There is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, but until now, haven’t been able to find the right words because it’s something that upsets me so much. Despite being a self confessed emotional writer, there are some things so emotional, everything gets all clogged up.
Last week, the world found out Kate Spade had taken her own life.
Kate Spade! The epitome of sunshine.
It devastated the fashion community, it devastated the not fashion community and it reminded us all that depression doesn’t discriminate. No matter how successful someone is, no matter how much money, how much respect.
Something that I’ve always seen – even pre blogging – are articles, blogs, peoples Facebook rants, where they express their disgust at suicide, and throw around words like thoughtless, selfish, terrible mother, terrible friend, terrible sister/brother/father/uncle..
This week it’s been worse and it’s breaking my heart.
The worst article I read this week asked how Kate Spade could do this to her daughter. How she could be so selfish, so reckless. So terrible. On a news website. Published on a platform that millions will be exposed to.
When I first started blogging, I read something that someone had written about suicide. I think their intentions were good. Bringing awareness to Mental Health and encouraging people to be open about it is something I’ll always advocate for. But this blogger was new to the blogging world, and I think a title like Suicide is always going to bring in views. In his post, he discussed never having had depression, never having been in a place so dark that suicide had crossed his mind, but that he believed it was a selfish act. That it left in it’s wake, heartbroken family who now took on the burden that they left behind. An easy way out. He gave strong opinions and spoke in detail about a situation he had never experienced but felt confident enough to speak on.
A few years ago, I might have agreed – but on that day, I cried. I cried the next day too.
I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum.
My father died when I was 18. When they found his body in his apartment, their suspicion was suicide. At the time, my mum came into the lounge, she told me what had happened and asked me if I wanted to go with her to identify him. I said no. I didn’t cry, I was angry.
My Dad wasn’t an amazing man. He struggled all his life with depression, with anger issues. Violence and fear are the two words I’d use to describe most of the childhood memories I have that feature him.
But before he died, I thought things were getting better. He was reaching out and it was all I’d ever wanted.
He picked me up from a party in the middle of the night when I found myself in a scary situation. He drove me all the way back to Mum’s half an hour away. He didn’t yell, he didn’t seem angry, frustrated or inconvenienced. He seemed happy to help me. And I felt like I had a Dad for the first time in my life.
He let me stay with him instead of going to the movies with my friends one night when I was unwell but had a hospital appointment in the morning and needed to be close. We had fish and chips for dinner and when we went to the supermarket to get tomato sauce, and ended up back at the car without it, he didn’t scream. He didn’t call me stupid for forgetting, he gave me his wallet and I went back in and grabbed it.
He seemed to be trying.
Until I started to feel like he was using his time with me to get to Mum. I was so hurt.
The night before he died, we had an argument. He’d threatened suicide before, but only in an attempt to get Mum to stay when he had done something really terrible. My last words to my father were angry.
And the first word that entered my mind when I found out he was gone was ‘selfish’. I didn’t go with my mum to his house that day.
I shut down and it came from a place of hurt, of devastation, of anger at the loss of the possibility of ever having a loving relationship with my Dad. Guilt that in his last moments, he didn’t know how much I loved him and that a dad was all I’d ever wanted. Pain, knowing that I would never know if he loved me, if he was proud of me. If we ever could have had a happy relationship.
He had died of natural causes, but our final messages were etched in my mind and the opinion that suicide was selfish was one I held onto until I had my first son.
Post natal depression settled in and settled in hard. I had suffered from depression before, but never like this.
When my mind turned dark, they weren’t selfish thoughts that entered my mind.
I felt inadequate.
I felt useless.
I felt like my little boy would be better off being raised by someone like my mum. Not his own.
My thoughts, every time I looked at my little boy chatting to his mobile in his cot were “I’m a terrible mother. I’m never going to get better. This baby boy would be better off without me.”
My death wouldn’t be a punishment to that little boy, it wouldn’t be a punishment to my mum who had to share her house with me and my misery, my failure, my broken-ness. My little sister who should have had a big sister she could be proud of, learn from, look up to. It would be a gift.
It wasn’t an easy way out for me. It was an easy way out for them.
A burden lifted.
An opportunity for a better life.
That’s what depression does. It tricks you into thinking there is no way out. It takes away your hope, your joy, your ability to see any way but down.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is only darkness.
It whispers in your ear constantly and convinces you that nothing can or ever will change. Depression holds you down and sucks you in until the only way you can see out, is death.
Suicide becomes not an act of selfishness, but a misguided act of selflessness – the furthest possible motivation from the one that is so quickly assumed and assigned.
It’s irrational, of course. Life is never one to stay the same for long. It’s always shifting, changing, evolving and though progress can be slow, getting out of the tunnel of darkness is always possible.
When I look back at how far I have come now, at all of the magic of life that I would have missed out on if I had been successful, even 7 years later, I still cry. With gratitude that I didn’t have access to a more permanent solution. That I was surrounded by people that didn’t let me give up on myself. That I am here to watch my little boy grow and change every day into an amazing little man.
People suffering from depression shouldn’t be reading about how selfish they are, or what terrible people they are for not coping.
They should be reading about how much hope there is.
About the light that IS at the end of the tunnel.
About where to get support when they are being bullied.
About where to go for protection when they are in dangerous or abusive relationships.
Where they can get judgement free help for their alcohol or drug or other addiction problems.
Where they can find help to create a plan to deal with their financial problems.
Where they can go for reassurance with their tiny babies, where they will be shown love, acceptance, encouragement and reminded of the incredible women they are and how absolutely capable, without a doubt, of being the most amazing mums.
People struggling should be able to easily access all of the words they need to fight the voices inside their heads convincing them they’re stuck, hopeless, alone, a burden – they should be able to easily access success stories, coping mechanisms, safe spaces, relief from all of the negativity going on inside.
Where they can be shown that their lives are worth preserving. Worth fighting for. Shown that we’re all out here too, willing to fight with them.
Our words are so powerful.
We should be using them for good. For hope. For love.
It’s the only way we’ll ever win the war against depression.