Recently, two prominent celebrities took their own lives – fashion designer Kate Spade on June 5, and celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain on June 8. Both took their own lives by hanging.
Judging from my Facebook news feed, a good number of my friends seem to be very upset by this. And because of my pesky “empathy” chip that I cannot turn off no matter how hard I try, I’m actually kind of upset about it, too. I never owned a Kate Spade handbag, nor did I ever tune into an Anthony Bourdain TV show on purpose. But hearing about someone taking their own life just really gets to me at my core, whether I knew the person – or not. And the question is always – “Why? What made them feel like this was their only option?”
The first time in my life I experienced suicide was in 1984, when my friend “Polly’s” (not her real name) dad shot himself to death in the basement of their home. Her dad had worked as a pharmacist, and there were…rumors that he’d “dipped” into the pharmaceuticals, and that he had a substance abuse problem. Add to that the demons he regularly fought in his own mind – having been a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he had served as a medic. I don’t remember ever seeing him that much at all, but I know “Polly” was very close to her dad. After this happened, she never talked about it. And I was kind of asked to NOT talk to her about it, either. Her mom and my mom both knew each other (they were both leaders of our Girl Scout troop). I was also asked to be watchful when I went to go see the movie Purple Rain with her, which featured a suicide scene. We saw the movie together, and she did not seem to react to it at all.
Looking back, I’m not sure that not talking about her dad’s suicide was the right thing to do, but things were different back then. It was a different time – we were ALL supposed have stiff upper lips when the chips were down. Kids typically weren’t coddled by their parents, and you had to put up a good front around your friends and other family members. If things were shitty, you soldiered through – you took your lumps, and you moved on. We didn’t talk things out, and if you had to cry, you did that in your room – NOT on mommy’s shoulder. I had diaries helping me sort through some of MY emotions!
To this day, this is still pretty much my coping strategy for dealing with life’s adversities. Soldier through it…Though I will sometimes take the edge off by having some drinks (not the healthiest option, I know…I know). As for keeping your own emotions at bay? Sooner or later, you’re going to have to face them. In my case, every couple years or so (give or take a couple of years) my emotional “monster” HAS to rear its head. It helps that I have outlets for this, and am able to keep it “somewhat” vented, for the most part. As an analogy, if you will, if you flush enough alligators into a sewer system, sooner or later, they’re going to overpopulate and come back out into the city. Emotions are not much different. Push them down one too many times, and…before you know it, you’re sitting on your kitchen floor- bawling your eyes out. Or you start crying uncontrollably (and unexpectedly) when you hear “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan – or “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters on your car’s radio. Yes, I’ve done all of these things…though I have never flushed a gator, lol (trying to add levity to this dark blog, bear with me)!
Yes, those are all symptoms of depression, I’m sure. I’m at peace with not being a completely “shiny, happy” person. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to work through my very sporadic depressive episodes – within a few days at the most. I’ve never taken any antidepressants or medications for anxiety. But there are people who live with depression ALL of the time and do take the meds to cope with it. They have trouble getting out of bed, are lacking in energy, lose interest in activities, etc. Antidepressants are a popular “remedy” for this, but with a very scary side effect – suicidal thoughts. A co-worker explained why years ago, which I’m going to attempt to paraphrase:
“When you’re severely depressed, you’re not motivated to do anything, go anywhere, etc.. After you take antidepressant drugs, that changes – and you may feel more motivated to do things. And one of those things might be to kill yourself. Because you didn’t have the energy to do it before and weren’t motivated to do it.”
Science backs him up, which you can read in an article here…
I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what goes through the minds of people before they take their own lives. I’ve never contemplated suicide. All I know is that I don’t want anyone to ever feel like this is their only option – and I want it to stop. Every single time it happens – it’s tragic. Nobody is unscathed when a person takes their own life. I want to believe that for each person who does this, that there will be at least ONE surviving person whose heart was broken because they decided to do it. And even more heartbreaking is knowing that the person who took their own life probably didn’t know that there was even just ONE person who cared whether they lived – or died. We can’t always know what people are feeling, and with people tending to put on their happiest faces to mask their sadness, it can be hard to know. And that could be even more tragic than suicide.
If anyone bothered to read this, thanks! I don’t usually do blogs of this serious of a nature…but feel that this had to be said.