Since high school, I’ve been very fond of the Kate Spade brand. My first Kate Spade bag was a hand-me-down from my best friend who was getting rid of a few bags. It was a gorgeous, giant golden sac of a bag with one perfect leather strap that supported the weight of all that could fit inside. I cherished that bag, even after it began to fall apart… because it was a Kate Spade! For the first time, her simple approach to feminine fashion made this t-shirt and jeans girl, this basics lover, this Midwest gal raised on Gap, feel that chic was accessible. Anthony Bourdain was one of my many silver fox crushes and aspirational storyteller icons. I’m devastated by the losses of both of them. As an artist, these two figures have long-held special places in my heart. Depression is a monster.
When I heard the news of their passing and apparent suicides, I was very sad. Not only did I love their work, but I also struggle with depression and anxiety. However, even though I have been through bouts of depression and had my fair share of down days, I still thought, “how could things have been so bad? So many people admired them. They were both indisputable mainstream successes!” One moment later, I realized, “as if depression is not enough to bring someone to such desperation.”
And thus, I acknowledged my internalized stigma against mental illness. Even though I attend therapy, have regular check-ups with my doctor about my depression and anxiety, and am medicated for my mental illness, I was not immune from thinking that depression couldn’t be at the core of this. Today, I feel the weight of pain and fear for my friends and family I know (or don’t know) are struggling with the same illness. When I feel this powerless, it helps me to take action with practical acts that can directly impact a person close to me.
One thing we can do is help each other take care of ourselves. I want to offer some practical, anecdotal (not clinical) tips to help the people who are closest to you if they are or you think they are struggling with depression. He’s how my friends were able to help me through my lowest days:
They said things to me like “this sounds a lot like depression. Have you seen a doctor?”
They followed up with me to check in to see if I had made an appointment.
They shared with me their stories of depression and how therapy and medication had helped them.
They showed me kindness and compassion through my darkest days, when taking care of myself seemed impossible and being a good friend was on the bottom of my list of priorities.
They kept me accountable for taking my medication daily.
They offered non-judgemental support.
They made me laugh.
They reminded me that I need to be my first priority, and to put my needs before theirs.
There’s no way that any one person can do it all, but compassion is a magnificent tool to create a more hospitable world for those who suffer from mental illness.