Remembering Anthony Bourdain
I wrote this essay one week after Antony Bourdain passed. Mental health is an ever-growing issue in the United States (and I’m sure many other parts of the world) that is disturbingly ignored. I battled severe depression for many years, but I was unable to articulate/share how I felt. The pain became a part of my daily routine. I was afraid to ask for help because of the stigma the disease carried. Depression a disease that must be met head on. Everyone should feel comfortable sharing their pain to relieve the mental strain burrowing at their minds and hearts. Suicide isn’t an answer; it only leaves behind a new breed of pain with the ones that love you. No one is ever alone. Please ask for help.
Friday, June 8, just past 8am, my heart sinks. I see through twitter that one of my heroes has taken his own life. I'm walking through the distillery about to say good morning to the fellas. The news crushes me, and I take a seat on a pallet of Bourbon. I feel like crying. I think, how could he? Why would he? He had it all, 61 years of passion, dregs, adventure and success. Why? Quickly I remember what the depths feel like, and determine that I should never judge a human that chooses suicide as their informal exit from this earth.
In the depths of the darkest sea there aren't demons tearing at your limbs to drag you further into the darkness. Nor are there angels perched on your shoulder, waiting to lift you up. Submerged in the depths are toxic thoughts developed from pain, combined with impatience that clouds the existence of love. While down there, you can't see past devastation, anger swells the mind and breeds an entirely new personality. But you're not completely gone. The child that once dug his toes into the wet, summer dew and waltzed on the lawn during hot mornings isn't dead. The young boy that was bold as love and approached his first crush and leaned in for his first kiss is still there. The son who went to the ballgame with his dad and caught a foul ball, then embraced his father with pure joy is alive. But when you've gone past knowing the darkness and you're submerged by depression and reality is enigmatic, an oblique swell conquers love and happiness. It seems irreversible and impossible to outgrow this mindset.
Down there, death is not far away. Down there, you're nearly dead and you feel the world needs to exist without you. Down there, hope rarely exists. In your heart there's a glimmer of life but it's an acute sense of living. Death seems more like a resurrection than a funeral at this point. You hope that the pain will be purged from your mind and soul once you've chosen to take your own life. That sea, those depths, is where death literally waits.
Years ago, I found myself drowning… nearly passed out on the floor, with blood running out of carved slits on my wrist. I drowned deep in the sea but before becoming completely immersed by the pain, I began to wade through the cloudy water. I found that brief sense of clarity and allowed it to prevail. Thoughts of my family brought me to the surface. I couldn’t imagine my selfish act inflicting a lifetime of pain on my mother. I didn’t want my father to bare my burden; my choice for rest of his life. So I reached out for help and chose life over death. Love answered my plea. One of my best friends saved my life that night.
A decade later, I am happy. I’m engaged to my absolute love; we raise a beautiful husky and share a great life together. I love my family more than ever, and I’m excited for the future. Although, I survived, and today, I’m in a good spot, I still battle depression. My cure for depression is exercise. Every morning, all year around, I head outside and run, bike, sprint, sink my hands into the snow and do push ups or stare up at Cricket Hill then run 30 times up and down that bloody hill until my shirt is soaked from summer’s heat. Pushing my body washes away the thoughts of pain and depression, and throughout this week I needed the distraction by getting after it because I remain heartbroken that one of my heroes is gone from this world. But I won’t forget what he most importantly taught me: approach a stranger with kindness.
If you need help, reach out. Hell, reach out to me and we can go for a run, bike down the lakeshore or we can just walk through the park and I’ll listen. Death is easy, living is difficult, but surviving the arduous periods of life comes with a reward. The reward is living the next day and owning the opportunity to experience life.