My friend Tressa shared with me a sobering article about suicide in a recent issue of USA Today. The author reveals her own struggles with suicidal thoughts and depression, which she feels we – as a society – need to be more open about. She's spot on. With the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, a bright light is being shined on America's accelerating suicide rate which increased thirty percent in the decade between 1999 and 2010. We can only imagine how high it is today. (*The CDC reports nearly 45,000 Americans took their lives in 2016 alone.)
(I share this picture because this, right here, is where I find happiness.)
Why is it that some people who seem to have it all, fame, money, success – anything in the world they could possibly want – still feel like they're missing something that's so terribly elusive? So out of reach? And what is that void? My mind flashes back over and over to a deeply personal conversation I had with my friend Steven D'Achille whose wife Alexis hanged herself five years ago, just a few weeks after giving birth to their beautiful baby girl. Alexis suffered from severe postpartum depression, and no matter how many doctors or specialists she and Steven visited, the D'Achilles didn't get the help they needed quickly enough. Steven has now dedicated his life to tirelessly raising money for and awareness of PPD, and with the unwavering help of Allegheny Health Network, recently opened the Alexis Joy D'Achille Center for Women's Behavioral Health at West Penn Hospital. If he can save just one life... perhaps his wife's legacy will live on in a way that's as special and beautiful as she was.
But she's still gone.
No matter how much we think we must have it, or how we dream of getting it, wealth won't make us happy. A big house, fancy cars, exotic vacations and a litany of letters after your name on a business card are filler, like the creamy fluff inside a Ding Dong. Look at me. I rose to the top of my field and stood at the perceived pinnacle of success and achievement, but in the six months or so before I was fired, I confessed to my husband that I was unhappy. Not with him, but with where I was. There was no where else to climb. I'd already worked on national television. I had no desire to go back there. I had 21 Emmy Awards. Did I really need another? And to what end? To prove what? And to whom? What do you do when you're 45 and have the world in the palm of your hands, but still aren't satisfied? The answer, I learned, comes from within.
Happiness is a personal thing. You can't marry someone hoping they will make you happy. That's a hell of a lot of pressure to put on a life partner. Jobs can be rewarding, sure, but putting your happiness eggs in an employment basket is a dangerous proposition. All you need is a new boss, cutbacks, a company reorganization, or any disruptive change for that basket to fall apart and those eggs to break. And keeping up with the Joneses, getting more, buying more, needing MORE has quite the opposite effect on our happiness. It clutters us with unnecessary stuff, all for the sake of appearing on the outside the way we want to feel on the inside. Trying to iron away the wrinkles of age with botox or getting breast implants in an effort to look more appealing is like frosting on a cake. It's made of all the wrong stuff and masks what's really underneath it. It's fog on a mirror... distorting our view of what we really don't want to see when we look at it.
There's a reason the necklace I wear and the one I offer on my website says PEACE on it. Peace IS happiness. It is true contentment. With who you are. Where you are. Where you're going. And where you'll ultimately be, in heaven, looking down on a life well-lived.
As a society, I find the people who are the most caustic, the most critical, the loudest complainers and the most judgmental are the least happy. It's easier to fire missiles at someone else than to sit down and examine your own shortcomings. This is why women are so brutal to each other, so catty and nasty to people they don't know. If someone prettier than you, thinner than you, wearing a sharper outfit than yours walks into the room, rather than marveling at her beauty, or being captivated by her elegance, do you instantly judge? Immediately dislike? And on the spot determine she's an enemy? Why? I bet that if you gave her a chance and spoke with her, you'd realize she's just like you. With frustrations and struggles and problems, the same as yours.
And so, if I had to boil down the cause of this unhappiness, the root problem pushing so many people to believe killing themselves is the only answer, I'd say it's insecurity. Insecurity. INSECURITY. Knowing who you are, and liking who you are... that's the key. Knowing that no matter how bad today feels or how bleak tomorrow looks that you offer something special and unique to the world around you.... that, my friends, is peace. It can waver at times, but it's strong. Pretending on social media that you're something you're not or buying things you don't need so it appears you're successful is a dangerous game. Ultimately, you're going to lose. And when that happens, suicide isn't the answer. Getting reacquainted with your perfectly imperfect self is.