About a month ago I sat down after organizing & thought to myself, "What I wouldn't give to have a tiny bit of steak, mashed potatoes & some nice bubbly." Usually a clean eater on a budget (although Diary Queen Blizzards & some gluten free treats from the bakery Rise down at The Lantern Coffee Shop get me off track sometimes) I thought, "You know, it's a nice evening, you never go out. Live a little." I changed my outfit & wandered around the city looking for something that looked good. I like to let my intuition guide me in these moments. Nothing I found sounded good so I headed back home but then made a decision to check out a new-ish French restaurant nearby, New Hotel Mertens, that I had heard about. I sat at the bar since I was there solo & the bartender was super friendly & got what I do for a living right away on a really thoughtful level. A good sign I was in the right place. A couple of other people near me at the bar were open to friendly conversation & after perusing the menu I found my treat, steak tartare & some bubbly, just what I was after. "Don't worry about the money," I thought, "It'll be worth it."
After a while the conversation continued & I brought up the loss of Anthony Bourdain. The French food, my "last meal" type order - Bourdain's ultimate question he asked often on TV, "What would your last meal be?" - & feeling like I was traveling even though I was close to home made me think of him. Everyone near me was mourning him & we talked about what a loss it was. Then, as was often happening at the time, the conversation shifted to the loss of Kate Spade. One of the people I was talking with said that Kate was "selfish" & had heard Kate refused treatment because "she was worried about how it would affect her brand that was supposed to be happy....Everyone knows that you need to call for help, whenever there's a celebrity suicide that number is all over." My stomach clenched. I get why the family & friends of someone who has taken their own life can feel it was a selfish act because they're the ones left to mourn & with the aftermath, especially when children are among those left behind. However, I also know that there are a lot of really brave, smart, successful people out there really struggling with depression, anxiety & pressure on a level that is hard for others to understand. I immediately began to defend Kate Spade.
Here's my thoughts on it:
Society. Why wouldn't Kate Spade be worried about what seeking treatment might do to her brand when we live in a world so consumed with judgement, bullying, slander, portraying people in a false-light in an effort to make themselves look better & so on? It was the fault of society that we allow so many people to drag someone that is struggling further into the trenches by gossiping & using information to hurt people for personal gain. I said, "Even if Kate Spade had sought help you're assuming that help would be adequate. Who knows what those around Kate Spade were saying to her to make her feel that way." Who knows what she was really feeling but her? She was operating on a high level of success in a city that is fueled on stress in an industry that relies on image. I have lived and am living with the results of what it's like to have people try to take you down professionally & personally by portraying me in a poor light & I am just a very small business trying to do good in the way I can. I know how hard it is to process what's happening & to push myself forward anyway. I can't imagine what Kate was dealing with on her level of success. I said that a lot of my clients that are struggling with clutter also struggle with anxiety & depression, just like Kate Spade. Some of them are really worried about other people finding out they're working with a Professional Organizer because of "how it will make them seem" at work & in social circles. Why? Because we live in a society that will take the smallest sign of struggle & chew on it til it hurts someone. We have got to shift forward on a bigger scale & change the way we talk about those who are struggling. Because guess what? Everyone goes through struggle at some point. I always encourage my clients to remember that asking for the help of a Professional Organizer doesn't say anything bad about them. It's no different than working with a great Personal Trainer, a solid Therapist or any other good expert that gets you through life in a way that lifts you up. That said, not all people in those professions are always doing good work so we've got to own who we let advise us, a hard lesson to learn sometimes & not always an easy task. I don't doubt that Kate Spade had some really amazing people in her life lifting her up when she was down. I also don't doubt that she had spent a lot of her life navigating rude comments, harsh words & who knows what else. I said that when people are struggling in such a deep way, they can't even pick up the phone in those moments. Dialing a number for help is too much. Their neurotransmitters in their brain are not connecting, they literally can't reach out for help. Our brain's hard-wiring or lack of being able to make the neurotransmitters connect often gets in the way. We went on with our conversation, talking through it.
I really enjoyed my conversation that evening & am glad we could openly talk about such a heavy, taboo topic & still have a good time. It made me think about how passionate I am about mental health & the stigmas surrounding it. How sometimes, when someone appears to "have it all together" they really may be suffering. How at times, when someone is in a tough, beyond comprehension situation & shows signs of "mental illness" they may just be working through eliminating toxic situations & people from their life. For example, a person who "isn't in contact with family & friends" a "classic sign of mental illness" may actually be trying to get away from bad situations & people, a scary scenario, right? But this is actually a necessary step to be mentally healthy in a lot of abusive situations. The red flags of mental illness are sometimes misread. They're also sometimes missed. It's a difficult & confusing path for all of us to navigate. I firmly believe that mental illness is a phrase that's overused & sometimes misused. When misused it is dangerous. Those that are truly mentally ill are those along the psychopath & sociopath lines. Those that are struggling with mental health are on a different spectrum and seeking help shouldn't become a scary diagnosis but instead a step toward freedom & truth full of potential. When someone is at risk for hurting others, mental illness is the cause. When someone is at risk of hurting themselves, maybe sometimes they're more lost than mentally ill. It's hard to say. It's different in every situation. I believe that we, as a society, have got to ramp it up. We've got to change the words we use, the gossip we participate in, the food we feed ourselves, the list goes on. We've got to support each other in getting mentally healthy. People are taking their own lives as a result of feeling lost in a black hole of shame. People are worried about their careers if they seek help. People are losing their loved ones for the sake of success at any cost. I can only control what I say & do but am trying, in my own small way, to take a stand. I see my clients that are truly struggling transform themselves through organizing all the time. I have faith in myself to get through really tough things in my own life even if sometimes I feel really uncertain. I hope the next time you find yourself wanting to say harsh words about someone that could affect their livelihood unnecessarily you think twice. Think about Kate Spade feeling worried about her company. It could be what saves someone from taking their own life. You don't know what someone is really going through.
Suicide rates are sky rocketing across the U.S., especially among 45 to 55 year olds. That is far too young to miss out on the joy of life. That's far too young to lose your spouse or sibling. I hope we start to see those numbers fall by having an honest conversation & choosing our actions & words wisely. It's time to address what's really going on & how society plays a roll. I hope we can all practice empathy, refrain from judging & help those that are suffering if they are open to it.
Later in the conversation that evening I ordered a small batch of heavenly mashed potatoes filled with mostly butter. As I thought about how good it tasted I said, "This is exactly what I wanted. I hope this isn't my last meal." I meant it. And it wasn't. One of the people I had been chatting with picked up my tab so that worry of spending money was taken away too. The bartender had also given me some small treats for dessert too & made me feel spoiled. I felt really grateful. Another sign I'm on the right path even if it is a bumpy one. I hope you find yourself believing you're on the right path, even when it feels like a series of terrifying cliffs you can't navigate & know if you let your intuition & true voice guide you you'll make it through anything. That inner voice, your intuition, is connected to something much bigger than ourselves. I have seen it, live it & believe it. We just have to actually listen to hear it. If we listen to our inner voice first we'll be able to hear the struggle of others even when they say nothing. I'm trying to listen as much as I can. If you're truly struggling in this way I hope you hear your own voice soon & know there's a lot of us out here rooting for you, you're not alone.