I am Kate Spade. For those of you who know me beyond my writing, let me clarify. I have not ever considered suicide, but who knows what would have happened if I had not gotten help and stopped drinking. Kate Spade obviously struggled with mental health, whether or not she drank. I have struggled with alcoholism, also a mental health disease. Alcoholics drink to change the way we feel. The drinking changes us, and our brain chemistry, often increasing our depressive thoughts and feelings.
I am Kate Spade. I care about what people think of me. You might be, too. I am known by my reputation for being the cheerful “good girl” who is a devoted wife, mother, sister and friend. People who know me expect me to do the right thing, but also know I am human and flawed. People who do not know me, judge me by the facade of my life. I live the life I watched my mother live, it’s all I know to do. Polished and presented beautifully to the world but hiding pain and difficulty underneath the surface.
My mother kept a beautiful home and entertained elegantly. She cared about what others thought. She could welcome people into her home at any time of the day and it would be tidy and clean. My mother never left the house without being “dressed for the day”. She might have had a raging migraine, but her outfit would match and she’d have her signature Revlon pink lipstick on her smile. She made it look effortless.
But behind closed doors, another reality existed.
I learned from my mother, present your best face to the world, and your family. Don’t let them see your pain. Don’t show your weakness. Be strong. My mother suffered from terrible migraines and kidney disease. She could spend days behind the doors of her home, curled up in a dark room, but when she presented herself to the world she had her “face” on, as she would say. The public spaces of her home were organized and tidy, but behind the closet doors and inside the dresser drawers things were often chaos.
I sit here now wondering if that is the way she felt inside. Chaotic. Disrupted. Unorganized. My mother is no longer alive for me to ask, she died nearly 10 years ago, but my heart tells me that if I could ask her she would say, Yes.
I have not completely followed in my mother’s footsteps. I’ve not been able to master the constantly tidy home that she did. I have been known to rush around and stuff closets and cabinets with piles of paper and clutter, or the oven with dirty pots from the kitchen counter, when I know the doorbell is about to ring.
Why do I feel the need to present an image of pulled together perfection? Who demands that of me? The person entering my home or the voice in my head? Who demanded it of Kate Spade? We cannot ask her, but we can ask ourselves.
I am Kate Spade. My facade, the image the world sees, and thinks it knows, is not the me I see in the mirror, nor the voice I hear in my head. I am thankful for the family and close friends who know, and love, the real me. One of these days I will feel safe to show the real me to others, the ones who only see the facade. I, like Kate Spade, do not feel safe, yet, showing that person to the world. Kate Spade’s suicide is heartbreaking, most importantly for her daughter and those who loved her. But as a person with a platform and a voice, it is sad to think she felt she had to hide her mental health disease rather than share it publicly, allowing her world of admirers to see her humanity and offer support for her as she became a voice for the voiceless.
Small steps are being made, mental health is being discussed more and more. But, until people feel as safe being public and open with their struggles with mental health disease, including alcoholism, as they would if they had cancer, then we will keep loosing precious souls.
I truly believe that one of the reasons my mother died when she did is that she would not ask for help. She self medicated a cold, that turned into a sinus infection, which eventually entered her brain. She was on dialysis at the time and her body was unable to rid itself of the toxins of the infection or the myriad OTC medications she was throwing at her cold combined with the numerous prescriptions for other conditions.