Kate Spade killed herself yesterday.
As many of us hearkened back to memories of getting our first Kate Spade bag and the world sighed in collective disbelief, I felt sad for Kate. I didn't know Kate Spade and had never met her, what I do know is the loneliness and depression that can come from running a business and how this depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. These feelings are all too familiar to me.
As I read through the Twitter responses of heartfelt condolences to her family - there were the familiar tweets about mental health: "If you need help, speak up, ask for it," etc.
What no one realizes is that we live in such a success-obsessed society, that as founder/CEO of a company, it's embarrassing to ask for help. Social media, particularly Instagram, has become a mirror of what our lives should be - running a business, traveling the world, glamazons walking the earth with our friends, and maybe a baby or two on the hip!
But is this reality? Can you really juggle all of this and be mentally stable?
Possessions & loved ones don’t remove the fear, anxiety, and apathy of life. For those of you that haven’t experien… https://t.co/kncCClTJq5— c r i m s o n 🔌🚶🏽♂️ (@c r i m s o n 🔌🚶🏽♂️) 1528292647
I am just not sure.
I run a business, Pop Up Plus. I started it in 2010, the first plus size pop-up shop ever. I started it while having a full-time job. When I first founded it, I was completely energized. I was working 100 hours a week between my business and my full-time job. I did this up until 2017 and by then, I had gained an additional 40 pounds, I was borderline diabetic, I suffered from anxiety so much that I couldn't keep my food down, and a host of other stress-related illnesses.
I was constantly pitching my business to get funding, to grow and to scale, and though I never got the money needed to get my business to over $1M, potential investors would press me for more traction before they gave me a second look. In 2017, I was stressed out, I began having anxiety attacks, and every "no" from an investor or even a customer complaint would leave me bowed over on my floor in a flood of panic.
I would start rehearsing all my "failures" in my mind.
Every bad decision I made as a business owner became magnified in my head. These negative thoughts would overpower me, and I would feel like I wasn't myself. Feeling nauseated was frequent and the room would often feel like it was spinning. I just couldn't control it and there was always that final thought: "Just do it, take your life, no one will care….it will be better than staying here. If you kill yourself, this torment will end." This downward spiral happened repeatedly and sometimes for hours.
I confided in my friends and they would pray for me relentlessly. To be very honest, the only thing that kept me going was my bible, christian music, and my faith. Yet, you wouldn't have known it, I was out and about, still trying to run my company, keeping up with the #blackgirlmagic, when deep down, I lost my sense of purpose.
If an unexpected tragedy happened to take me out of this world, I wouldn't have cared one bit.
When my suicidal thoughts became my morning routine, I decided that I had to make a change. I am not sure if everyone gets this chance. Suicide is not always the result of a mental disorder or a decline in mental health. Suicidal thoughts begin with mental torment, that can be aggravated by grief, loss of your dreams, family members, a perceived failure - any circumstance that deals a sucker punch to your expectations. I am not sure what leads from the thoughts to the actual act of suicide, but I understand the torment before you get there.
As a company founder, when you are expected to be successful, it's hard to admit that you are having issues. When everyone is a "keyboard gangsta" with lethal opinions, you don't even want to ask for help, because that cry for help may turn into social media judgement.
I am no Kate Spade, she launched with six handbag styles out of her apartment. She pioneered the concept of making the luxury bag an affordable accessory. I could only wish to have her resources to grow my business. Despite her elevated platform, she and I share this experience - I know and understand deeply the mental torment that can lead to the final act of suicide.
I encourage fellow company owners that are suffering such torment to seek help any healthy way they can. As for me, I have decided to stop pretending I am okay. I have decided to be transparent about the challenges that come with owning and running a company. I have decided to first take care of myself until I am able to figure out what to do with my company.
Kate, may you rest in peace.
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