*This blog post has been updated to reflect the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain by suicide which occurred four days after the death of Kate Spade, who initially inspired me to write this piece.
Tragically, within the past four days, we have lost two great creatives to suicide. Kate Spade, an icon in the fashion world, and Anthony Bourdain, a storyteller, chef, and inspiration around the world. I wrote the following during a bout of anxiety about what can happen to me and others when we are in the middle of our illness.
There are times I fall silent. The silence ripples throughout my life. My friends hear from me less, I miss social outings, and my world becomes small and inward. The silence also happens on social media, in my business, and in my heart. Silence doesn’t say much, and because of this it is a wearisome place to be and is hard for those I’m in a relationship with. The only person I consistently and honestly share this time with is with my husband Peter, and I am so thankful for his open heart and support. Today I will share a little bit about this silence that can be interpreted in so many ways. It can be seen as being flakey, uninterested, contentment, and snobbery. However, it is typically from mental illness taking hold, and the outward silence is caused by how loud things are inside.
My anxiety can pop up at any time, caused by an emotional reaction to something stressful, or it can randomly wake me up in the middle of the night while my heart starts pounding out of nowhere. I feel it physically in my chest and my stomach, often with waves of nausea that stress me out even more. I feel it in my head as my worry runs away from me and I start to live in the what may happen as opposed to the what is happening with all the love and light around me. If I have to miss something, Peter will often tell people I am feeling sick. Which I am, but a virus or an infection does not cause it. My mind does.
I do not enjoy talking or writing about the specifics of my illness even after thirty years of learning not to be ashamed. Feelings of shame come rushing in when I’m in the middle of not doing well. My illness can get old and be tiring for those around me. I miss out on a lot because of it and friendships can more easily fade because of this. There are no rules, and there is no guessing when my anxiety might pop up. Depression, which I suffer from as well, has a similar pattern, with waves that go up and down never being sure when it is going to crash.
Last night, after a beautiful and productive day, after an inspiring and encouraging week, the tightness in my chest settled in again. As I type, I want to be silent, and I don’t want to share. However, I know that I need to. I know there are others out there that have days, weeks, months and years who are overcome with sadness and worry along with the guilt of being silent. I know there are others who have friends and loved ones who they are frustrated with and hurt by, and then feel guilty because they know their companions can’t help it. To our loved ones, keep showing up. Keep letting us know you are there for us. Keep calling and texting even if you know it may be another “no” to your invite. Keep letting us know we are loved. Ask us if we are ok. There are some of you who have been ignored and shut out by a friend, and you don’t know why. Maybe this silent, invisible illness is why. For everyone who loves someone with a mental illness, keep pursuing us. Since the passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I have seen many people share encouraging those who are suffering to reach out. This is incredible difficult and often impossible for someone who is sick to do. Check in on us, let us know you still love us and can’t wait till you can hang out with us again. Show up our houses to see if we are ok. Please do not disappear. To everyone out there affected by mental illness, you are not only, you are loved, and there is hope for brighter days.
Do you want to help a loved one who is contemplating suicide and don’t know where to go? Do you need help? Are you in a crisis? Visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and call 1-800-273-8255.