"as a society, we have to shift our perspective when things are rough to 'i am hurting and that's okay' from 'i'm broken and no one will love me'." - Robin helget
For the last week, I have been trying to gather my thoughts into something that would be helpful for the public regarding the recent passing of Kansas City native Kate Spade and soon following, Anthony Bourdain. There are many directions I could take this blog post. As a child therapist, I thought about taking it to what conversations to have with your kids. As an adult therapist, I thought about taking it to talking about mental health and continuing the fight to end mental health stigma by simply being honest about how you're doing within your family and friend groups. However, as a young professional, I decided to take it another way.
We are dying of loneliness.
In a world of connection, we are completely disconnected from the things that bring fulfillment to our lives. We are the richest, strongest and most resourceful we have ever been in America, yet we are the most unhappy group of humans thus far. Everything that we have been told to work for, milestones reached, or the number on our bank statements have been check boxes on a list that our culture has prescribed for us. Though, like many prescriptions, this one prescription doesn't work for everyone. It provides temporary solutions at times but only rids us of symptoms and does nothing to the underlying cause for the symptoms: loneliness, disconnection, and fear of not being accepted.
Depression yields the type of loneliness that you may think of when hearing the word; however, it also yields feeling alone within yourself. We may be surrounded by groups of people and feel like the only person in the room. Disconnection, too, yields this kind of loneliness.
Every human longs for connection. We want to be heard, liked, loved, a part of the group, and in the process of this, we learn scripts on how we should behave, how we should feel, and what we should be doing to fit in, so when we experience something that may threaten this connection to others, we disengage. We may isolate. We may hold secrets. We may be fearful to show what we are experiencing because we are afraid of the response of others.
We have it all together.
At least, that's what we show in public. For example, no one knows that while posting the most recent glamour shot, the working from home picture, the going out on Friday with friends picture, all were posted while underneath the covers finding the perfect filter and forming the perfect caption that would let the world know how awesome my life is and how secure I am.
They have it all together.
At least, that's what we think when scrolling through social media accounts and seeing the person next to us in the stop light in the recently washed Range Rover. That's what everyone said about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. No one was looking at the person underneath the portrayed masks that were shown on their brand or television shows. Did anyone know Kate's attempt at coping with depression with alcohol? Did anyone see the pain between Anthony's jokes and sense of humor?
Like many other people who we deem "have it all", both Kate and Anthony suffered in silence. As powerhouses in their fields, a "boss babe", a mother, a husband, a father, a sister, a magnificent chef, an icon, an entrepreneur, a do-it-aller: Kate and Anthony did what many of us do daily: we wake up, put on our fake clothes and fake smiles, get in the fake cars and go through the motions.
As a society, we have to shift our perspective when things are difficult in our lives from "I'm broken and no one will love me" to "I am hurting, and that's okay." To understand that we are not broken because we have had a string of bad days or can't get out of bed or because we've suffered a gut-wrenching trauma is the biggest power we can have over our lives. When working with people, I believe it's fundamental that we, as humans, are showing others and living our lives to teach the following:
1. It's okay to not be okay.
You know the conversations that go like this:
"Hey! How are you doing?"
"I'm good! How are you?"
"I'm fine! Thanks for asking."
We're all guilty here. Either we've been the culprit of always saying "I'm good" or "I'm fine" or my personal favorite, "I've been good! Just really busy!" or we've accepted the answer from others as truth. Somewhere between the messages we've received and our experiences, we've come to believe that not being okay--not saying "I'm fine" or "good"--makes us a burden to others.
Challenge: Check the facts and your perspective bias. We are the most important people in our worlds. Because of this, we see things only from our lens. If you think you have no friends to talk to because everyone else "has it all together", ask yourself, "Have they really never been through hardship? Are they really incapable of understanding where I'm coming from or is it my fear from stopping me?" Do you generally help people when asked? If your friend came to you with the same problem, would you think they are a burden? Doubtfully. People, in general, like helping each other--like connecting with each other.
2. Real connection is a vital part to the human experience.
It's imperative to our well-being that we have relationships with others. Although we are constantly connected online, this is not real connection. Connection is sitting down with someone to have coffee, to get to know someone else. Connection is sharing beliefs, experiences, hardships, wins, and values. Connection is knowing you are not alone and that you have others to do life with. It's being loved and liked for your authentic self--for who you really are--not just what you show others.
Challenge: Put your phone down. When waiting for a bus, for a doctor's appointment, in the grocery line, make an effort to create a conversation with people. Life is happening all around you. You are more surrounded with people than you think. Make yourself open to communicate with those around you, and you will likely be met with acceptance, not resistance.
3. You are not alone.
No matter who you are or what you are going through, there are always going to be the people who are going to have judgments around it. One of the most vulnerable and brave things we can do is show others our true selves, while the fear of being judged or rejected for these selves lurks in the background like a stranger in the shadows. These judgments are from those who may not understand what you are going through and have no idea how to appropriately respond, from those who have been through it but don't want to show vulnerability themselves, or from those who are incapable of empathy. The judgments are not a direct implication of you--it's of them. Remember that everyone else is doing the same thing as you: walking around with the pretty masks on, pretending, hiding, and faking. They are likely experiencing or going through something you are, but sometimes you have to be the first one to show vulnerability. Often times, you will be met with support..with words of "me too" or "I understand"...with words, more importantly of, "You are not alone."
To the hopeless: there is a way out of the darkness.
To the lonely: someone understands.
To the brokenhearted: it does get better.
To the grieving: it's ok to have happy moments.
To the suicidal: you & your life matter.
To those who've lost a loved one to suicide: it's ok to hurt.
Compassion is not a political thing. It's not a religious thing. It's not an industry thing or mental wellness thing. It's a human thing. Be kind to one another. Have authentic conversations. Tell people how you feel. Be willing to listen. Don't just read this and think "Oh that's a great idea" - do it. And when you do, post on social media about it so that others know they are cared for, loved, and that kindness does exist with the hashtag #dogoodkansascity
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at:
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Millennial Life Coach & Therapist
For more articles written by Robin, click here.