It's About Depression and Suicide Because One of my Heroes is Gone.
Note: I talk about my experiences with depression and suicidal leanings. I talk about some of it in detail. I know how that can affect people with those issues, so if it might be a problem, might want to give everything after the fourth paragraph a pass. Do your self-care, it’s important. Which is really just good advice for anyone. Still, do your self-care, give it a pass and go read one Anthony Bourdain’s articles or interviews; as a writer I rather like this one: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/books/review/anthony-bourdain-by-the-book.html
I sit in my hotel room today, having lost yesterdays blog post because I’m an idiot, and I honestly don’t want to write anything. I’m tired, I’ve spent a lot of the day in the sun. That’s not really why I don’t want to write anything though. Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. It still doesn’t sound real to me. I didn’t know him personally; I never had the good fortune to meet him. I did read two of his books (three if you count Appetites) and watch every episode of No Reservations; I followed his social media. I followed a lot of what he did because he was such an inspiration to me.
I don’t remember what the first episode of No Reservations I saw was, I spent a lot of that time in a rolling alcoholic blackout. While I still probably drink more than is healthy, I don’t get blackout drunk every night and start every day by finishing the rum and coke I passed out right after making. Those weren’t good years, what I can remember of them. I do know that as soon as I discovered it was on Netflix, I watched all of it. In Idaho, I borrowed Medium Raw from a friend (may have forgotten to return it and my ex has it now, so don’t ask me about it, Bird), and loved it. More recently I finally read Kitchen Confidential, and absolutely loved it. I read about him a lot and watched his shows whenever I had the chance.
I’m a writer before I’m anything else, and his writing, with its raw style and unique voice, really spoke to me, in the same was Hunter S. Thompson’s resonated with me. It was about as narratively straight forward as you can ask for, but wry and self-aware. It would be nice now to quote some of it, maybe talk about some of my favorite passages, but I sit in Pocatello, ID sunburned and the book is somewhere in my car, packed in a box with all my other books.
His shows got me interested in food in a way I never had been before. Prior, it was just something to keep me alive, I didn’t think about it very much. I’d probably try most things, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way. What I was interested in was culture, other cultures, and society, and his shows connected all those things to food in a way that was truly amazing. I could try to tell you how much he meant to me, how much his own struggles and pitfalls, successes and failures meant to me, how much I identified with them, and how they helped me overcome my own failures and demons, but it’s not something I can tell. It’s something I can live, and maybe someday I’ll learn how to tell, and how to show, people these things. What I can talk about is suicide, and depression.
I’m pretty open about my bipolar shit, I just don’t see any reason not to be, but I can’t make that decision for everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with not being open about it. The stakes are pretty low for me.
Before I was on medication, or even diagnosed, I went through a bad breakup, as sometimes happens. Now I do need to clarify that to say that it wasn’t bad because it was messy, my ex had good reasons for breaking up with me; I still trust her, and I think in the long run it was the right decision for both of us. The details aren’t important, I just wanted to make sure to point out that she wasn’t awful or anything we remained on friendly terms. However, it was bad because I did not handle it well. I was never the most stable person at the best of times, and those were not the best of times, I started drinking even more than I had been and fell into one of the worst depressions of my life, and that’s saying something since they were usually pretty bad and could last for months. If you have depression, you probably know how it likes to feed itself. I had never been suicidal before, in fact I carried a deep loathing for suicide and most people that committed it. This was because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand why somebody wouldn’t, instead of killing themselves, just reinvent themselves, move, change something, etc. Well, I came to understand. To understand how you can fall so low that you just want it to stop. The emptiness becomes painful, that numb apathy becomes burdensome, and everything becomes, well, nails on a chalkboard. One of the only things that kept me even close to functioning was my dog, Spencer.
Spencer saved my life, in a lot of ways, but I know if I had owned a gun back then, I would be dead now. It’s one of the reasons I, personally, don’t own one. I maybe fine now, on medications that let me function more or less normally, but especially with how shitty the VA is about sending out medication, well, I’m not going to press my luck. I know that one day I may end up there again, and it terrifies me. Nothing in the world can terrify me the way I do.
One of the reasons I don’t talk about this period much is because I know how much of an impulse suicide can be. If you don’t have impulse control problems, it might be hard to understand, but suicide can just be walking across a bridge and deciding to jump at that moment, with no fore thought, no plan. All it takes to stop that is one small impediment, like say a fence you can’t easily step over. When it’s an impulse, all it takes in one small inconvenience, or distraction, to stop it. Which is also why that is so hard for other people to stop. I don’t want to serve as the trigger for that impulse, in anyone. I don’t care how bitterly I hate somebody, or how much I think they damage the world, death doesn’t solve any problems, it just moves them around a bit.
Then there’s the suicide with a plan, which doesn’t start as a plan, or even necessarily a want to die, just a want to stop. Not die, just stop, just not exist. Remember from above, everything is painful. Everything hurts in a way that is almost physical. That pain is exhausting. I have bad physical pain, and I promise you that the pain from existing while depressed is more exhausting than even the worst pain, when I couldn’t move, that my back has given me. I think that’s hard to understand if you haven’t been through it. That combination of emptiness, and pain, and exhaustion. It’s not sadness. It’s kind of bullshit that we use the word depression for being depressed and depression, because while there can be overlap, and everybody gets depressed, having depression is a whole different animal.
So here’s the thing, this isn’t for people with depression, or that are suicidal, because I’m not completely convinced that suicide is always a result of depression. It’s for everyone else in the world. It’s for you. It’s to remind you to check in on your friends, doesn’t matter what kind of shape their in. People with depression can wear a lot of masks, and not everyone that’s suicidal is depressed. Without people checking in on me or letting me talk when I was hurting more than I could communicate, I wouldn’t be sitting here with a sunburn, smelling badly in a Marriot hotel room.
I love those people, and owe them for so much, and for just existing in all their wonderful, complicated, sad, triumphant, and mystifying beauty. Not everyone is so fortunate. My friends understand, or at least accept mental illness, and are by and large supportive humans. Try to be a supportive human to the people in your life.
If you’re somebody that has or has had the issues, and has read through, well, I know it’s not an easy fight. Stick with it, do your selfcare, get help if you can. I know somebody caring doesn’t make the pain go away, but there are people that care. I do.