I have met Anthony Bourdain only once, but his work has touched me and so many people as if he were family.
No one had us understand the world better, on the ground from their perspective, than he. His “food” show was the best “news” show today. Across the political spectrum, and from all over our country from vastly different economic backgrounds, I have spoken with people who said, “I want to see [name some new place] I never had thought of due to him.”
He united us in a subject all seven billion of us can relate to and enjoy: food. But “food” really means family; laughs with friends; pride in our geography and culture; amazement at new things. And, most of all, the idea of sharing with, listening to and walking around in the another person’s shoes. In a time where too many of us have sought comfort in turning inward or looking backward, he got us to have wonder in what we have never seen, warmth in a new lens of a place we have loved, and courage to see our times and issues differently.
And he made us laugh our asses off, not least of all at ourselves.
I know suicide and depression intimately. One of the largest reasons I co-founded my last company, HealthCentral.com, was to create a platform for people to share their experiences and help them navigate their illnesses. It is only recently in my world of entrepreneurship courageous leaders like Brad Feld have talked about their own individual journeys openly and candidly – but stigma here in the US remains intolerable and in many places where I travel unspeakable.
I read a study recently that suggested as many as a quarter of entrepreneurs and tech people suffer from some form of depression, and this would not surprise me anecdotally. There is a terrible irony that creative, solution-oriented people – optimists in so many ways – suffer this illness.
I still, however, have a thousand more questions than answers.
What I have learned is that depression has its own logic and that logic is like a vortex that spins downward to conclusions that logically do not add up to those who have never experienced it. You are loved, you have been so successful, you have had so much impact, there are billions needing help so you can use what you’ve built to have 100 other new pieces of impact, tomorrow will be better etc. etc. – just doesn’t register in the logic of someone in the deepest spiral of depression.
So Kate Spade apparently didn’t want people to know she had depression because her personae was built on being funny, stylish, happy and optimistic. And she gets no help.
What is that?
My children, my parents, my friends, my supporters, my fans are better off without me.
What is that?
All of that is the depression speaking. The very tools where we or some friend could whack us in the head and say, “get over it and let’s get an action plan in place” escape anyone with this illness because those tools not only don’t resonate, they don’t exist in the vortex.
Suicide literally becomes a logical conclusion based on the wrong assumptions and horribly faulty math.
And it leaves profound holes in the people left behind. All death is infinite, of course, but I think the loss of a child and suicide are particular docks off of the island of shit that is loss.
My thoughts are with any families and loved ones for who have experience this loss as I have. But I hope our actions can be with each other to remove the terrible and senseless stigma associated with depression and any unique challenges our brains bring many of us.
Because if I’ve learned anything, when people feel safe – from judgement or career jeopardy and to seek support and help – they not only fight on for another day, but are on a path to thrive.