a blog by Ellen Davies

How suicide affects us

How suicide affects us

I am in mourning for Anthony Bourdain, who committed suicide last week.


Yeah, I loved to hate watch his TV show. I liked him, but I hated him, too. His swagger, his ego, his love of potty humor—all that drove me crazy. I used to groan in pain when I would catch my husband watching “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” I inevitably would walk in on a scene of Bourdain in a foreign country, in some family’s kitchen, with grandma and the aunties preparing a huge traditional meal, and the whole family sitting around with him discussing politics, history, and culture. 


“Oh, look, he’s saving the world,” I would remark sardonically. Look at me, so smug. So confident in my appraisal of Bourdain and his ego.


Of course underneath it all, I knew better. I knew (know) that what Bourdain did in his “Parts Unknown” show was to demonstrate that it really is that easy to save the world. Sit down and talk with each other. Listen. Learn about your traditions, learn about mine. See how much we have in common. Share the meal that someone prepared just for you. Show respect for your culture, for my culture.


And now he’s gone. I feel terrible for all my griping about him and his show. I judged him, and that was wrong of me. I judged him because he was a TV personality to me, and not much else.


But Anthony Bourdain was much more than his TV personality. With his book, Kitchen Confidential, he became the first person to point out that restaurant kitchens would not be able to function without illegal immigrants, those people who were willing to take the grunt jobs like dishwasher and line cook. That’s only one example of the things he did, but it’s a big one. I had never thought about that before. I never knew how restaurant kitchens worked.


Now I know that his ego, his swagger — all that was a show. He was a man in pain. I can’t imagine the amount of crushing pain that would lead him to think that hanging himself was the only solution.


Oh wait. Yes, I can imagine. I have also suffered from depression and anxiety. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts since my teenage years, but I know what they are like. I have also been around loved ones who were depressed and nearly suicidal, and that is also a living hell. I am so, so sorry that he suffered, and that I judged him as an egomaniac, and that he died.


Suicide rates are rising — it’s all over the news. Just about everyone I know has suffered at one time or another with depression, or anxiety, or both. You have to wonder, what have we done to ourselves as a society, that so many of us suffer from it?


Wonder, indeed. Why is depression so prevalent? Why do so many people think that suicide is the only way out of the pain? I wonder about this, as I put on my Kate Spade sunglasses. I still keep them in the original Kate Spade sunglasses box, even though it’s broken (it won’t stay closed) because I love the pink and orange colors. I love the sunglasses for their almost-cat’s-eye shape and their whimsical colors. And now she’s gone, too.  


I read an article that Roxanne Roberts wrote for the Washington Post, in 1996, about her father’s suicide. She writes pointedly and eloquently about the mess left behind, both literal and figurative. “Suicide is desperate. It is hostile. It is tragic. But mostly, it is a bloody mess.”  


And I leave you with this: help is available. Don’t be like me, and deny your feelings. When my depression was at its worst, I insisted I was fine. Read my next post for that story.


Do you need to talk?

If you or someone you know needs help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone.


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