I Understand You, Kate

I did this illustration as a previous post on Female Creative Directors and it saddens me that I’m doing a separate one, dedicated to Kate Spade and her struggles. But here it is and I hope you get something from it, I hope you read it all and ignite your own spark inside to speak – because all we have is our precious time and each other 

But why when she’s so rich, talented and successful, living the American dream in New York city? why would someone like that be unhappy?!

This is the kind of ridiculous things people will say, the kind of things she may have heard from the ones who knew she was suffering with her mental health. Some coming from a caring place – trying to comprehend her pain, while trying to put her life into a perspective. Others being shallow and ignorant, implying that you can only suffer with mental illnesses when you are less fortunate in terms of the possession of materialistic crap, financial and business status. This may have been one of the things that made her feel worse at times, that made her feel she wasn’t unfortunate enough, or poor enough to feel depressed and alone. It may have made her feel she was ungrateful and spoilt for feeling so much pain when there was so much to be grateful for. She may have questioned why she felt so low when she had so much to give, ‘her happy go lucky brand’ she called it, which I read in a piece for @awomensthing magazine written by Tawny Lara, founder of SobrieTea Party – read here. Which makes me think of how hard it must have been to open up when her brand, which is her name – was perceived as bright, optimistic and happy.

The Dangers Of Happy 

When we are told daily, to love our body and our minds, to be happy, to smile when we don’t feel like it – it can get too much for someone who suffers with mental health, it can make them feel like their unworthy to to feel down. It puts pressure on us to love ourselves which isn’t an easy or overnight thing to achieve. The best thing we can do for coping (in my opinion) with our feelings is to feel and feel everything with a passion – sadness, fear, happiness, love, depression – all must be felt deeply to be able to cope and categorise. To know when you are truly feeling loved is to know that can be truly hated. To know you are truly happy is to have previously felt truly sad. Why do you think the blues were created? to give people understanding and perspective for their low times, to cope together, to feel the sadness is to have the blues – is to understand more. Happiness is subjective, just like success – everyone has their own take and perspective on such.

In the 90s when my mums depression started to peak, she went to her doctors to seek help and guidance – she came out feeling worse than imaginable. He told her she was beautiful and talented and had nothing to be depressed about, he said she should be happy for her assets and her family. Despite probably meaning well, this was the wrong thing to do, she knew all this, she knew what she was capable of, she knew she was pretty and talented – being told by a doctor that these a reasons one shouldn’t feel mentally ill is sickening and narrow minded. Our brains are another organ in our body that suffers from illnesses, no matter the lifestyle or environment. Just because the world thinks you should be happy doesn’t mean you are or should always be. And just because Insta images and influencers tell you to be happy and love yourself doesn’t mean you should feel bad for not doing so.  A friend of mine recently worked in Tanzania; she was shocked at how happy people were despite not having much food, shelter and other basic necessities. But when you actually think about it: none of us can help where our parents decided to have us and bring us up, all environments are different and the impacts of those environments effect us all differently. Appreciation and contentment can be found anywhere, its what is important and available to the individual at the time. Telling someone with deep depression that they should be happy because they have food, money and physical health is one of the worst things to do and can have significant consequences. So please think before you speak and if you know someone who is ‘too fortunate’ to be depressed.

Surrounded by Depression 

I grew up with my mum physically and mentally ill, this was due to a variety of things, an underlying health condition that GP’s failed to treat and recognise along with a variety of life events that negatively impacted her – heartache being a main component. It was only when she saw her own fate pan out on my life after I finished uni, that she finally ‘woke up’ as she calls it, that she started to feel better. She had to save me – no one else would or could. And it can only take the one soul to console and save us from ourselves. When I was 2, I nearly died choking on a 2p coin, luckily I was saved by my mums best friend – Someone I grew up with. He was punk, stoned and always laughing and smiling. He killed himself when I was 12 and this changed everything for me, the way I viewed pain – that pain can be invisible, that depression can be disguised with an expression.

Becoming Complacent 

When you get into a routine of feeling low you can automatically accept it and start to feel that way everyday, it can be a whirlpool of unhappiness taking over your body at very moment. You start to realise this is just you, that you feel like this and that’s it. You become complacent. This is dangerous as when you might have to potential to do something that makes you feel better you ignore even the possibility. When mum suffered, people around me said she felt sorry for herself, and she’d be the first one to admit she was a victim for too long, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for herself at times, to accept everyday that that was her life and there was no way she’ll be happy again. Ofcorse she had happy times and growing up I remember her laughing, engaging and being happy, however this taught me – that a smile can still be genuine in a moment but that moment isn’t permanent. And that sometimes that smile is masking so much pain and suffering. Mums new motto is to ‘try and change your mindset and do something that distracts you’ hers being her crafting.

Industry Pressure 

The fashion industry can be the most brutal, backstabbing, shallow industry in the world, it can also be the most diverse, accepting and creative industry in the world. The balance is hard to achieve, and it’s prominent that the pressure is high – especially with the rise of  online and the slow downfall of bricks and mortar. It was my dream to work corporate in the industry! to be at Hearst in the heart of fashion publications – that dream adjusted as I grew and started to see a pattern from the outside. Talking to people who had worked in industry – from design houses to publishing houses. Decades ago it was seasonal collections designed by a creative director and made by the manufacturer – now we have pre fall, fall, spring summer, autumn winter, ready-to-wear and ofcorse haute couture (which has been around centuries) the fast turnaround has created immense demand on designers all over the world. There is no time for a break, no time to enjoy creations, or take a step back. For a little insight into what the industry did to a very kind creative; watch House Of Z on Netflix, a documentary about Zack Posen. Another example; when my friend was doing her dissertation on fashion interns and how they were treated in the industry,  she was shocked at how many people at Alexander McQueen were mistreated. However I wasn’t shocked at all, I gave her a different perspective; to look at him, what happened and how fast his career took off at such young age –  how he’d suffered with mental health and was probably worn out by the demand for his craft. He didn’t just design garments – he carried out a conceptual show as well as taking the lead in design and construction. How could the interns have been treated right if he wasn’t? how much would that demand have trickled down and put more pressure on the interns – in turn making them unhappy too.

My Experience 

I first attempted to kill myself was when the love of my life was cheating on me, I knew it was happening, all I could think of was ‘how it was my fault’ and how I know he’d lie and deceive me again. I was addicted to excessive HIIT training, I had body dismophia and extreme hypothyroidism, I hated my house share, my university and myself. I remember finishing an intense spinning class and walking out aimlessly onto one of the most busiest and dangerous roads in Birmingham –  the truck, yes TRUCK! swerved and luckily didn’t cause any damage to me, himself or other drivers on the road. I numbly walked back to my room and cried myself to sleep. I’d never felt as alone and lost in my whole life. mum had to come stay for a month to make sure I wasn’t alone. All I can say about this time was; it was similar to bipolar, one minute I felt great the next like total shit. So on a good day I tried to seek help for my thyroid disorder but I was told on numberous occasions that my results were ‘NORMAL’ which they weren’t. After fighting to be heard, after 3 years of getting worse I am finally on the right path to treatment (not anti depressants which I’ve been wrongly offered multiple times but Hormone Replacement Therapy) I still have my down days but it’s not as severe and I’m not as tired as I was. If you suspect you have a thyroid disorder please contact me, I would be more than happy to guide you the best I can, so you too can be heard and treated before it’s too late. Depression, tiredness and weight gain are main symptoms of hypothyroidism, and the system (in the UK) may not want to treat you for this as it’s too expensive so please contact me if you do suspect you have this disorder and I will help you get the right treatment and understanding.

So What Now?

We talk, we try to understand, we change and develop. I learnt that ‘the hardest thing in this world is to live in it’ from a very wise heroin that was Buffy Ann Summers. I didn’t truly understand that when I first heard it but now I do. I get that survival is hard, that happiness is subjective, that life is hard, the hardest thing. There is nothing easy about being on this earth together. What is hard, is to live, fight and survive daily, especially when you have an image to precieve, a brand to sell and happiness to fake and fluctuate. I understand you Kate, I too feel and have felt simular pain. Right now I’m in a better place and I’ve been heard and treated by loved ones and professionals. However it’s a journey and I know it won’t be easy, that is everyday is different. And I know that some days it only takes that one thing to push me over the edge. I get it, I get why you did it and why people will continue to commit suicide. However,  I will share and try to help to prevent people from feeling that it’s the only way out – no matter how applealing it is when you are truly suffering. It can get better, I know it.

Society seems to love people who are no longer with us. Maybe because their no longer here, their time is valued more than the ones that remain. Just think if we were all treated like this, like our time, health and happiness meant as much being here as it does when we are not here. I think there could be less suicide and more help towards preventing it. What do you think?


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