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What Anthony Bourdain’s Shows Mean to Me Now as a Person With Depression

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Like so many people, I was drawn to Anthony Bourdain’s shows.

He was talented, entertaining and the embodiment of that hard-to-define sense of cool. He was a brilliant writer. His shows were and are so interesting because they are part travel show, part food porn, part National Geographic documentary. He was almost like a journalist in the way he interviewed the people with whom he interacted on his shows, even his friends. Yet, at the same time, he could be laid back, lighthearted and sometimes brutally honest. Of the food or travel show hosts I can think of, he was the most human, in that one felt like they really knew him after watching. One saw his fun side, his frustrations, his curiosity, but underneath that there was something else.

It may not be obvious to people without this condition, but the more I watched him, the more I saw it. I recognized the same facial expressions as myself. Anthony was depressed.

There is something ironic and at times eerie about watching “Parts Unknown” on Netflix after his passing. One might even say morbid, but for the reasons above I already mentioned, I wanted to watch. One of those eerie moments was in the London episode of season eight. He was talking to Marco Pierre White, one of England’s most esteemed chefs, when Marco looked right at Anthony and said, “There are no guarantees on how long we’re going to be here. Just enjoy life.” In the next shot, the look on Anthony’s face spoke volumes to me. It was that dispassionate expression that said, “I know you’re right, but I don’t know how to do that.”

It’s a face I have worn I don’t know how many times — that dispassionate, bored countenance in which no matter how interesting or beautiful my life had become, it wasn’t enough. That is what depression does. It is a black hole that devours all the light in one’s life. When I look at pictures of myself in my teens and 20s, that is the guise I see frequently. To be fair, I’m not a psychologist or a body language expert, so I could be wrong. Maybe he was jet-lagged, maybe he was stressed about something or any of the multitude of things that can make someone look tired. All I know is that I might have shuffled off this mortal coil along with Anthony Bourdain a couple years ago too, when my imp-like depression had subtly, quietly grown into a full-blown monster with its claws around my throat. Suicidal thoughts finally drove me to counseling and then medication, the first of which actually made things worse, nearly destroyed my marriage and ultimately my life. Thankfully, I asked for help, was hospitalized, got the medication I needed, and I’m doing much better for the meantime.

I watch Anthony’s ghost appear throughout the world with that expression I connect with all too well, and it reminds me to be cautious and thankful.

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