It’s Friday morning, the day after Halloween and my blood is still pumping with adrenaline from last night’s festivities. Prior to this year, my Halloweens have blended together, marked vaguely by typical activities like trick-or-treating and attending costume parties. Although those events are fun, I wouldn’t say they are life changing. This year, my memories of October 31st are much different. I had the privilege of creating and organizing Thrilled for the Cause– a new annual fundraiser dedicated to raising funds and awareness for mental health research and advocacy. All the proceeds from this year’s event benefited the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, a non-profit organization that has been making a difference in the Tulsa community since 1955. I have been overwhelmed by all the support this endeavor has received– from the press, the community and especially the Association itself. Many people have asked me what inspired me to choose mental health as my cause. While there are several reasons that this cause is close to my heart, I’d like to share the part of the story that is mine to tell.
“I’m just kind of… in a funk”, I told my friend a couple of months back when she inquired about my blogging absence. It’s been five months since I’ve posted a thing on this blog and even longer since I’ve written anything other than a to-do list. A “funk” seemed like the most acceptable way to explain my creative absence, but the much scarier truth was, for some time I had been caught in a slow, downward spiral of depression and I was finally hitting my rock bottom. I say slow, spiral as opposed to quick plummet, because that’s exactly how it was. No one had died, I hadn’t been through a divorce or anything clearly earth shattering, but there I was, for what must have been years, slipping further and further away from what I knew happiness was. What I have learned about “funks” is that they look a bit different for everyone. My ”funk”, in particular, was especially illusive because, for the most part, it stayed hidden behind big dreams, lots of motion and a very well constructed facade of “I’ve got my shit together”. It’s not that I tried to create a facade, I’ve been a high energy, big dreamer my entire life, so this part seemed natural– it’s who I am and it all came quite effortlessly. However, throughout the course of my downward spiral, I was unraveling, and my big dreams and constant motion changed from being a natural extension of myself to a mask that allowed me to hide how I really felt– very lost, spiritually empty and hopeless. For awhile this worked. My mask was so convincing it even fooled me. I kept busy with things that affirmed to everyone else and myself that I was living the modern day, twenty-something dream life– parties, nice dinners, travelling, dating and moving to NYC were all intricately woven into the mask. None of this “felt” right, but it always looked okay so I shoved my truth into the back of my mind and continued to create what society told me would make me happy.
Despite my best efforts, the spiral continued and the “funk” worsened, costing me friends, my education and a lot of money. On some level, I had been fooled the whole time but those closest to me never were.
“This is not you Kate! You’re not a bar-fly. Since when do you just date around and “hook-up”? You’re so scattered. What happened to your focus?”, are a few of the heart-felt questions asked by my very concerned Mother.
Oh, the strength it must take to be a good Mom. During those intimate conversations, I would raise my voice, slam doors and ultimately break down into tears because as much as I hated to admit it, Mother did know best. For years I had been in and out of therapy, on and off of anti-depressants and constantly wearing that mask that I felt would “fix me” or at the very least allow me to stagger through life without everyone knowing I was in shambles.
In one of our heart-to-hearts, my Mom practically begged me to stop focusing on what was wrong with ME and start helping others. This wasn’t a foreign concept to me. Prior to my funk I was constantly giving. Whether I was giving at school or at church, I was always using my creative talents and leadership skills to make a difference. I guess since it was something I had done my entire life, so it never dawned on me that perhaps what I needed to get out of my funk wasn’t another spiritual retreat in the California mountains or a new project that was gonna make me famous… I needed to give back.
After this conversation, I thought back to the last time I did something for someone else that really made me feel connected and alive. I remembered last Halloween when the Student Theater Organization and I taught Thriller to students at Rogers State University to raise money for children’s cancer research. I thought a spin on this would be the perfect for Halloween in Tulsa. I chose the Mental Health Association because depression and/or other mental illnesses have been something myself and so many of my dear friends have struggled with. My goal was to raise money for this incredible organization and also to raise awareness, in order to change the negative stigma around mental disorders.
After a couple of conversations with the Mental Health Association and Guthrie Green, we had an event. The next month was kind of a blur. I wrote press releases, made posters, recruited dancers and blew up social media promoting this passion project. I had no idea how it was going to go. I was excited, I was stressed, I cried, and I wanted to call the whole thing off about three times, but above all else, for the first time in so long, I was truly having fun. I felt alive- like I was doing something that mattered, and so I kept going.
The week of the event, I cried for different reasons. I was so humbled by the generosity of Tulsans, the loyalty of my friends who showed up to support me and the genuine gratitude I felt from the Mental Health Association, Guthrie Green and the community.
The thing about my depression is that I never wanted to die, I desperately wanted to live and I had completely forgotten how. As grateful as I am for all the accolades I have received, I am the one who owes so much thanks. Thank you to the Mental Health Association and the community of Tulsa for allowing me to come alive for a cause so much bigger than me.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. It is my mission to combine the two and make my living by giving back. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but thanks to Thrilled for the Cause I am refocused and so much closer than I was before.
It’s good to be back,
PS: If you would like to read more about the Mental Health Association, check out their website at www.MHAT.org. To stay updated on next year’s Thrilled for the Cause, like our Facebook page and stay tuned for the website, coming soon.