Suicides spiked 10% after Robin Williams took his life. My sincere hope is that doesn’t happen after Bourdain’s passing. Many genuine people are encouraging friends to talk to friends, and that helps… but I think it’s important for people to speak about their struggles with suicidal ideation like Bourdain did. When people like writer Yashar Ali dealt with depression for the first time, he knew who could help him, and it was Bourdain. Those of us doing well have to leave a roadmap for encouragement to those that aren’t.
How can someone like Anthony Bourdain take his own life when so many people love him? Is he at the top of his field? When he financially wants for nothing? Age and years of drug abuse likely robbed him of a healthy chemical balance. When you face depression, darkness follows close behind.
Depression Strikes Despite Circumstances
I have struggled with depression and suicidal ideation my entire adult life. To be honest, the last four months have been very difficult (It’s easy to hide with enough practice.) Due to a medicine switch, I decided to leave serotonin drugs for something else. The lack of serotonin led to some days of despair. There’s no rhyme or reason to it beyond that. Despite some personal turbulence, my life is terrific. I’m excelling in my physical, emotional, and spiritual life. (Thanks to my support system, I’m doing great, so please don’t worry.)
How do I know when I’m dealing with depression? It creeps up on me. It’s not as simple as “I’m feeling very sad today.” While that exists, imagine your emotional life as a Jenga set. Over time, little pieces get removed. One little self-esteem hit here. One little rejection there. One missed workout here. One week of bad sleep there. Eventually, you’re wobbling and wondering why you’re about to fall.
I’ve spent three years seeing a therapist who walks me through my thought and behavioral patterns. I know all my modes of self-destructive behavior. I remove Jenga pieces by emotionally eating and guilting myself for it. I isolate myself from the ones I love by pushing them away through harsh barbs of sarcasm. In therapy, you see all the ways you’re validating the idea that you’re not worthy of love. They then coach you on how to defeat this wrong thinking.
How Does One Fight Depression?
Healthy self-worth is the anti-virus of the mind. It’s essential to update it through self-care regularly. Get exercise, get sunlight, get good sleep, go to therapy, read books, meet friends and family face to face, eat nutritious foods, attend a religious service, journal, and talk to yourself the way your best friend would. These things are essential to keeping depression at bay.
I also have a plan when I feel like the water is at my neck. It’s reaching out to friends to help check my thinking. If some thought or behavior needs correcting, then I know they will be honest. If not, they tell me I’m irrational. I also will schedule a therapy appointment as soon as humanly possible. After those conversations, I’ve processed the underlying issue and have put together a mental strategy to combat what caused the attack on my self-esteem in the first place.
In my 20’s and post-divorce, I spent 90% of my time in a depressive state. I would say it’s less than 10% now because of changing my approach.
If you’re reading this and deal with depression or suicidal thoughts, I want you to know that none of this was as hard as I imagined. The journey of letting others love me, accepting that others love me, and loving myself has been incredibly rewarding.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
There’s life on the other side, but you have to choose to do something. Just pick one thing a day and put one foot in front of the other. You may move back two steps, but never stop crawling forward. Today, pick a therapist by going to your insurance website and making an appointment. It takes five minutes. (It’s like dating. Don’t like them? Try someone else.) tomorrow, go for a long walk. The day after, get a book called “The Undervalued Self” from the library or Amazon. Just do one thing a day.
I can tell you that there were times where I couldn’t do anything for me because I thought I wasn’t worth the effort. I began making changes for other people, and it ended up being for me. If you’re not willing to change your circumstances for you, then do it for the family weeping over your casket if you don’t. (The idea that no one would care is bullshit. That’s the idea that you should no longer allow in your mind.)
Suicide, anxiety, and depression are curable. There is hope. It just takes you deciding you are sick of living miserably and doing something about it. Within a couple of months, your entire life can be different. Trust me. It’s worth it.
If you love someone with depression, reaching out when you see behavioral changes is always appreciated. As is patience and empathy. Hurting people will sometimes vent their pain on the safest people in their life. Give them grace. Ultimately, they have to fix themselves, but knowing they are loved and supported is an important step to lifting out of depression.