Being Bi-Polar: the case of Kate Spade

The shocking death of Fashion designer, Kate Spade, on 6 June 2018, has meant that the world has lost a creative talent; her family – a wife, mother and more. The medical examiner has ruled that her death was by suicide – this heightens the tragedy of the loss of one so young for at 55, she was still in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to her family and friends. 

What has emerged in the news is that Kate was battling the demons of manic-depression. One of my friends and mentors suffered with this condition. I witnessed how she could be by turns, superhumanly energetic and productive and able to get by on a few hours sleep whilst also full of crippling self-doubt and despair…. 

Her sister has reportedly claimed that her suicide was not a surprise to her because she had noted her fixation on the news coverage of Robin Williams’ suicide in 2014.

She left a suicide note in which she reportedly begged her daughter not to blame herself. Of course, Kate spade loved her daughter, but her psychological pain was simply too intense and her judgement too clouded, to avert her final and fatal decision. In time, we hope, her daughter will figure out that it had nothing to do with her, and was all about her mother and what was going on in her head at that time. Sometimes we let ourselves down by thinking we have to have it all together all the time.

It is always better to let go of an image rather than reality – the reality of being alive. If you look at the central themes of her fashion creations – handbags and other accessories – it is one of optimism and fun. Yet, her reality must have been very different.

Her sister claims she did not seek the help she so desperately needed for fear of sacrificing this brand image which had made her famous. What the world can never tire of being reminded of is that celebrities too can have problems, as do we all, yet still bless the world with their talents. But her sister’s claims have been challenged, and we will never know whether or not she was in treatment.  

Perhaps, this is a wake up call to challenge our assumptions that certain privileged people have it all, and the others do not. The stark reality, as brought home to us by this tragic death, is that no-one has it all, and that we are all simply doing the best we can.