Dealing with DepressionNews of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is a painful reminder that our public selves can differ significantly from our private selves.  Kate Spade, with her stylish, practical and whimsical styles, helped women feel chic and attractive.  Anthony Bourdain shared with us his love of food, travel, and the fascinating locals he met.  His passion was contagious and we learned to look at food as a window into another culture. Both celebrities brought joy to our lives. Sadly, their public images belied their intense pain and suffering.

Their suicides prompt us to remember that wealth and success do not inoculate us from depression. The adage that money doesn’t buy happiness rings sadly true.  Often I hear people speak of their envy of those with large houses and expensive cars.  I also hear people wonder why are they depressed when they have access to all the opportunities and material goods money can buy.  Depression is an internal state that doesn’t discriminate between the rich and famous and the rest of us.

In today’s world, people often hide their true feelings thinking others only want to hear about positive things.  As Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist shared on a TED Talk, “Being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.”    We may judge emotions such as anger, sadness and grief as “negative” or push them aside.  We may have difficulty hearing our children or other express these emotions. In this way, we may create shame around human emotions or an internal voice that says “what’s wrong with me that I feel this way.” Tough emotions are a part of life.  We have to learn to embrace them and deal with them.    When we cutoff these emotions we fail to learn how to deal with life’s inevitable stresses and challenges.

In our personal relationships we need to make room to listen and encourage people to be open.  We have to be able to listen to the good along with the painful.  Difficult emotions like shame, anger and anxiety are part of the human condition.  We need to accept these feelings in ourselves and in others.   We also need to remember that an individual’s pain is invisible.  When it comes to people we encounter in our day-to-day activities, we must to bear in mind that we never really know what is going on in someone else’s life.  We must strive to treat everyone, including ourselves, with compassion.

Sometimes people fear that talking about emotions such as despair and anger will make them feel worse.  But the opposite is true.  When you deny your feelings the more they grow.   When people are able to talk about their feelings with an empathic listener they feel understood, comforted and more connected.

Depression and anxiety are treatable ailments.  If you are suffering, don’t beat yourself up or think that you should be able to will yourself out of it alone.  Talking with others about your feelings and getting support is a sign of strength.  If you or a loved one is struggling, make an appointment with a psychotherapist or counselor who is skilled at helping you to understand and deal with your emotions.