From an early age, I have loved fashion. I’ve always had a little bit of a bold, edgy side and I believe that’s why I loved Kate Spade’s bright and bodacious designs from the first moment I saw them. Handbags, jewelry, shoes, I love them all and I can’t get enough.
Sadly, Kate Spade, a vivacious woman who appeared to “have it all together”, took her own life a few days ago, sending shockwaves throughout the world, reaching well beyond the fashion industry where she had made her mark more than 20 years ago.
It seems that only Kate’s inner circle knew that she was battling depression, and even those people never imagined that she would take her own life. Let alone the legions of women who adored Kate’s brand; I mean, how could someone who designed such bright, beautiful, and happy things have such a dark side?
See, that’s the thing about depression. It’s a deadly disease that, unlike some illnesses, isn’t visible to the naked eye. A person in the deepest, darkest throes of depression doesn’t appear sick. She might seem perfectly content, happy, and well-adjusted, only to knock you for a loop when you learn that she’s taken own life.
A Note To The Depressed Person
I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for close to 20 years, and I have to admit that for a long time I was great at hiding it. At first I hid it because I didn’t want to be viewed as a Debbie Downer, and then later because I recognized that the world in general views depression as a choice or a taboo, and who wants to be labeled as crazy?
It’s society’s ignorance about depression and mental illness that makes it so deadly. I mean, think about it. If you’ve got an ongoing headache, you go to the doctor and you get a diagnosis. Maybe it’s serious, maybe it’s not, but no one judges you for seeking treatment for a headache that’s keeping you from enjoying life.
But if you’re depressed, your friends say, “Snap out of it.” If it’s impossible for you to get out of bed in the morning, they say, “Get up and take a shower; you’ll feel better.”
No one says, “Maybe you ought to seek help. You know, talk to your doctor or see a therapist?”
At least that’s what the depressed person believes. When you’re suffering from depression, it’s so easy to believe that no one will understand or that everyone will perceive you as weak if you admit that you’re having a hard time.
But you’re not weak. In fact, I firmly believe it takes a stronger person to admit that they need a little help than to keep it to themselves without any idea how to properly deal with it.
My advice to anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, or mental illness is to say something. Tell a close friend or loved one what you’re going through. Trust them to understand and help you get the treatment you need. And if they won’t, if they try to placate you with helpful tips like, “Buck up, buttercup,” tell someone else.
As my friend Kathleen said, “If you feel something, say something.” And keep saying it until someone takes you seriously.
Your life depends on it.
While I’ve never personally considered suicide, I certainly understand how a person can reach the point where they see it as the only viable option to end their suffering.
If you feel this way, don’t try to go it alone. If you don’t have a close friend or loved one to open up to, pick up the phone. There is someone who wants to talk to you.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
A Note to The Non-Depressed Person
The funny thing about depression and mental illness is that many of the symptoms mimic the general maladies of everyday life:
- Always feeling tired
- Too much or too little sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of interest in things that you once enjoyed
- Not caring about your appearance
- Feeling irritated or on edge
See what I mean? These are things that everyone who lives in the real world feels from time to time. I’m sure you’ve briefly experienced some, or maybe even all, of these symptoms at one time or another, even if you don’t suffer from depression.
It’s when these feelings become a way of life and it begins to feel as if there’s absolutely no way out, as though everything is hopeless and it’ll never get any better, so why should I even try, that the struggles of everyday life become more serious. This is depression, and it’s as real and dark as it gets.
Depression affects more than 15 million Americans every year and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people ages 15 to 45. The median onset of depression is typically 32 years, and it occurs more often in women than in men. – HealthWay
Maybe you see suicide as an impulsive, irrational, even selfish act that leaves children without mothers and families without loved one. In some cases, perhaps it is all of those things but in many incidents, suicide is a well thought out and planned act meant to end a person’s suffering.
Generally, this is a long process for an individual that started with a faint idea that gradually took hold as those risk factors mounted and as the capability came into their purview. Leaving behind a note, as Kate Spade reportedly did, can be interpreted as evidence of the contemplation suicide often entails — it may be an attempt to remove the last psychological barriers to death. – The Chicago Tribune
I don’t see suicide as being selfish or taking “the easy way out”. I don’t believe most people who take their own lives see it that way, either. I believe that in most cases, the person sees suicide as their only option and may even feel as though they’re doing their loved ones a favor by taking their own life.
That’s why I believe it’s so important that we stop sweeping depression and mental illness under the rug, hoping it will go away.
We must stop telling people to “get over it“ and start giving them a safe place to come to when they need to talk about their feelings and what they’re experiencing.
We need to stop seeing suicide as a choice and realize that it is, in most cases, the last cry for help and the only one that is too late for us to get involved and do something about.
If you suspect a friend or loved one is suffering from depression or mental illness, talk to them. Get involved.
If you see something, say something.
Make sure your loved one knows that you are available and ready to be an instrument in their recovery and not a roadblock or judge and jury.
Dogs and Depression
A few years ago when my son was involved in an accident that almost killed him, he was left blind and disabled in other ways. He need round-the-clock care, which meant I had to quit my job to stay at home with him. I felt very lonely and isolated, not to mention the stress and strain of caring for him.
I firmly believe that it was my dog, Nike, and her unconditional love and unwavering companionship that got me through that time. I’ve often said, and I mean it with my whole heart, that she saved me during that difficult period of my life.
The same is true for Georgie. She is immeasurable source of happiness and love every single day, and my life is a better place because she’s in it. There is no doubt that my dogs have played a major role in helping me manage my depression and anxiety.
Did you know that:
- Dog parents are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with dogs have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets. One study even found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months.
- Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with dogs survive longer than those without.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
If you live with a pet (and I know you probably do since you’re reading this blog), recognize and take advantage of the benefits they offer. If you don’t live with a pet, consider getting one.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
If you are a pet blogger with a post about depression and mental health, please feel free to add your link below.