A note from a local Hoboken/Jersey City therapist
What Can We Learn From Kate and Anthony?
Why would someone who seemingly has everything reach such despair and decide to take such a drastic action? Having no personal knowledge of who Kate or Anthony were or their history of mental health diagnosis, I still wonder: how could the signs be missed? These celebrities have received much attention, but among us, in our community, our block, or even across the hall, there are other women and men who are suffering daily from similar symptoms.
Our society is obsessed with the façade; how things appear on the outside. We make sure to chronicle and post every bite we take, every drink we have, every family outing, workout, or event we attend. We are consistently obsessed with how many people have viewed our post, or how many likes we’ve received, ignoring what’s in front of us. If aliens checked our social media accounts, they would think earth is utopia and that everything is just fantastic 100 percent of the time. Little would they know that behind this idyll exterior are people that feel trapped in a hell of their own making; people that often don’t know how to channel those negative feelings.
Depression has many symptoms including interference with sleep (sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping), change in appetite, lack of motivation, inability to derive pleasure, feeling tired and having little energy, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and in some cases harmful ruminating thoughts that one would be better off dead. Some of these symptoms can be caused by other medical conditions or can be attributed to work or life stressors. To be certain about the severity or origin of these signs, it is important to be assessed and, if needed, treated by a professional.
With all the advancements in technology and science, many people still have a negative view of mental health or what it takes to be mentally healthy.. People are often afraid to seek professional help. Some think it is embarrassing to talk to a stranger about their personal inner world. Others do not want to admit there is something wrong with them. Some think it would be beyond their financial means or that their employer might find out if they used their health insurance. Immigrants face the challenges mentioned above but encounter a whole other layer of stigma and barriers to professional services. This ambivalence about seeking help causes many to miss an opportunity to better understand their symptoms and make sense of their emotions.
A few years back, I met a client who had a very hard time coming to terms with starting therapy. She was in her late twenties at the time, a Chinese immigrant who moved to the United States with her parents as a teenager. On our first meeting, she told me that her world as she knew it was crumbling. She was always taught at home that any difficulties or struggles must be kept in the family, but she got to a point where she just couldn’t bare the pain. Her parents made a good living in America and could afford paying for her tuition to an extremely expensive college. They purchased an apartment for her and got her a fancy new car. After college she was able to get a job in a large accounting firm. She was trying hard to assimilate in and live the American dream that had been instilled in her since childhood, but she was having a hard time. Shortly after she began experiencing anxiety attacks, which became more and more debilitating. She stopped riding public transportation and getting to work became almost impossible. The pressure at work, in addition to her parents’ consistent pressure to marry a Chinese man in an arranged fashion, made her feel lost, vulnerable, and unable to go about her life as it was. In therapy, she learned how to make sense of some of these debilitating experiences, and more importantly, how to cope with them. With time, her depression and anxiety symptoms subsided, and she no longer had panic attacks. This brave young girl’s experience is just one of many testaments to how crucial it is to seek help when needed.
If there is anything we can learn from Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s suicides, it is that mental illness can affect anyone. Life is demanding, full of daily stressors, and often unforgiving. Being part of society, part of the daily cycle of obligations, bills, kids, activities, all the while maintaining a certain image out there can take a toll on us, sometimes a heavy one. People’s personal history, immigration status, circumstances of abuse, and family struggles affect their mood and mental wellbeing. As history has taught us, money + fame + success is not a recipe for happiness or to one being self-content. Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and dozens of other known public figures have reached an abyss so deep where death felt like the only way out. We all need help sometimes, but we need to be brave and have the courage to ask for it.
There are different types of treatment, and like most things in life, there is no “one size fits all” solution. In emergency situations when one feels they might harm themselves or others it is vital to go to the emergency room and be assessed by a psychiatrist. Often, mental illness is compounded by substance use and this might require different types of specialized treatment. To find the right kind of help, It is often useful to ask friends or family about their experiences with a professional. This can help conceptualize what to look for or which questions to ask. In addition, there are several websites to assist in finding a therapist (i.e. “Psychology Today” or “bark team”). Finally, many community centers offer support groups and other services. Reaching out is hard at times, but it can be the difference between becoming part of the statistics and discovering path to a better life.
About Penny Spector Shleifer Clinical Social Work/Therapist, Hoboken, NJ-07030
The world we live in is complicated. Many of us are faced with uncertainty and harsh demands. It’s often hard to function under so much pressure. My aim is to provide you with a nonjudgmental, supportive environment and to help you understand and face your challenges. I am a licensed clinical social worker with a Masters degree from the university of Southern California. I have over 10 years of experience working with families and adults of all ages. I work with a wide array of clinical issues including depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder, and relational difficulties.
I am an involved, caring therapist and believe in the therapeutic importance of fostering a strong trusting relationship with my clients. My style is non-formal, vocal , and collaborative. I focus on clients’ current circumstances and distinct individual needs.
I am proud of my unique approach and look forward to talking to you. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation prior to the first visit.