Many of us have asked the question this past week, “Why?”
Kate Spade, who was was renowned for her taste and rock star creativity, died by suicide. A whole generation of women were caught up in carrying her bags or wearing her latest garb. Anthony Bourdain, who was known for his vivid curiosity and sense of adventure, as well as culinary expertise, did the same.
Since beginning research on Perfectly Hidden Depression, I’ve been afraid we were missing an extremely important question — a question, that if not asked either of yourself or those you love — could lead to loneliness.
Would you tell anyone if you felt hopeless? Can you reveal vulnerability?
What you’re risking if you don’t express painful emotion…
If perfectionism is at your core, if you don’t even know how to express painful feelings, you could be more prone to die by suicide. More and more research is backing that up, and as we’ve talked about here before, suicide is on the rise.
Michael Yapko, an internationally known expert on depression, gives us the most recent accurate information about depression and its rising prominence in the world. It’s not a disorder that has one cause. Its presentation can be unique from person to person.
And, as we’ve tragically learned this week, suicidal thoughts can be very well hidden.
Since writing and speaking about PHD, many of you have contacted me about what you’ve been hiding for so long. Early trauma or abuse that has stayed a secret, rigid punitive families where sadness, disappointment or grief weren’t allowed to be expressed, taking care of alcoholic parents whose need swallowed your own, feeling as if perfection and being a star was the only way to be loved and valued, or being loved conditionally where you had to meet the high expectations of parents or risk rejection. These and many other paths can lead to the choice to hide or the need to look perfect, where all the while, there is a darkness underneath that no amount of success can soothe.
Another question to ask… can you be vulnerable?
Are we asking the right questions that might determine if someone might kill themselves? Experts remind us of what to look for in depression — isolation, not enjoying things that were previously enjoyed, a noticeable depressed mood. But what about the ability to be vulnerable? Do you — can you allow others to see that you’re struggling?
If you’re a perfectionist, the answer is likely “no”. It’s chilling to think about.
And the people who loved Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and anyone else who has died by suicide without others realizing the extent of their pain, have tragically learned that very fact.
If you are struggling or triggered…
Allow the sudden deaths of these two people to help you recognize that emotions and impulses can get way out of hand, very quickly — that you can take only so much pressure. You don’t have to be famous to hide. You don’t have to have written a cookbook, be a famous TV celebrity or a fashion savant to feel despair and loneliness.. You could be anybody, anywhere, dealing with an imploding depression that’s slowly eating away your vitality, although no one can truly see it.
Here is one man’s story.
Please know you’re not alone. And like many others who’ve abandoned perfectionism for honesty and depth of feeling, even if initially the feelings are quite painful, you can feel a freedom and connection that you may never have experienced.
Our hearts go out to the people who are mourning their family member or friend. It’s a long road of healing.
The Suicide Prevention Lifetlinein the United States is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is 1-800-273-8255. For the UK, the numbers can be found by clicking here. Also in the US, you can text 741741at any time and reach someone trained to help.
If you wonder where you might fall on the spectrum of PHD, click here for a questionnaire.
Please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you identify with PHD. All emails are confidential.
You can hear more about Perfectly Hidden Depression and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly blog posts and podcast
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