I’ve been thinking so much about Anthony Bourdain since I heard the news of his death. It has weighed heavily on me the last couple days. I can’t help but equate his situation with my own experiences and the idea that while everything looks polished on the outside; things inside, can be quite different. Are successful, charismatic, adventure seeking people immune to depression? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s the opposite. People with the most to lose, have the largest boxes to unpack – metaphorically speaking. And so it goes on – another person chooses to take their own life and everyone around them just can’t believe it. All the “life” boxes had check marks: cynical but incredible sense of humor, money, the perfect career, a fabulously nefarious backstory with a happy ending and of course, enormous talent. Clearly, while everyone is assessing the happiness of others; we are forgetting to actually check in and make sure these people are okay. And that is exactly what happened to me. Except I made it out the other side. In the darkest moment of my life some friends counted my money, other friends drifted away, and a select few remained. But no one ever thought to ask the question: do you need help?
This by the way, wasn’t that long ago which is why it feels so raw and difficult to comprehend. I’ve been there. I’ve been in that place where the idea of closing your eyes and never waking up feels deeply alluring. Almost like a whisper. A whisper with a source you can’t find and it plagues you. The itch grows and grows until eventually, you leap off the cliff in search of it. I thank the wide open universe every single day that I sorted my shit out. I am one of the lucky ones.
In 2012, my daughter Emma’s biological father died in a brutal car accident. The kind of accident that keeps you up at night and pulls at you like a child in need. It haunted me. The grief was so heavy. But rather than confronting the grief – I stuffed it down and hid it away. I thought I needed to be strong for my daughter and how do you mourn someone like that when you’re married? It felt so complicated and I didn’t want to face my own hard truths. I didn’t tell new friends in Maine about what had happened. I simply pretended as if my life was as I presented it. One boy. One girl. Two children. Perfect box. But nothing ever lasts forever and eventually the dam I constructed to hold back my emotions exploded and I was driven into what can only be described as a horrible depression. It started at beginning of 2015 and I only got things under control the end of last year.
For two years I endured this and everything looked just swell on the outside. I was a high functioning individual who was habitually torn in half. My professional life was thriving, I was rocking a 4.0 GPA, I was running really well, my kids were well adjusted and my marriage appeared perfect. I was still vibrant and funny in most situations but I was also angry, extremely judgmental and I gave no one a pass for anything. In fact, there were times that I would classify myself as down right mean. One day while running with friends I became so incensed that I removed my fuel belt, threw it in a field, screamed at the top of my lungs and had a complete meltdown. Everyone thought this was strange but everyone accepted my bullshit reason for why I did it. It never dawned on any of my friends that I was having a nervous breakdown. I was spiraling. And that was just the beginning of the journey down the rabbit hole.
It’s easy to make assumptions about people and it’s characteristic to chronicle a persons journey based on what we see in their social media feed. While it feels good to say things like: why didn’t they ask for help – that just eases your guilt. We are showing signs. Troubling, earth shattering, real deal signs. Maybe you just don’t want to see them. If I am living under a veil of deceit and you’re falling for it – then who’s to blame, me or you? Maybe both. The bottom line is, society, friends, loved ones – need to pay more attention. Depression doesn’t always look like you imagine it. Sometimes, it’s not that messy. It comes in all forms and happens to all types of people. A little kindness, maybe a few probing questions, might go further than you think.
I am lucky. So fucking incredibly lucky. I don’t know how or why I was able to sift through the rubble but I did. I wish I could say the same for outstanding individuals like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade – or anyone really, who doesn’t think life is worth living anymore. Sometimes, human beings are just – complicated. Without reason or equivocation. If you know someone who is always in search of something, maybe just ask them why. Have a conversation. Sit by them in a moment of quiet. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do – so lets just start by being kind to each other.
Not a bad place to start.