That was my first response to Anthony Bourdain’s Suicide.
As Bourdain fan, I also had experience cooking at DC’s Seasonal Pantry (now closed) and once owned Cunningham Farms, a social enterprise that made gourmet sweet potato butter. I have a lot of respect for professional cooks and chefs because the road to success is truly grueling.
The news struck close to home, to say the least.
You might be tempted to think because I’m a mental health professional that I noticed some warning signs.
Nope. Not a chance. And I don’t like to play armchair therapist.
“Never Saw it Coming” Too Often Accompanies Suicide
One of the most perplexing things about depression and, specifically, suicide is that it too often happens to people you wouldn’t expect.
Yes, it spans every demographic imaginable but depression is common among older white men. Older white men are more typically gun owners and therefore have the tools to take their own lives. What can be confusing is outward success isn’t a safeguard from depression or thoughts of suicide. As Bourdain’s death proves, even accomplished professionals aren’t immune.
After the fact, you often hear things like, “He had a lot going for him,” or, “I never saw that coming. She was such a kind and welcoming person.” That is arguably the most dangerous aspect of suicide. Those who are serious about their plans are often secretive. Whereas, those who disclose their thoughts of suicide are usually asking for help.
In fact, people who are just coming out of a depressive state are often most at risk. Usually depression saps our energy and makes it hard for us to motivate. But as the depressive symptoms lift, we regain some of that energy, and that can be one of the most dangerous moments.
You Are Not Alone in Your Depression and Suicidal Thoughts
Knowing that too many are still not reaching out for support, I appeal to you. Please reach out. We are here to help you. We will not judge you for having thoughts of self-harm. While we are required to report serious threats, a good therapist will create an environment where you can disclose even the darkest of thoughts. If we are concerned about your safety, we will work with you to come up with a plan that makes sense for your specific situation to keep you safe and to provide the best care possible.
The ability to admit your brokenness or your darkest thoughts is not a weakness. Rather, it takes great courage and is the first step to safety, relief, and healing. You’ll likely be surprised by how heavy a weight falls from you just by sharing your struggle.
Through counseling or neurofeedback, you can work through your tendency to isolate yourself from others, thoughts of not being good enough, or the all pervasive shame cycles we can all get stuck in. Also, to your great relief, you’ll find the airtight assertions or questions that haunted you weren’t as airtight as you thought.
You’ll also discover that although you believe things to be pointless, a skilled therapist can help reframe circumstance and struggles towards a whole version of yourself. And even if your outward circumstances don’t improve, you can gain a deeper appreciation for yourself.
The cure for hopelessness isn’t a matter of obtaining favorable outward circumstances. Rather, it’s a matter of securing an accurate inward perspective.
That’s what prompted world renowned psychotherapist and concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankyl, to write his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
He penned these immortal words that have given courage to generations since:
“When we are no longer able to change our situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
And if those words were true for Frankyl, engulfed in the greatest terrors of humanity, they can be true of anyone.
A Call to Action from the Kitchen
Every industry is touched by mental illness including the food and beverage industry.
DC-based chef celebrity, David Chang, owner of Momofuko, shared about his own battle with depression after Bourdain’s death including the stigma and financial barriers keeping people from treatment.
But Chang isn’t alone as Kat Kinsman well knows. She started the website Chefs With Issues to offer a much-needed support system to those in the food industry who suffer from mental illness.
Chang and others have risked their reputations and livelihoods for an important reason. They want you to know there is hope. They want you to know that you don’t have to throw away your life or give up. Instead, the answer lies in giving up the notion you can do this on your own. None of us can do that.
Is today the day you’ll ask for help? If so, it’s the first step to drastic life change and renewed hope.
RIP Anthony Bourdain.
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