
I can’t think of a lonelier place to be. I have been in that place — with drugs in my system, hanging out a window, jumping out of the car, on the roof of a building, in a bathtub, in bed with a box cutter. As I type these words, I feel the sting and echo of being in those times and spaces. It’s a miracle I am here. It’s a miracle.
But, I am here. I am here to tell you that it is possible to get past that lonely place and stay alive. I am here to tell you to stop judging other people’s outsides and making value judgments on their insides. I am here to tell you that you are not alone, despite what your head tells you.
I am here to tell you I want you to stay alive today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
Please, please, if you’re struggling, reach out. Reach out to me, a stranger on the Internet. Reach out to friends or family. Call or text or message The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.