CW: Discussion of suicide, self-harm, and depression within this post. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please contact Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in crisis, text CrisisTextLine to connect with a crisis counselor. You are not alone.
Yesterday, my heart broke. Someone I cared about took their own life.
It wasn’t a family member or anyone I personally knew, but my favorite fashion designer, Kate Spade. I hope a clearer picture of why she made this decision will come out as more information is made available, but it really hurts. I can’t even begin to imagine how her family feels in these first few days. For their sake, I hope they get some answers to help with the healing process.
It feels like 2016 all over again: the year where anyone famous I knew and loved died starting with Alan Rickman and ending with Carrie Fisher. While I grew up watching Carrie Fisher and listened to George Michael days before he died, they weren’t as pervasive in my day-to-day life like Kate Spade.
I was introduced to her designs over ten years ago, and while she had already sold her company at that point, it still carried her style and name. I was drawn to the simplicity and utility of her bags (you could spill coffee on one and easily wipe it off with no damage) and the color palette could go with almost any outfit. I also liked the relative affordability of her product; it’s still designer prices, but well within saving a paycheck or two for one of her bags.
I bought my first bag in 2009 and I still own it, pulling it out for the spring/summer seasons because of the pattern. It’s a timeless style which I love.
It was probably due to the company’s sale to Coach that caused her brand to explode into the wider market. Until that point, I had to go to her official store or outlet to purchase her products, but I started finding Kate Spade in higher-end department stores and the big online retailer much to my wishlist’s appreciation.
With greater accessibility, I was able to buy something for all aspects of my life: jewelry, watches, pens, pencils, cups, mugs, stationery, phone cases, and more. If you’ve met me, you know that I have something Kate Spade on my person at all times. My wishlist is filled with various everyday items I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself, but would love to own. For Christmas every year, I make a trip to her physical store and pick one item for myself with my Christmas gift money.
Point is: I love Kate Spade stuff. Friends and family send me links to new items they see from her brand that they think I might like all the time.
When I learned about her death yesterday morning, I was shocked. I cried. I was surprised at my emotional reaction to the news. I felt a little silly to cry over a designer who hadn’t even owned the company the entire time I bought their stuff.
I realized that while she was no longer affiliated with the company, her name was and when I thought of her brand, I still associated it with her as a person. My connection to her was through her name and therefore when I appreciated a particular design, I appreciated her vision and creativity. Her name was synonymous with a style I loved, so she embodied that particular style for me.
Because I have so many things with her name on it, every day will have a reminder of her passing and the impact she had on my life. I will continue to appreciate the products created in her name, but it will be tinged with sadness at the loss and perhaps I will finally distance the product from the original designer.
I don’t intend to make this post about me or my personal struggles, but I do want to acknowledge that the nature of her death impacted me beyond appreciating her designs. It brings about a sadness, a reminder of how much work it is to live with depression and self-hatred every day.
I have discussed my own struggles with depression and self-harm, particularly how it relates to MS. I have reached very dark depths in my own depression, so to see someone I admire struggle and make a decision I have personally contemplated multiple times, it provokes a reaction within myself that scares me.
I have worked very hard to manage my depression, but I felt set back yesterday as I understood why she would make such a decision. I may not know her reasons, and we may never know them, but I understand the intent behind her decision to end her life. I had to work hard to pull myself back up and though I am not quite there yet, I am managing my feelings surrounding her death and what thoughts/feelings it provokes in me.
Each day is a fight for survival: survive your thoughts, survive your emotions, and survive your decisions. No amount of prescription drugs, therapy, or self-care can touch some of the darkest days – just existing through the darkness until it lifts gets you through. Some make it through and others cannot see when the darkness ends.
The darkness can end, but how that happens is different for everyone. What this means is there isn’t an easy solution or one-size-fits-all which can be particularly frustrating for those on the outside, watching a loved one struggle with depression. I wish I could offer words of advice or comfort as someone who struggles with depression, but what works for me will not work for everyone.
A person’s depression is so unique to them, their experience, and their perspective that it’s really hard to determine what the best thing to say/do for them is: comfort might work for one person, but it may be the worst thing to do for another.
The best I can offer is this silly mantra I came up with when dealing with my depression years ago: today is a bad day, but tomorrow will be less bad; next week will be less worse and next month will be a little better. I made sure to repeat it to myself throughout the day yesterday and even today as I still get choked up thinking about her death.
I do hope that if someone is struggling with depression, especially at such a level to contemplate taking their own life, that when they have a clear moment, no matter how small it may be, they will reach out to someone for help.
And for their sake, I hope they have someone who is sensitive and compassionate enough to listen and provide the help they need.
My thoughts go out to her husband, Andy, and daughter, Francis, at this time. May they eventually find peace and understanding surrounding their wife and mother’s death.