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Anthony Bourdain and Thoughts on Suicide

photo by david scott holloway/cnn

I am absolutely devastated by the death of Anthony Bourdain. He was, in my eyes, one of the world’s best storytellers. I’ve been in a complete daze all morning…this coupled with the news of Kate Spade’s suicide earlier this week and the enormous amount of discourse around the subject of mental health, depression, and suicide that it’s triggered, it has me thinking a lot.

Like you, I’ve heard and seen all types of comments buzz past my screen via social media about depression and suicide. I just read this one a few hours ago.

I really don’t understand what’s going on with so many great people committing suicide. Those that live by their example will be forever confused about their idol state of mind and why drive them to this option.

I’ve also heard, “how could anyone get to that place?”, “can’t these people just see that life is worth living?”, and “I would never have thought it…they had everything!”

I, too, have thought those very questions. That is until I suffered a deep depression in 2013.

Those questions are no longer a part of my lexicon.

(I also want to point out that I’m not insinuating that Bourdain was depressed…it’s just that his suicide got me thinking about my own thoughts of suicide in the past, which stemmed from depression.)

It’s interesting, you know, the timing of these experiences. Just yesterday, while talking with someone I see a few times a year for beauty-related stuff, she shared her ongoing struggles with anxiety. We’ve talked about this in the past, but she mentioned that she was now dealing with depression. I could just see the angst in her eyes when we briefly discussed Kate Spade’s suicide, and before I gave it too much thought, I asked…”have you thought about killing yourself recently?” She immediately broke down in tears. Yes, she had. And she was scared.

I want to talk about my personal experience, in hopes that it might shed some light for those of you who have the same questions. Many of you that know that I’m a Type A, get ‘er done, ambitious-type, and when my mental health suffers, I usually go in the direction of anxiety. I wrote about anxiety here. The fight-or-flight, the what-ifs, the buzzing thoughts and worries…that’s my MO. For the vast majority of my life, depression has not been a piece of the puzzle. I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Except in 2013, coming off a particularly rough year, my pendulum swung to the complete opposite side in regards to my mental health. I was horribly depressed. Honestly, I didn’t even know who I was. It’s like all my energy, positivity, and ambition completely disappeared, yet I couldn’t muster up the mental energy to care.

But you see? Depression goes much further than sadness or exhaustion or despair.

Depression is a damn liar.

Depression makes you think things that are not true nor logical nor factual. But, you see, you still have the thoughts. They. Just. Slowly. Trod. Though. Your. Brain. Matter. Over. And. Over. And you believe them. They feel logical and normal and factual. If you’ve met me or read this blog for awhile, you know I’m generally a glass-half-full gal. I can find the humor in almost any situation and don’t take things terribly seriously. I’m animated, aspirational, confident, and possess a deep reservoir of energy. (Well, my early-to-mid 40s are slowly whittling away at the energy, but whatevs, hormones.) What I’m trying to say is BY GOD, I’M A DELIGHT, PEOPLE. (Also, by the looks of the past few sentences, a possible narcissist, but who’s keeping tabs here?)

Point being…I was none of those things during this period of mental illness. None. And frankly, I felt everyone, including me, would be better off if I was dead. To even think that…to even type that right now seems so absolutely foreign to me. I mean, I do not want to die. I have a wonderful life and career and children and family and friends. How could I ever have thought that??

Yet, I did. For a brief period, I thought about killing myself, and you see, the most bizarre thing is that it seemed perfectly logical to me. My brain thought that killing myself would benefit the people in my life. I thought my precious children would be better off without a mother. Period. And the scariest thing was that the thought itself wasn’t rooted in drama or attention-seeking, it just was the thing that seemed to make sense at the time.

Depression is a damn liar.

Why am I telling you this? Well, to let you know that I’ve been there. That I have struggled. (And so many are struggling out there right now, despite what they might look like on the outside. SO MANY.) But most importantly, that sometimes, when you are depressed, when you are truly in the thick of mental illness, you are simply unable to realize that life is worth living. You just can’t see past the clouds, and it’s not as easy as changing a mindset. You can do all the yoga poses and vibration-raising and therapy-ing and even medication-taking, and sometimes, your brain just can’t. At that time, my brain just couldn’t.

Until it could. And it did. And now it does. (Probably due to a mixture of all of the above things.) Listen, I’m no expert…I don’t have any solid answers, but what I can say to you from my personal experience is this. Hold on. If you (or a loved one) are going through this right now, HOLD ON. I know it seems grim, but you can make it through this. You can continue to fight. Your brain is lying to you right now, and it will not continue to lie to you forever. You are ABSOLUTELY worthy of being alive. You are loved and you are seen and you are valued. Talk to someone. A friend, a therapist, or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which is available 24 hours a day. Don’t bear the brunt of mental illness alone.

For those of you on the other side of depression, please continue to be an unwavering support to loved ones you suspect are struggling. Listen and love and let them know they are incredibly valued and seen. They are needed. You are needed.

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14 Comments
  • molly

    June 8, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    This is helpful and real – very worth sharing. It’s so hard to reckon with because it doesn’t follow any logical triggers. My lowest lows (blank, heavy, sloggy, numb days where I’d try to come up with reasons I deserved to keep participating in life) were not necessarily aligned with difficult times in my life. There’s not a reason. Your brain CAN lie to you.

    • whoorl

      June 8, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Yes, my anxiety usually peaks in very calm, low-stress times. I definitely can relate.

  • Cathy W

    June 8, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    beautiful and familar. Thank you for sharing.

  • Claudia Depkin

    June 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Sarah thank you for sharing.

  • Roxy

    June 8, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. Hopefully these tragic deaths will keep the conversation about mental illness in our society going and help reduce the shame and stigma surrounding depression.

    As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, the hardest part is often getting people to understand that these are diseases the affect the brain, just like heart disease affects the heart. Yes, there are things you can do to help manage it and some people have more mild versions of it than others, but for a lot of people these are chronic, longterm health conditions that can sometimes lead to death, even if you do everything possible to take care of yourself and keep the disease under control — just like someone with heart disease can eat well and exercise and meditate and still have a heart attack. Diseases are not always logical or rational or within our control, and all we can do is try to provide the same level of social support and health care and resources and compassion to people with mental illness as we do to people with heart disease or cancer.

  • Becky Joyce

    June 8, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing so openly and with vulnerability. You have a voice and a story that is worth listening to, and for you to share your own struggles is to open the door for others to share, to feel that they are not alone, and to have some compassion for the very real struggles they face. Much love and gratitude.

  • Christine Veldman Miller

    June 8, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I follow your posts and think wow this woman is amazing and has it all together. I swoon over your Instagram life. Of course, you are amazing, and even more so for keeping it real and sharing the other side. I too have suffered from depression in the past and can relate to all you say. I came across many people who couldn’t understand what I was going through and why I couldn’t just be happy. The more we talk about it, especially those like you who many look up to, the more awareness and compassion and hopefully even help there can be for those in need! Thank you again.

    • whoorl

      June 9, 2018 at 6:55 am

      Oh, thank you so much, Christine. That means so much.

  • Cherie Hightower

    June 8, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing sweet friend.

    • whoorl

      June 9, 2018 at 6:54 am

      You are welcome, Cherie. Much love to you xoxo

  • Chrissy Collins

    June 9, 2018 at 7:27 am

    You are making a difference!

  • Mandy Burt

    June 11, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    You are ABSOLUTELY worthy of being alive.

    Tears sprang to my eyes at this line. I am in the thick of a very low period (depression runs deep in my family) and have been much closer to ending my life than ever before. This helped me a bit today. And to those suffering from hour to hour with mental illness, a bit can mean a lot. Thank you, Sarah.

    • whoorl

      June 11, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Hang in there, Mandy. Brighter days lie ahead, that I can promise you!

  • Sally

    June 29, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you for this.