In one week, the world lost a fashion icon and a culinary superstar, both to suicide. I was shocked to learn about the death of Kate Spade, a wealthy white woman who seemed to have it all. We all knew about Kate Spade the brand, but who was Kate Spade the woman? I never heard much about her; no drama on TMZ, no scandalous stories on the news. To me, she was just a woman who designed handbags I could not afford.
But Anthony Bourdain’s sudden departure shook me to my core. Maybe it’s because I feel a special connection to him having worked at the restaurant where he got his start, Les Halles in New York City. Or maybe it’s because I loved the man who appeared to be so full of life, aware of his shortcomings, never forgetting his past, but always pressing forward. In some ways, he reminded me of myself, and that’s the scary part.
I started to wonder about the Anthony Bourdain the world didn’t see. Who was he when the camera lights went out and he went home at night? At that moment I realized that I, too, am a candidate for suicide.
I couldn’t shake his death, and I ended up retreating to my safe space — my closet — and cried. I didn’t cry for him, I cried for me. I cried because like Bourdain, I hide my pain very well. To others I’m a joy to be around, a fun person who loves life and her children. But to me, I am a sad soul who has not accomplished her goals in her 34 years. I am one who still hurts from childhood disappointments, broken relationships and friendships, and a sense of never being enough. I don’t know Bourdain’s story. But if money, fame, travel and friends couldn’t keep him alive, then what stops me or anyone else from being next? For me, it’s my children, but for others, children may not be enough.
Depression and anxiety have been a part of me for many years. The anxiety has been so bad that I’d run to the doctor with heart attack symptoms only to be told I was having an anxiety attack. I’m too chicken to take my own life, but maybe there was always some part of me hoping my anxiety attack would really be a life-ending heart attack. There were never any referrals to a therapist, just a prescription for rest. For many years, I battled my depression and anxiety in my safe space hoping that if I cried enough, it would go away.
Depression doesn’t discriminate. It has no perfect candidate to fit the bill, but one characteristic its candidates seem to have in common is isolation. It’s hard to discuss the deep, dark thoughts that have lurked behind my smile. And most of the time, people, not even family members bother asking, “How are you? Like really, How Are YOU?”
But I wouldn’t tell them anyway. Past experiences have proved that it’s far better to keep quiet and continue feeling trapped than to be called “drama queen” and “weak” or be told that I’m “always playing the victim” or that just because someone went through my problems and got over theirs that I should just “get over it.” All statements that I’ve heard from friends and immediate family members.
Depression doesn’t work like that, and because oftentimes people do not understand how hurtful those comments are, I, like many others, remain silent. It’s this silence, this judgment, this fear that might have kept a fashion icon and a famous chef quiet and never seeking help. It’s this same silence, judgment and fear that keeps me from seeking help when I find myself spiraling out of control.
To the Anthonys and Kates in the world, I hope you know you’re not alone. You really aren’t.