Kate Spade died yesterday. We may never know exactly why she took her own life- what demons she may have battled. But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she didn’t have the strength to keep fighting them. The commentary has already begun- the compassionate pleas to reach for help-not to soldier through the abyss alone. And the opposite, the judgement. In my experience, the judgements come from a lack of understanding. Most people that make these assessments of strength or character have never battled their own mind.
My inner voice has been my own worst enemy since I was a child. It has always whispered in my ear that I am not worthy. My feelings don’t matter- I shouldn’t have them. I am a burden. If I am not achieving something, I am invisible. My merit is based upon my accomplishments and what I can offer others.
Love must be perpetually earned.
My mind is a place of hypocrisy. The individuals that fill my heart are never viewed with the same scrutiny I observe myself with. I have never once questioned or intentionally undermined someones feelings. Because feelings matter- as long as they aren’t my own. My love is steadfast, I give it without prerequisites. The love I receive is viewed as tenuous, at best. If I falter, so will their love for me- at least, that is what my demon hums in my ear.
It is a melody sung so sweetly that I cannot find the inconsistency in the reasoning.
There are times that it all gets to be too much. The pressure I steadily exert upon myself becomes too heavy a burden to bear. I withdraw into my mind, becoming a shell of myself. I desire escape. I tell the world that I want to escape the responsibility- the house, work, obligations. The words I never utter- the core of the desire- is to run away from myself. I want to be someone else for a while. Someone more. Better. Easier. Worthy.
I framed it in my mind that it was about being a single mom. The difficulty and isolation of doing it alone. And that is true, but I cannot say that this self destructive voice suddenly appeared with the change in my marital status- or even the birth of my son. It just had more fear to burrow it’s roots into. Fear that I am not doing enough as a mother. Fear that I will never be a good enough partner.
Fear that I deserved what I got.
The reality of being a single parent is infinitely more difficult. There isn’t anyone to tag in when you are beginning to reach your breaking point. There isn’t anyone to hug you after a long day and say that you are doing a good job. That sometimes kids cry or yell- it isn’t a reflection on your ability to parent.
Friends and family try. They tell you how cute your child is. That the meltdowns are typical for this age. That you are doing the right things. But they don’t live in your house- in your mind. They didn’t witness your blood pressure rise as your child fights you. The frustration that forces you to leave the room before you yell at your child. The way the steady string of tantrums, born of your offspring battling a cold, wear you down. They don’t witness the small blunders and mistakes you make daily. The ones you replay in your mind.
The monster that resides in my mind isn’t invincible. I have beaten it back through the years. Never to oblivion, but it’s voice has less impact, until something shifts. The bedrock I have carefully formed throughout the last 18 years of my life, cracks. He gains momentum. The whisper becoming a bellow.
The cycle of battling my demon is one I fear will never end. I fret that I will never have the strength to conquer it. That maybe the battle makes me more difficult to love. Impossible to love. Perhaps, my inability to stop the cycle indicates that the demon is right. Or I don’t possess the fortitude to win the war.
When I get to the other side of the chasm- maybe taking days or weeks- I realize that my tenacity is something to admire. I could easily give into the darkness. I could stop fighting. Stop trying to love myself- even the broken pieces. But I don’t. I get weary. I have to rest. I contemplate quitting- but I never do.
Please don’t misunderstand- I am blessed. My abyss hasn’t been deep enough to desire oblivion in a really long time. But I have. I have experienced times in my life that I believed the only way my existence would be beneficial to anyone, would be through my death. Suicide felt like the only way out. The only relief that existed- not only for myself but for those that surrounded me.
I barely survived those periods. And it was only because of the few brave souls that saw the turmoil in my eyes. The camouflage of my smile didn’t fool them. They fought for me- they often fought against me. They took the risk of ruining our relationship to plant seeds. Seeds of hope. Seeds of therapy. I would not be here today without those people. My son would not exist without those delicate souls.
I really thought that this essay would end in a rant about extinguishing the stigma on needing help. The support of mental health awareness. The need for more accessible care for those that need it. Even programs of prevention- mental health checks before it feels insurmountable. I was wrong.
Those things are necessary. I still experience the stigma. The fear of showing my emotional scars. I feel the judgement when I mention that I battle anxiety and depression. That I see a therapist. That I work hard to vanquish my demons, but sometimes lose some ground. As the words tumble from my heart to the screen, I realize that what we really need more of is compassion. Authenticity. We need more delicate souls that pause to really look at someone. To see the pain that resides in their eyes. The people that keep fighting. Fighting to help those of us in the dark- to view ourselves like they do. Sometimes the words seem to fall on deaf ears. The voice of our demon louder than yours. But please don’t think the seeds aren’t being planted. Your words may be the most important ones a person will ever hear. The words that seemed to go unheard are the very ones that saved me.