We heard the news while driving into Paris that Anthony Bourdain had taken his life. We kept asking ourselves all day the same question that everyone else is asking…why? Here was a man who seemed on top of his game. He changed the way we see the world through human connections around the globe with food being the foundation. It opened our eyes to places unknown in times when the only information we are getting is political nonsense through the media. He connected us to places and made us all realize that we might all eat different food, dress different, has different roofs above our heads or beliefs in different religions but at the end of the day, we are all just living life.
We talked about it all day and into the night and got weepy over a bottle of wine. We didn’t personally know him and after seeing the ongoing posts around the globe it makes me wonder if he realized the impact he had on so many generations and people across the globe. Someone said to me once that food is the new black and Bourdain was the man behind that movement. Sadly for all he had given many of us without even knowing us, he chose to take his own life.
The statistics, pure data, around suicide has escalated over the past decade. Another why? Is it the expectations that society puts on all of us to achieve at a certain level? Is it the disconnect between who we are vs who people perceive us to be? Is it the constant of social media and negative politics that are amplified daily to grab as many eyeballs as possible? There are many questions we should all be asking ourselves over the days, weeks and months to come.
Two insanely successful brilliant people, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain both took their lives this week. They left the world too early and left young children and families behind. Mental health is an issue that few of us discuss and it affects everyone in different ways. Personally, I don’t know what it is like to find yourself down such a dark hole that you feel as you can’t get out but many do and some holes are deeper and darker. How do we do a better job as a society of having conversations about depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues? Would it or will it make a difference? I don’t know the answer but it is definitely a time to reflect and try to answer that question….why?
why? Here was a man who seemed on top of his game.I think for one thing we have to separate this idea that by having success (and/or material goods) you are less likely to have an illness that causes you to want to take your own life. Because if that were the case simple logic says that we’d find people in dire straights committing suicide in droves. And that obviously isn’t happening. Only a very small percentage of the population, regardless of statistical increase over time feel so unhappy that they take this step. No matter what conditions they have or how much money or material goods or fame they don’t have.I didn’t know anyone growing up that had any mental illness but after I started dating I did date someone who did. (Actually more than one person). Now of course i will preface this by saying that there are obviously many types of mental problems but I more or less lived through someone who I will describe in what follows. She essentially had a hard time of coping with what would be the normal ups and downs of life. There was not anything in particular (external) that was causing this. She had no illness. She had a beautiful daughter (attends Cornell now), loving family, good job etc. Easy divorce. Lived in NYC in a decent coop (which her brother helped her buy). Further it seemed that she had been suffering her entire life. Her father suffered as well. Really nice guy you’d never know he had issues. Ditto for mom (who also had issues). She even got to the point where she considered getting some kind of shock therapy. (She backed out). I went on a long quest to try to find her better doctors (spent a great deal of time on that) however she wasn’t particularly receptive to such help (and backed out of a few appointments). Once again I am not trying to say this is the case with everyone or even most. Just giving my anecdote. And I have to say it was a challenge for me and I put a great deal of effort into it. But it was a moving target. You could use the wrong word at the wrong time and it would make her unhappy. (One time it was simply using a sentence with the word ‘insidious’).She once said to me something like ‘well if you felt sick (like you had a cold) would you want to do that (what I said we should do on a Saturday)?. That I understood. Her mental condition was such that she simply didn’t feel like doing anything. And guess what? When you have a cold there is no way to ‘think yourself’ out of how bad you feel. You just don’t feel good and that’s that. No amount of talk can help that feeling. No amount of money or accolades will make you feel better. That is the analogy that stuck with me at the time.He must have suffered greatly though. Having to keep up a public persona which he also enjoyed. It was (his job) in a sense his new addiction.
“When you have a cold there is no way to ‘think yourself’ out of how bad you feel.”Exactly.
Yup.Increase in suicide rates–25-30 % rise from 1996-2016–is truly frightening. Numbers amongst teenagers are horrifying.
There is a casualness amongst teens when discussing this that just freaks me out. The fact that it is acceptable as an option, acceptable as a threat socially is beyond my pale of grasping honestly.
Agreed. Well as a society there seems to be a casualness around guns killing kids in schools. Not surprising the reaction to other things is almost numb
Why is what I have been asking myself as well.Not only why but how, and who saw him and spoke to him last? Any clues we can learn from?What I don’t understand is how people in these situations can seemingly hide all that to those close to them?Or maybe the average person should be better trained at, or educated at recognizing signals.
as usual what you say is piercing…..
I can tell you why. The emotional pain is so great that the only way to relieve it is through suicide.I once thought that all people who committed suicide were selfish, but after a very difficult time in my life — from 2010 through 2012 — I came out realizing that I completely understood why people kill themselves. The emotional pain is so deep that suicide seems like the only thing that will relieve it. I knew — even in my worst despair — that I would not kill myself, but I understood why other people in the same situation might.Personally, I do not think that it’s mental illness. I think it’s that we live in a culture that doesn’t accept sadness as normal state. It is normal to feel sad about certain things. It is also normal to feel despair at times. What is not normal is that our culture does not embrace people who sometimes feel these things. Our culture does not honor sadness and despair. We don’t have community around sadness and despair.I also think that famous/celebrity type people may have fewer people they can expose themselves to. They have more at risk by showing their sadness or despair. I suspect that highly accomplished people have a harder time finding people they can trust and connect to — because of that it makes it so much harder to find an accepting community…At the end of the day, we are a culture that doesn’t respect sadness and does not provide community for those who feel sad. Sadness is part of life but our culture pretends it is not.
Thanks Susan. I think you are absolutely right.
so much truth in this description. I’d add the gender aspect too, in the western world, males die by suicide three to four times more often than females do.
Wow. I had no idea
Unanswerable question. I have had 15-20 people I know commit suicide. There are easy things to point to so we can rationalize it for ourselves. Life can get very dark. Sometimes certain occupations attract people with personality types that might have a propensity to do that. In the US, what a lot of people are finding is their lives seem hopeless and they get into the mindset there is only one way out.
That’s a lot of people
I made it out of depression by having a family who cared and people who believed in me.Having people who need you and believe in you makes you want to live for them in that moment.
In my opinion loosing connection is so key, connection to humans (families/friends) to our selves, to our bodies.
I completely understand why. I went through a tremendous amount of physical pain over four + years of cancer treatment in my 20’s, but that didn’t come close to the pain I experienced with depression during that time…not by a mile. After so much loss in a short time of people I loved, loss of hopes and dreams of how I thought my life would play out, and the failure of my first bone marrow transplant, I wanted out. If there was a magic button to push, I would have. When you are depressed, you can’t see more than inch in front of you. You can’t see the bigger picture. If I had never experienced depression, I wouldn’t have understood either why someone would take their own life especially if I had a child, but unfortunately I get it. Thankfully, I was able to push out of it and go on to have a second transplant against major odds. 23 years later, I am still here, and it has been an absolutely wonderful life. Gratefully, I survived both of those incredible challenges.What I did not know was the statistic of a 30% increase in suicides in the US since 1999. That is tragic. While the internet is a fantastic tool for work and managing life in a lot of ways, I don’t think it is healthy overall. That is the only reason I can come up with for such a major increase.
How painful all of that must have been. You made it to the other side. Amazing!I totally agree with you that the dark side of the Internet and social media is the rise of suicide. How do we change that?
Amazing Julie. My 64 year old mother was diagnosed with cancer in May last year, she was gone by October. I learnt a great great deal in that time and from what I can tell you made many choices, even with depression, to keep going, to fight it, to stay alive. So much respect to you.
So sorry about your mom. Thank you for your kind words.