The Brutal Reminder We Need After Kate Spade's Death

by Kimberly Zapata
Originally Published: 
David Howells / Getty

Trigger warning: suicide

The headlines flashed across my screen swiftly, and without warning: “Kate Spade Dead At 55.” “Kate Spade: Death Ruled Suicide.” I sunk into my chair. Another life lost. Another human being whose journey ended too soon.

Of course, more details soon emerged — one’s which delved into her personal life and the details surrounding the act itself — but I ignored those pieces, and that “news” coverage. Kate Spade wasn’t (well, shouldn’t be) defined by her final days, her final hours, or her final moments and focusing on those was a moot point. The famous designer was gone. That we knew. What we didn’t know was why.

No one was asking “how can we help.”

And the trend continued on social media; I saw post after post proclaiming Spade was “selfish.” Only a “terrible” person would kill themselves, especially when there is a child (or children) involved — as there was in Spade’s case. (Spade and her husband, Andy, had one child, Frances Beatrix, who is 13.) But Spade wasn’t a bad woman, a bad mother, or a bad person; Spade was hurting.

Hurting in a way few of us know anything about.

You see, I have been where Spade was. I am a 34-year-old mother of one. I have a loving husband and a bright and beautiful daughter. A perfect, four-year-old little girl and yet I have contemplated suicide.

Scratch that: last year I almost acted on said thoughts of suicide.

While my daughter played in the park, I wrote a note. While my daughter colored, I made a plan. And while my daughter watched cartoons, I began acting out on said plan — I sorted and counted pills to make sure I had enough pills. And then I waited.

Through dinner, bath, bedtime. I waited.

And then finally, at the end of the day, I sang my daughter lullabies before I kissed her little forehead for “the last time.”

I said “goodnight,” and then “goodbye.”

But it wasn’t because I wanted to hurt her — or my husband. It was because I believed I was helping them, saving them. Because, in my heart of hearts, I believed I was so sick and so toxic that they would be better off without me. That the world would be better off without me.

I remember thinking that, if I died then, my daughter would be better off because she could forget about her “crazy” mommy. Daddy could remarry, and they could move on.

Of course, I now know that isn’t true but that’s because today I am in a good place. I am medicated, and of sound body and spirit, but mental illness does things to your mind. It tricks you. It lies to you. It convinces you there is no answer, and no end. Life is without help or hope, and it convinces you you are bad.

Everything you do is terrible, stupid, horrible, or wrong.

And while I can honestly say I didn’t want to die, I also didn’t know how to live. The pain was too much. The sadness was too great, as I imagine it was for Spade — who we now know had both anxiety and depression.

Make no mistake: I know this hurt, this ache, this sense of isolation and desperation may not make sense to someone who has never struggled with a mental illness; trust me, I do. (Mental illness is almost impossible to explain or define.) But believe me when I say that those who contemplate — or complete — suicide do not do so because they are selfish.

In what should have been my final hours, I thought the act was selfless; I would be helping those I loved. And while I do not know Spade’s motivation — nor will I hypothesize — I do know she may have had similar thoughts.

I know many “survivors” and many of us share similar experiences.

As for those saying Spade should have been saved because of “all she had” — money, fortune, family, and fame — you’re right; she had everything most of us dream about. Everything, and more. But she didn’t have the one thing most of us take for granted — health, specifically mental health. And her death is a solemn reminder that mental illness knows no bounds.

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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