Kate Spade & The Disturbing Theme of Suicide

In the wake of fashion icon Kate Spade’s suicide, people are saying, “How could it happen? She owned her industry. She was an icon. She had everything to live for, didn’t she?”

Obviously not. If you truly believe you have everything to live for, then you don’t end your life. Even if you’re wrong, the pervasive sense that life just isn’t worth it will eventually overtake you — if not through suicide, then through a different, more passive kind of giving up.

Next, people speculate on causes. “Her husband left her.” That could certainly trigger a suicide. A sense of abandonment by a lover or spouse is perhaps the lowest point of the human experience. But a lot of things could trigger a suicide. The real question is what causes one. And that’s much more likely to be a combination or a build-up of many things, over time.

As I wrote in an earlier article,

Perhaps one way to understand suicide is to understand why people don’t do it, even when they feel like they want to do so. The most common reason I have ever heard for not following through with suicide is: “I can’t do that to a loved one.” “Loved one” might refer to one’s young children; one’s grown children; one’s spouse; one’s circle of friends; one’s parents or siblings; even one’s pets or work associates have been offered to me as examples.

Spade left behind a 13-year-old daughter. To do such a thing, you’d have to really want to be done with it all. You’d have to truly believe your daughter is better off without you being alive. And while Kate Spade probably was not suicidal every waking moment of her life, some part of her had probably been giving up on life, bit by bit, until she ultimately made her final choice. Once she did, it wasn’t as hard for her to accept her choice as for the rest of us now.

Next, people speculate on “mental illness” and the lack of available care. They wish to reduce suicide to a simple medical condition that afflicts the person totally against his or her will. In this case, that’s absurd. Ms. Spade had access to pretty much anything she wanted, and she knew that.

Suicide, while commonly thought to be the byproduct of mental illness alone, is deeper than that. It’s more than reflective of a psychological condition. It’s a philosophical statement. It’s a reaction against existence as such.

It’s very sad, troubling and confusing for those of us who want to live to hear of suicide. But to someone who has given up on existence and living, it probably makes a lot more sense.

At any rate, it’s simplistic to assume that “lack of a good doctor” is the primary reason one would end one’s life. People committed to suicide lie to their doctors and loved ones all the time.

When you really want to end your life, you do it. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s true.

We tend to look at the person who commits suicide as a total victim. Almost like the victim of a crime at the wrong place at the wrong time. But, rational or not, suicide is still a choice.

However flawed, distorted and emotional the reasoning, suicide is not something done to a person. It’s something one does to oneself.

We have to consider it from that shockingly politically incorrect perspective if we’re ever to understand it.

Quite honestly, suicide is a choice possibly based on anger as much as anything else. “I’ll show you”. The ultimate way to convey this message to a loved one who has rejected you, or to anyone else — God, existence, society — is through taking your own life.

Of course, the satisfaction (however irrational) can only come in the anticipation because once you’re gone … you’re gone.

The world is full of people engaged in slow suicide, by the way. The most obvious examples of slow suicide are alcoholism or drug abuse. But there are plenty of other self-defeating or self-destructive behaviors that people engage in every day. Millions of people kill themselves piece by piece, day by day — their inner selves, if nothing else.

Suicides like Kate Spade’s are a grim reminder that yes, money and success do not purchase happiness. Money and success only have meaning if they arise from happiness — from the love of the doing. And from a fundamental love of living. If you weren’t happy to begin with, even if you happen to be really good at what you do, then the wealth and influence you happen to acquire in your success will not be enough to sustain your spirit.

There’s no substitute for purpose, self-esteem and rationality as a way of life. If you possess these qualities in too little quantity, then even mega-success will not save you — not from yourself.


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