Thoughts on Yesterday's Events

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Yesterday the devastating news of fashion designer, Kate Spade's suicide ruled the headlines, and I saw endless tributes from friends and fellow influencers all over social media. Some of it seemed opportunistic and gross to me, especially with all of the gory details being released to the press. I can't put my finger on it, but it just felt like a weird juxtaposition. The Kate Spade brand has been an obsession of mine since 1999, but the events of yesterday made everything feel hollow somehow. (I'm specifically not using her image or name in the meta data of this blog post for my own reasons.)

I'm not going to rehash her issues or her life. Every news site is doing that, but maybe I can lend a different perspective about mental health and suicide since this appears to be a case of someone struggling who went the route of self-medicating instead of dealing with the perceived stigma of treatment and the damage it would do to her brand. In my experience, that's the hallmark of someone who doesn't want to change, anyway. 

Based on my experience with loved ones, suicide takes a form either of abject despair and hopelessness with unrelenting pain that needs to end, or it's a form of spite and revenge. I can reconcile the hopelessness side of it. I cannot mourn the spitefully motivated ending of one's life, which by all accounts, allegedly is the circumstance of yesterday's events. Spade left her daughter a note saying, "Ask Daddy," which I interpreted as, "Ask him why I did this to myself, because it's his fault," since it has also been reported he recently asked for a divorce and according to her sister, they were trying to get Kate into rehab. 

That information is what makes it hollow for me. I can't find sympathy for Kate's suffering. It makes me not want to look at any of the thousands of dollars of merchandise of hers I own. I think of her daughter, my daughter's age, and hurt for her. She will be the living collateral damage of a selfish act. 

Yes, come at me for saying it was selfish. It was. 

I've seen what a spiteful suicide can do to a family and witnessed a spiteful suicide attempt when I was six. The latter was over a relationship ending, and she was going to 'show them' by killing herself. Her mother, my step-sister, found her. Not the boyfriend, or the friend who were now dating, HER MOTHER. She had been self-medicating as well, and lying about getting the treatment our family worked hard to get her. Her funeral was a traumatic experience for everyone. The two people she was punishing with this act were beside themselves in a state of raw and acute grief I had never seen before. The little brothers and sisters she left behind were still children, and had no idea how to process any of it. I've never felt sorry for my niece. It's been seven years, and it still ignites a fire of resentment within me. 

The attempt I witnessed when I was six was a histrionic, "fine I will just kill myself, then!" that resulted in me witnessing a knife coming out, and a broken wrist from the knife getting wrestled away. Two small children were in the room witnessing this. She didn't care.  

This is where I, a person being treated for PTSD and panic disorder, have a hard time with the blanket sympathy suicide receives. In all cases, mental health issues are there, and I have the utmost empathy for everyone, but with this particular category of people who take their own lives, there's choice involved. There's planning involved. There are targets. It's intentional. 

It's no different than murder in my eyes. Only the survivors don't get the release of death. They're immediately thrust into a life sentence of carrying another's burden with them. 

It may be coldhearted of me, but my treatment is a daily choice. It is hard work to get up, take medication that has side effects, it's expensive to pay for therapy weekly, there are moments I struggle and have to deal with those emotions, panic attacks, and despair and it sucks super hard. Taking care of my mental health is weaponized in certain situations. I totally get how hard it is. It IS easier to self-medicate and hang your problems on everyone else. People will pity you, you get a lot of attention and gratification. It's actually less stigmatized to be a wino and show up to work hungover day after day than it is to miss a Friday morning to see your psychiatrist monthly. Therapy copays with good insurance are $150 a week. Therapy also sucks at times. 

So, would I rather spend $50 a week on wine and not have to deal with my life? Yep. 

But where I'm coldhearted is where choice comes in. If you've had people in your life go, maybe this isn't working, or you realize it for yourself and you choose to be an asshole because you're a selfish coward? I will not mourn you when you die. I will mourn for those you have left behind. 

Maybe that's my victim complex showing and I'm oversimplifying, I'm not trying to be a dick about everything on purpose, this is just how I feel as a person who's been in the mix in similar situations of suicide as a 'Fuck You for my pain," and people preferring to self-medicate. 

If you've felt suicidal before, I am not trying to shame you, either. I think we've all been there at varying degrees at one point or another. I'm hoping you're able to have the support and resources to work through this. If you're struggling with these thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255. If you're too embarrassed to talk, they have an online chat feature at suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Let's take this opportunity to talk about these issues out in the open and what they really are instead of romanticizing it, because that also reinforces stigmas, like you're doing mental health wrong or something. The more topics like these are out in the open, the less scary they become, and the more people it can save. 

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Jennifer Gulbrandsen