Even though I just returned from a wonderful vacation with my family, I couldn’t ignore the news about the tragic suicide of Kate Spade and then today, Anthony Bourdain. Two Americans that seemed to have everything, chose to tragically end their life. I can remember buying my first Kate Spade bag almost twenty years ago and admiring her color choices and fun sense of style. In reference to Anthony Bourdain, I don’t think I missed a single episode of No Reservations on the Travel Channel. His insight as a storyteller and great appreciation of other cultures intrigued me from the very first show. Yet he was found in Paris—-one of the most romantic cities in the world—-dead from an apparent suicide. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain leave behind young children that are now grieving for their parents. What on earth is happening, you may be asking yourself. You are not alone.
The statistic I heard on the news was a gut punch: suicide rates are up an astounding 28% in this country. Yes, you read that correctly. My heart breaks for anyone affected by suicide (regardless of the means used) as well as anyone who suffers from mental illness such extreme grief, depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
It’s easy for me to relate, as after all, I’m one of them.
Perhaps you can relate as well if you take a closer look into the mirror. Whether it’s grief from the passing of a loved one, depression with the inability to process disappointment, or the crippling anxiety of waiting for the other shoe to drop, many of us suffer in silence. The only feat we’re convinced we’ve conquered is that of faking it, pasting on a smile and convincing everyone around us that everything is A-OK. We laugh at jokes, smile for facebook photos, and yet inside we may be feeling something far more different. We do everything in our power to keep it well hid.
THAT, my friends, has got to stop. If you can relate to this post already, then you owe it to yourself to seek help. Go to counselling. Go to a close friend. Go to Jesus. All of these will welcome you with open arms. We can no longer overlook mental illness in this country or view it as something suffered by “those other messed up people.”
Over the years I’ve heard such comments as “antidepressants are for weak people,” or “how dare she commit suicide, that’s so selfish.”
Sadly, I can’t help but think that individuals who make such degrading statements are ignorant about mental illness and in need of some serious counselling themselves. They lack the skills of compassion and love. That alone is heartbreaking. I pray that if you’re reading this and have been guilty of such an attitude, that you take a closer look at how Jesus lived and loved others. Oh, and take that log out of your own eye as well. We are all one phone call away from something that can bring us to our knees, causing us to look up at God and question “Why?!!”
Dear friends, I wish I had the answer to why children overdose on drugs, why elderly parents commit suicide and what causes people to jump off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge just five miles from my home. If only God could write us a letter and explain why even those people who seem to have life by the tail, end up hanging themselves with a soft silk scarf.
Left behind are individuals who are always asking themselves, “What could I have done to stop this?” We often result in believing that if we had tried hard enough we could have fixed or stopped the tragedy from happening. It takes someone with far more expertise than this blogger to analyze what kind of childhood experiences, traumas or abuse that may have contributed to mental illness and or suicide.
But sadly, those answers often never come. Consequently, those of us left behind sink into a deeper depression and life spirals even further out of control. We tell ourselves lies and believe them all. My friends, that is a result of the devil willing to do anything to deepen our insecurities, our sadness and increase our fears. Satan will do everything in his power to get us to turn away from God, hoping we’ll tell ourselves that Jesus is not good, otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed such tragic events to happen.
STOP that way of thinking. You cannot blame yourself when such tragic circumstances take place. God is in control of this world and I firmly believe that whether it’s on this side of Heaven or in Heaven itself, we will see why the pieces fell as they did. I am convinced of that. His word tells us that.
We CAN look for signs in our loved ones that clinicians state are risk factors for suicide or mental illness: extreme depression, alcohol or drug use, previous mentioning of contemplating suicide, or the desire to be left alone.
We must love and seek to understand or to be understood. If the above traits describe you, dear one, seek help from a professional and do not be afraid.
As with Bourdain and Kate Spade, it is often the creatives who suffer the most from depression, anxiety and even mania. Others include Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe, Robin Williams, I could go on and on and on. Even this blogger and simple jewelry maker in Taos understands this. Perhaps it’s our yearning to be understood, to express ourselves, or the beauty we see and can’t articulate it properly that causes us pain. I struggle to understand it myself.
I think of Vincent Van Gogh and the letters he wrote to his brother Theo, begging him to understand and believe in him as an artist. Vincent wanted to be a pastor, originally. Yet when he dressed in rags and lived among the poor, people thought he was deranged. His heart always broke for the suffering, whether it were miners, farmers or even prostitutes. He’d even had a older brother who’d died that was also named Vincent. This poor artist was the second child named Vincent. Can you even imagine the pressure?
Van Gogh created painting after painting with no buyers (except for his brother) while others laughed and poked fun at him in the streets. He drank, went into fits of range, felt like a failure and shot himself in a wheat field. I’ve stood in the asylum where he lived and painted…and I sobbed. If only he could have seen how brilliant he was, that his paintings now hang in museums around the world, and that what others originally saw as ugly have now sold for millions of dollars. If you’ve never heard Don McClean’s song Starry Night, you can do so here.
Give it a listen and open your heart to those you love and who are hurting. Or if you listen to this song and feel just like Vincent, go seek help and know this: To Jesus, you are NEVER a failure. I wish Vincent could have seen that. God thinks you’re beautiful, right where you are, regardless of your past or present. He approves of you and wants you to run to him. And if you can’t run, then limp, walk slowly, crawl if you have to. But I promise He’s there if you’ll allow him into you life.
And if you’re not ready for Him yet and still hurting, then please go to a friend and simply say, “I need help. Can we talk?” A real friend will wrap their arms around you and show you unconditional love. The first step is becoming vulnerable enough to admit we cannot face this world alone. Vincent had Theo, but just think of all the more masterpieces he could have created if he’d gotten help from friends and felt Jesus’s love.
I pray daily for my readers and all who are hurting, grieving and seeking to be understood. I pray for myself. Know I understand you, dear readers. May God help us all to be sensitive to those who suffer in silence. We all have the choice to leave fingerprints of condemnation or that of courage and compassion. I shall choose the latter. I will always choose the latter.
Allow God to create a masterpiece in you. Give him the brush and say, “Not my will, but yours.”