Three days ago, fashion designer, Kate Spade took her life. Today, I woke up to the shocking and heartbreaking news that celebrity chef and master storyteller, Anthony Bourdain had just passed away from an apparent suicide. If I could invite anyone to dinner, living or deceased, Bourdain tops that list along with Pope Francis, Ellen DeGeneres, HH the 14th Dalai Lamai, Barack Obama, and a few others. Yes, it would be a glorious affair, a most interesting and entertaining soiree with fabulous food (obviously!).
I traveled the world vicariously through Bourdain’s adventures and misadventures. When I first watched him on “A Cook’s Tour” in 2002, I was immediately enamored. Clearly not for his mug, but for his wit, sarcasm, and no b.s. attitude. It was refreshing to watch on the otherwise wholesome Food Network. It was also for these reasons that he was a polarizing figure. You either loved him or hated him. I loved him and bought his books and watched his shows.
His long standing defense of Latinx workers in the restaurant industry and championing of immigrant rights, and more recently of the Me Too movement only further endeared him to me. However, I was always fearful for him. He talked openly about the demons in his past. He did hard drugs and alcohol and had no shame for it. But he also admitted hurting plenty of people along the way. For the latter, he expressed much guilt.
We may never truly know what ultimately drove Anthony Bourdain to take his own life, thus, affecting the lives of so many others, especially his daughter. But the thing is, depression isn’t just about being extremely sad. It’s the feeling of terrible hopelessness and helplessness that the only way out is simply (but not simply) ceasing to exist.
As a clinician in the field of mental health, I have had patients throughout the years attempt suicide before arriving to my facility. In each situation, they were desperately trying to escape an oftentimes tumultuous and/or traumatic past. They knew no other form of escape except to jump from a three-story building, run into oncoming traffic, cut themselves, and… Honestly, I can go on and on because the list of ways to commit suicide or injure one’s self are distressingly many.
Tony, I, along with your countless other fans worldwide genuinely mourn your loss. If you only knew how much you meant to us, would that have even remotely made a difference in your decision-making? Probably not. But know this, no matter the demons you faced and the struggles you endured, your loyal fans will forever think fondly of you as the badass uncle Tony who traversed parts unknown and known in pursuit of authentic travel, cultural understanding, and damn good food!
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, please get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress. En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889; or the Crisis Text Line: text 741741.