Anthony Bourdain is dead and reports state it was suicide.
It’s 10:00 am on a Friday and I have a ton of work to get done for cakes this weekend, but I can’t focus. I can’t process this effectively yet to move on and go about my day. I woke up to this headline on my social media and it left me aching inside, and, frankly, this is my way of dealing with this.
Let’s be clear, I never met Bourdain in person, didn’t know him in any more significant way than anyone can know an author or television personality. But, yet, having read his works, having consumed his programs and appearances, I began to feel a comradery with him.
The brash, outspoken chef was a favorite of mine for his travel shows, his willingness to say things that others wouldn’t (and mean them…that’s the truly important part), and his openness to trying new things. I would watch from week to week his travels to the lesser visited areas of popular destinations, his encounters with people that were real and genuine, his search for experiences that reverberated with the soul and I would think to myself “Wow, that’d be great to do someday” and then be honest with myself and know that I wouldn’t be comfortable enough to do that to the level he was showing. With a show like “No Reservations,” Bourdain maintained that we shouldn’t be afraid to connect with people, to say what we’re thinking, or to experience connections at one on one level. I knew in my heart that no matter how much I would like to step outside my comfort zone and interact with new people with true conversations, I probably never would and that made me even more thankful for him and his willingness to do it.
And now, the question is whether he was willing to do it. If it hurt him to do it. If he had reservations about reaching out for help.
I was late to Bourdain’s first major writing work, Kitchen Confidential, but, as a former kitchen employee in the fine dining world, I related to so many of his stories, the good and the bad. The coworkers who were willing to open up and provide lessons on cooking and restaurant life while they struggled themselves with all sorts of other issues, personal or professional. The crazy situations that would arise from working with food daily, the rules you learn about eating out, what to eat and not eat given the location, the day of the week and more. And after reading it, I felt a kinship with the author, knowing that no matter how different our backgrounds might be, our life trajectories, etc, we shared a common language and experience.
But now I wonder if we do really share that language and experience. You see, for me, I’ve learned some important lessons in my life. I’ve had issues with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. I’ve lived in a family that has hereditary issues with mental illness and hearing someone has headed back into a “behavioral clinic” or rehab is something I’ve become used to. I’ve had frightening interactions with loved ones who were going through terrible moments in their lives either due to undiagnosed issues, failing to take the medicines that would clear their minds of the overwhelming and confusing thoughts, or just that the world had been overly harsh recently and the weight had become too much for them to bear.
But I’ve been lucky enough to learn that there is no shame in this. There is nothing wrong at all with dealing with the thoughts that may flash across your mind at the worst moments. There is nothing wrong at all with seeking help. There is nothing wrong with taking a pill that makes your mind clear, your soul stronger, and your true self shine through. There is nothing wrong with talking to someone when there is too much to process yourself. And there is nothing wrong with asking for help. Ever. End of sentence.
It hurts when we lose people. Death will always be a normal part of life. There’s no way around that. But, it hurts even more when we lose people and know that that we could have stopped it. When a kind word, a moment’s conversation or question, or being there when they need someone could make all the difference could have kept that person here. As I’m writing this, I will freely admit that there are tears running down my cheeks. It’s partially because of Anthony Bourdain’s passing, but more so because I know that it wasn’t necessary for him to be gone. That somewhere along the line a key interaction didn’t happen. An opportunity for that kind word went unsaid. And the conversation that could have changed his mind about things wasn’t had.
I’m not an expert on these things. I’ll freely admit that. I can even admit that I know I’m not the most empathetic person in the world and I struggle with connecting to every person I should. But there are experts out there. There are people who, frankly, are my heroes. Every day, counselors are willing to listen to you. Every day, there are people across the world whose very job is to be that friendly face in the storm, that hand that helps you up, and that smile when you feel there is nothing left but darkness.
And I try and support them. I may not be the light in the dark for people (even though I’ll be here if ANYONE EVER NEEDS IT!!!), but I can help pay to keep their lights shining. That’s why we have chosen to support Stop Suicide NE Indiana this year. It’s why any charity event we have will provide funds to them. This coalition of counselors from tons of different mental health groups in our area have put together ways to help with prevention of suicide, suicide counseling, and counseling for those who are left after a suicide occurs. When you call the national suicide prevention hotline, these are the local people that you will be talking to. They are a tremendous group of people doing their best to make sure that Northeast Indiana doesn’t have to go through moments like today. To make sure that there is always someone to talk to, someone who will connect with you, and someone who can assure you that it will get better.
We rejoice in so many things in this world, the strength of athletes, the wisdom of sages and scientists, the comforts of entertainment, and the joys of a meal together to just mention a few. But we should truly rejoice and be thankful for those among us who are willing to help our fellow man at their darkest moments. There’s always someone who can help. Always.
If you or someone you know needs to talk with one of these heroes, don’t hesitate. Reach out to them via the national hotline, which routes to a local person who is willing to listen to you, to help you, to be there for you. If you need help, you should truly have no reservations. Reach out at 1-800-273-TALK.