The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain got me thinking about my decades long struggle with clinical depression. I’m a very private person and have only disclosed my depression on an as need to know basis. It doesn’t define me or dominate my life, but if you are going to be part of my life, you should know. Now, I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it, it’s just a tiny part of me.
After two successful, high-profile people take their lives in one week; I felt it was time to speak a little about it.
And it’s not that you need to know this about me, you don’t. However, because depression is such a pesky and pervasive disease, I would bet you have one degree of separation from someone who either has, or struggles with, clinical depression.
For the ignorant, depression is a disease the same way cancer is. When the depression is active, it’s not that someone is “down” or “in a funk”; to the person in the throes of it, it’s much more powerful. Depression manifests itself differently, and to different degrees, in every person. To mitigate it by saying, “snap out of it” or “lighten up” is incredibly dismissive, insulting and reductive. No, you probably don’t need to walk on eggshells or treat them with kid gloves, you simply need to be cognizant, at least, and empathetic, at best.
Because the disease is so different for everyone, I can’t pretend to know, and won’t speculate, what struggles Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain had, but I can honestly say that I’ve stood at the same precipice. I get it. For whatever reason, I decided to step away from the edge where they, and many like them, did not. For those that take that last step into the abyss, it’s not that they’re weak; it’s just that the disease won.
That’s a very important distinction. Some people survive and live with cancer, others don’t.
As insidious as depression is, it’s treatable and, for many, manageable. But just as the manifestation of the disease differs, so does its treatment. There is a plethora of ways to combat depression and it doesn’t make you weak or threaten your identity to seek help in the battle. If you need or want help, please, seek it. I understand the myriad of feelings you may have around depression but you can keep it private. I’ve battled for decades but I suspect maybe a dozen people know depression is something I have.
If you are looking out into the abyss, please take a deep breath and step back. Give it a day, and if not a day, give it an hour, and if not an hour, give it a minute, and if not a minute, give it a second because I promise you, it will get better. I know that to be true.
Suicide is not a sign of weakness; it’s the ultimate realization of depression as a disease.
Originally published on TheLatest.com, June 9, 2018