Anthony Bourdain, You Foul-mouthed Angel

You sonofabitch. You foul-mouthed angel of culinary exposition.

Anthony Bourdain, you were my role model. No more. I have my reservations now.

I want to curse you out. Why the fuck did you do it? Didn’t you know you would leave behind millions of grieving fans and friends? Didn’t you care?

Obviously in the end you didn’t care about any of that. You didn’t care about your success or your creative work. You were busy fighting the Darkness.

Your incredible writing inspired the shit out of me. Way back when I was a pissed off teen flipping burgers in greasy kitchens across the Midwest, you lit a flame of hunger in me, and inspired me to go after my passions, everyone else be damned.

Every time I read one of your books for the first time I was inspired to eat, cook, enjoy life, and be true to myself. That hasn’t changed a goddamned bit.

You were a filthy hedonist bastard with the biggest heart on the block.

I could tell that you were acquainted with the Darkness. But it seemed like you had him under control.

All that bravado, so endearing but covering up a simple fact.

You were in a fight to the death with the Darkness, and nobody knew.

12 years I got a call that reminds me of how I feel this morning. It was from the sister of one of my best friends. She had committed suicide by hanging herself. The Darkness had won that fight.

10 years before that I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I still have the scars to prove it.

Since 1999, approximately 16.2 million adults in the US have had a major depressive episode, 6.7% of the adult population. About 3.1 million adolescents have had a severe depressive episode, 12.8% percent of the US population between 12–17 years of age. And these are just the ones that were honest about it.

The CDC reports that, over the last decade, suicide rates have increased by about 30% in half the states. For young people ages 10–19, suicide is the second leading cause of death. About 45,000 people have died of suicide since 1999.

And now we have to add yet another motherfucking grim statistic, along with a checkmark for a friend of mine who drank herself to death in 2016 and another mark for a friend who did the same thing a year before that.

Robin Williams, the great comic with a long and lustrous career, killed himself 4 years ago. He was just about the same age as Anthony. Back then we were all shocked and confused like we are this morning.

As a famous actor, he appeared to have it all, fame, money, a legacy; everything except the most important thing there is- his mental health. He had a psychological illness that caused him to despair. The Darkness won that fight.

He hung himself just like my friend did.

Kate Spade, the fashion designer, killed herself a few days ago, reportedly inspired by the death of Robin Williams.

It doesn’t really matter where the inspiration comes from. But it does matter that the diseases of depression and bipolar disorders have a stigma attached to them. Much like all stigmas, they are born out of the fear of the unknown, the different, the scary.

It is time to shine our light onto the Darkness and make that bastard scurry back into the shadows where he belongs.

It took me a long time and a lot of work to be able to feel okay.

I was fighting with the Darkness on a daily basis when I was young.

People who knew me when I was a rebellious teenager probably wouldn’t recognize me now. To me, that is pretty damned funny.

Because deep down I am and always will be the same person. I am vulnerable like we all are. I am looking for the same things that we all are — peace, happiness, comfort, love.

None of us are any different in that respect.

Sometimes we look to our heroes like Anthony Bourdain, those brilliant folks who inspire us and guide us through difficult times with their work, and see caricatures of humans that seem invulnerable and impossibly successful.

But then they go and kill themselves, and we realize it was all a charade to some large degree. Deep inside of them they are just exactly like every one of us.

Deeply scarred by life. Struggling to keep it all together. Filled with anxieties and fears. Exhausted.

In a way, we are all imposters, because we are trying to fill somebody else’s shoes instead of our own. We need to be exactly who we are in order to be happy, and that is tough work. Society and our communities and families and even friends wants us to be one way, and our hearts cry out for something unique.

We are all of us 100% unique, so there is no one size fits all technique to deploy in our fight against the Darkness.

Anthony Bourdain gave me the gift of so many words that resonated with my soul. He inspired me to write deeply, passionately, from the heart, without any reservations, and without any bullshit.

To be honest, I’m left floundering a bit after I saw the news of his death on Twitter this morning. The first thing I had to do was this, write it out.

The Darkness always waits patiently in the shadows until something like this happens. Then it begins to whisper in our ears.

“See what I did? I can take even the brightest, the most amazing of you. Look at you. You are nothing compared to them! Why should you live a happy healthy life when even your heroes and friends lose the fight! I am going to take you down as well. Let me in, let me in…”

But see, I have worked on creating boundaries for that motherfucker. I see him, but he is only allowed to hang out in the yard occasionally, just so I can get a good look at him and remember what an asshole he is.

Through my diet, exercise, sleep, and work, the Darkness has no place to set up shop in my life.

Even in 2016 when I went through a divorce, just as Anthony Bourdain did, and moved twice in one year, I kept the Darkness at bay. I was stressed out more then I had ever been in my life, but I told the Darkness what he doesn’t want to hear.

“You have no place here.”

And I fucking kept going.

In the end that is all we can do, really. Keep putting one step in front of another. Finding that light, finding that connection, finding that brief glimpse of joy.

One thing the Darkness really likes to whisper into our ear is how stuck we are in one place forever, when in reality we are always moving, growing, evolving into something or someone else.

When asked to define Buddhism with one phrase, the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said, “Everything changes.”

Sometimes its as simple as meditating on that phrase to achieve some peace within ourselves.



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