By Robin Arnett - July 16, 2021
In late March of 2021, authorities confirmed that Lee Macmillan had died by suicide. Lee was a social media influencer who documented her journeys around the world with her partner at the time through her YouTube channel. I was not familiar with Lee’s work, but on learning this story, I dove into her channel and was struck by her energy. The world lost a beautiful presence when she died.
Although Lee was honest about her struggles, what she shared about them is drowned out by striking images, clever captions, and cuts from highlight to highlight. One comes away with the impression of a warm, adventurous, beautiful woman with a passport full of stamps, good friends, and handsome men that love her. She seems to be lucky in every sense of the word.
Lee’s story drives home the truth that social media does not present the full story. In fact, it can often mask some of our most difficult moments. Everyone is battling something. The person whose life you may envy has their own secret pain. At the same time, if you are struggling, you are not alone. Although many people envy social media influencers, I imagine that this must be a lonely role. Their jobs are essentially to create, present, and uphold a specific image and story. And yet, to paraphrase Brené Brown, in order to be loved, we need to be known. I have to wonder if there is a point at which one crosses over to losing touch with oneself in the process of creating this image.
This story also brings home an important point about depression. Depression is a formidable disease that skews reality and puts a dark cloud over everything. When a person is depressed, it simply isn’t important what they have, what they get to do all day, or who loves them. Anyone looking at Lee’s life from the outside would likely be confused at how anyone like her (beautiful, adventurous, free, loved, and admired) could be depressed. Lee was doing everything she could to fight for her mental health, but tragically it was not enough to save her. We must regard depression for the insidious force that it is and not underestimate the power it can have over even the “luckiest” people.
I hope that Lee’s story can inspire us to be more gracious and compassionate both with ourselves and others. No matter what the outside image, each of us experiences shame, fear, loneliness, pain, and hopelessness at some point in our lives. It’s not about the image, the stuff, the adventures, or the partner. Everybody struggles, and depression is real. Let us allow brave vulnerability to bring us closer, and be kind to yourself and others today. Being human is hard to do.