I knew Mary Kennedy and never saw her smile

Mary Kennedy was not my friend. She wasn't even an acquaintance. She was one of the moms that brought her children to take tennis lessons from my husband. I never saw her smile. I never heard her talk. I marveled at her always shiny and thick black hair. I assumed that she was either shy or plain snobbish--a very common trait of the women in the wealthy area where we both lived. And she was married to Robert Kennedy Jr.

When I heard last night that she had apparently committed suicide at her Mount Kisco estate, my heart broke. Her face was in my dreams, I woke up thinking of her four children, ages 10 to 17, who probably will never really understand why their mother chose to die, let alone forgive her, although they must have seen her struggles.

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As in every little town, the gossip mill churns 24/7 in Mount Kisco, a affluent town in Westchester County, New York. Minutes from the Kennedy's house is Martha Stewart in Katonah, the Clintons in Chappaqua, among others like Susan Sarandon, Chevy Chase, and Vanessa Williams. Rumors of Mrs. Kennedy's troubles--like arriving drunk to a school carnival or acting weird at yoga--fed the rumor mill often. She was twice stopped by police officers in Westchester for driving under the influence, once was alcohol, the other prescription pills. 

She had money. She had beautiful, seemly well adjusted and genuinely nice kids. An architectural designer, she had gutted a house filled with mold and turned it into one of the greenest homes in the world. She was active in fundraising for environmental causes, and because her son has terrible food allergies, attempted to find a cure. (He was always very aware of where his allergy medication was during his lessons.)

Her husband filed for divorce two years ago, but the process wasn't yet completed. Separations are hard, granted. Even more, I am sure, if you are 52 and in the public eye. The pain must be excruciating if you still love your husband and hear he is seriously dating somebody (Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Suburgatory). However, many women go through divorces in way worse circumstances and they don't hang themselves. She was medically depressed, it was bigger than her husband. Now I wonder if maybe that is why she didn't engage with me. She was not shy or a snob. Maybe she was just sad.

This morning, I hugged my boys tighter and once again felt grateful that I recognized my own post-partum depression for what it was, and never fell into the self-medication trap, as Mrs. Kennedy seems to have. I know first-hand the kind of despair that can drive somebody to consider suicide. But I can't fathom how deep that pain must cut to override even the strongest instinct known to humans: being a mom.

Depression is a potentially fatal illness. Many Latinas suffer depression, in rates much higher than the rest of the female population. I was there myself. If you feel disinterest in things that you loved before, if you lose your temper faster and more often than it was normal for you. If you feel constantly gloomy, sad or even empty inside, like nothing matter anymore, please get help. You don't have to suffer from nervios or fear being called la loca de la familia, because your brain chemistry is doing a number on you. Think of Mary Kennedy, think of her beauty, her money, her connections...and still, depression may have killed  her. Don't let it kill you!

We need to share our stories about depression so others get help. How did you overcome your worst sadness? Tell us in the comments below.

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