On the outside, Rebecca Cutler, a Chicago Magazine writer seemed engaged and happy. And sometimes she was. But alongside her zest for life and pull to help others, existed another, less obvious side to Rebecca: her struggle with bipolar and depression. Sadly, Rebecca ultimately chose to commit suicide. In took a year for her mother, Gail Cutler, to “surface from a deep depression,” but once she did, she was determined to honor Rebecca’s goals and spirit by founding Rebecca’s Dream. Dedicated to dispelling myths and educating the public about bipolar and depression, the organization is still going strong. Our Town spoke with Gail Cutler about her daughter’s legacy.
Our Town What enabled you to channel your grief into creating Rebecca’s Dream?
Gail Cutler [Before her death] Becky was planning a fund raiser for DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) in honor of her 30th birthday. The theme was education and compassionate understanding of these diseases. She had it all worked out: venue, DJ, food, fun and the all-important educational components. She died before the event could happen. After her death, I woke up one morning with the idea to carry forward with Rebecca’s dream, expand on it and bring it to the public, to honor her wishes and desires.To this very day, this is what keeps me going: honoring Rebecca’s life and dream by helping others through promoting awareness and compassionate understanding of depression and bipolar disorder as real diseases.
OT What’s the biggest misconception people have about bipolar disorder?
GC It is very difficult for the general public to truly believe these are REAL diseases based in scientific and medical facts. They are no different than cancer, diabetes, MS, etc. It makes my blood boil when I hear comments made by educated people who should know better. Things like:
What do you have to be depressed about?
Pull yourself up by your boot straps.
You are just spoiled.
Look at you…you have everything.
It’s just an act.
The biggest misconception may be: you can control this…just snap out of it!!!
OT Why do you think people don’t believe depression and bipolar disorder are ‘real’ diseases?
GC Had you known my daughter you would have never guessed she lived with such demons. She was beautiful, bright, funny, creative, warm, loving, giving, and sick with a terrible illness.
Most people do not ‘look” different or behave that differently from the general public. Sure, there may be some acting out and some depression but most folks with depression and bipolar have learned to hide it. Only when a tragedy happens will people sit up and take notice…for a brief time. Oh. Maybe he/she really was suffering with a real illness. Maybe. Most societies have been unkind to those with mental illness. Folks have been locked away, burned at the stake, banished from their homes and community, treated with no respect or regard as human beings.
I believe we are creatures of habit, of unfounded beliefs and unwilling to learn the truth even when it is right in front of us. Those living with depression and bipolar disorder need qualified medical care and support just like other people with other diseases.