Within an hour of learning that the highly successful fashion designer Kate Spade had taken her own life, I learned of a local teenager who’d made the same gut-wrenching choice. I can think of no clearer example of how nondiscriminatory mental illness is.
Kate Spade was a fifty-five-year-old millionaire. She lived in Manhattan surrounded by luxuries.
The young woman we’ll call Olivia was homeless. She lived a life full of more struggle than anyone should have to.
On a lovely June day, both of these women took their lives. They put an end to their pain. They saw no other way. Their stories, so different and yet the same. I’m struck by these two lives where pain was the common denominator. Their lives could not have been more contrasting and yet had they met and shared their stories I imagine them nodding along in solidarity.
It is hard to imagine how Kate could’ve been suffering, just as its hard to imagine how Olivia survived as she did. It reminds us that depression is fair in its disbursement. It also reminds me that in the eye’s of God these souls were beloved daughters. Equally important and valued.
From the accounts I’ve read, each woman could light up a room. Each leaves a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved them. Each deserved a better ending to their story.
Together let’s work on better endings. Let’s accept that mental illness doesn’t know boundaries. People from all walks of life travel through mental health challenges. It happens to wealthy and working class, it happens to kids and senior citizens, it happens coast to coast. It happens to those who don’t seem to have a cause and to those whose circumstances make it understandable. It happens when you least expect it. It happens. It is a disease.
It doesn’t matter if you’re living on Park Avenue or under a bridge. Mental illness is everywhere.
Most of us walk through this life trying to follow the light, trying to walk a pretty straight line. There’s no telling for who or why, but for some, the path gets tangled and dark. It isn’t a route of choice. Too many get lost.
If each one of us shines our light when we can, when we are able, perhaps we can keep the path lit for those who are struggling. Let’s link arms and walk together. Let’s slow our stride to notice those who may be having a hard time keeping up with the pace of life. I’m certain that if we make eye contact, ask questions, and keep showing up it will make a difference. Our simple kind gestures could serve as breadcrumbs to lead someone back to the light.
If you’re reading this and feel lost yourself, please know, all along the way there are people wanting to help you. There are people willing to walk alongside. There are people who’ll listen and not judge. There are options. There is hope. Sharing your pain and your story is not a sign a weakness but rather a brave step forward.