This morning’s news about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide rocked me. The second American icon we’ve lost in a week. Many of us have been hit hard by his loss, even more difficult than the loss of Kate Spade, likely because we could see and hear him. He took us as a guide to different places in the world and encouraged us to go different places within ourselves.
I think what frustrates me and saddens me at the same time is the continued stigma around suicide and depression. The grotesque curiosity with which the press reports the very intimate details of a woman’s suicide note meant only for the eyes of her husband and daughter. All of the whispers of “Well, you know alcohol may have been involved” or “She has a long history of depression.” And while sometimes that seems like a way in which people are trying to make sense of the loss, it also often seems like a judgment. Less about “I wish I had seen the signs” and more like gossip exchanged at the water cooler at work.
Millions of people suffer or have suffered from depression or anxiety or both. I am one of them. The version that most of us project is a very pulled together, happy, façade. It doesn’t matter that we have the “perfect” whatever, family, job, body, friends, life.
For those of you that have never experienced a serious depression, I understand how baffling it can seem – “What could possibly be so bad in his/her life?” It often doesn’t make sense to the person experiencing it. They are aware of the good things they have in their life and despite all of that, they still have this darkness that descends on them. It makes the depression all the more harrowing and is often used as a confirmation of how “broken” they are in their own minds. The stigma of the depression label prevents them from expressing how they feel to others and leaves them feeling even more isolated.
For those of you that have experienced anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. Know that there are people that love you fiercely. Know that people will miss you terribly and would do anything not to lose you. Know that there is always another option besides suicide. Suicide is not the perfect answer. There is help available. From me. From friends and family. From suicide hotlines. My heart breaks for the Spade and Bourdain family and friends. I think the more we are open and honest about discussing mental health issues, removing the stigma from it, and working towards supporting one another, the better off all of us will be.