This evening I learned of the passing of one of my favorite designers, Kate Spade. It’s amazing how creative energy can defy the limits of space and time and light a spark of inspiration in a complete stranger. Kate’s designs had that ability. Her creations were witty, cheeky, and inspired me. I was always amazed by how she could create a purse out of ANYTHING! An origami dinosaur, a takeout bag, a wicker teapot, you name it! Kate thought outside the box in such a way that combined simplicity and color with just the right amount of whimsy that allowed every boss lady to do lunch with her inner child. I admired Kate. She was a designer who, I felt, understood me. Which is what makes the fact that such an artist felt compelled to take her own life all the more tragic.
As I flipped through photos of her work and old ad campaigns I was struck by the terrible irony of the stationary that read, “she writes her own story,” and the day planner with a cover that said, “expect the unexpected.” Truth is, Kate wrote the very unexpected ending to her story in a suicide note she left to her 13 year old daughter. I can’t help but wonder how Kate had come to this conclusion?
I’ve been reading lots of comments about the selfishness of her final act and I will admit that I was struck by a wave of anger too as I thought of the 13 year old who is now without a mother. But then it occurred to me that the level of selfishness spoke to the severity of pain Kate must have been in. It goes against a woman’s biological nature to abandon her child. That tells me the strength with which depression held Kate. It had rewired her thinking and deleted all the maternal instincts in the process.
I myself have experienced depression, as have my family members…including my cousin who made an attempt to end her life in 2009. Thankfully she is still with us. In October of 2014 I lost one of my best friends to suicide. He had attempted to get help but when he told the hospital he “thought” he was suicidal he was told to come back when he was sure! My friend had a strong support system of people who loved him and made every attempt to get him help. Still, the system failed.
From the shamanic perspective, depression is a symptom of soul loss, something that occurs after we have experienced a traumatic event or something that tells us the world we’re in isn’t safe. So the piece of us that doesn’t feel safe breaks off in search of well being. As shamans we are trained to travel to the different upper and lower worlds to retrieve these pieces for our clients. This is a standard practice in other cultures, sadly in modern western society we are told to put on a brave face, take a pill, and get over it. Obviously this formula isn’t working.
Tonight I am thinking of Kate’s family and of her little girl. I am also thinking of all my brothers and sisters; my tribe members who have lost loved ones to suicide. Often when we hear of another suicide it can bring up a lot of emotions. That is okay! Let them come out! Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to me! Even if it’s just a post on social media, let other’s know how you are feeling. And if you don’t know what to say if someone comes to you, that’s okay. Tell them that. Just be there and hold space for them. It’s only when we start to open up and allow ourselves and one another to be truly vulnerable that we can begin to heal. Kate was correct, we do write our own story…and we can change the ending at any moment.