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Anthony Bourdain’s Final Gift to Depressed People Everywhere

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Editor's Note

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

My mind keeps returning to Anthony Bourdain. I’m a busy person and I spend a lot of energy dealing with depression and just trying to get out of my own way, so it’s not often I allow a news item to stick to me like a burr on my sock. However, this one has. I’ve been sad about it, as everyone has, but there’s been something else. Perhaps something I needed to see. Today, I think I saw it.

It’s the fact Anthony Bourdain was an amazing, productive, empathic, exemplary, sparkling firecracker of a person, and he was also — at least sometimes — depressed and suicidal.

He was a global ambassador and champion of food, culture and adventure. He shined a light of respect and affection on cultures and countries that western media have forever kept in the dark, and people all over the world will love him for it. At the same time, the world had no idea the depths he continually fought to rise up out of.

The beautiful thing about this dichotomy is that it contains a lesson — a gift of hope for depressed people everywhere. This amazing human being who accomplished so much in his life — who inspired so many people all around the world and truly did something good for humankind — also struggled with the worst kind of depression. And yet, look at all that he was able to do. All he was able to be.

I will not see him as a famous person who killed himself — someone who “lost the battle” or “succumbed.” No, that is not a good summary of what he did and who he was in this world.

I will see him as a deeply depressed and gifted person who succeeded in living a truly amazing and inspiring life. Someone who fought the good fight every single day with truly remarkable results, until the day came that he just couldn’t anymore.

And how did he do it? How was he able to live so fully while suffering so much? From my ordinary perspective, I think he did it by being himself — boldly and courageously. He pursued his passions — culinary arts, travel, relationships and fatherhood, to name a few. He felt everything. He tried everything. He stood up for people. He spoke out. Perhaps he kept moving so as not to stand still and feel the darkness closing in. But I believe that through his bold and exuberant living, he kept the darkness at bay.

He sat down and wrote, just as I am sitting and writing now. He wrote that first article, used his gift of words, and hit it out of the park. Maybe it was luck; maybe it was divine timing. He took off like a rocket ship and never came back down. He is up there now, his brilliance now free from the shackles of depression. Maybe it was him — that burr in my sock the past few days. Maybe he gave me the hint, or the answer, to share with you.

If you are reading this and nodding your head to yourself (even inwardly), then you know he was one of us. You and I have a pretty good understanding of what he likely went through, how he suffered, how it took all the strength in the world to keep going through each day. Because we’ve been there. Or, we’re there right now. But before all of this happened, did you know he suffered as we do? Did you have any idea we had this major thing in common with him?

His final gift to us — to depressed people everywhere — was to let us know he was, in fact, one of us. It most likely wasn’t his intention to give this gift, but nevertheless, it’s a powerful one.

If he could live life to the fullest, so can we. We can rise boldly into each day, though the darkness may be ever at our doorstep. We can dare to be truly ourselves. We can take risks. We can make a difference. People can know us not just for our frailties, but for our strengths. Perhaps even for our amazing talents, and our hearts of gold.

Because ultimately, life is always fleeting, regardless of how it ends. What we do with life is what matters. And what Anthony did with his life — it mattered a lot. Let’s remember that about him, and let’s try to live like that too.

Photo via Anthony Bourdain Facebook page.

Originally published: July 19, 2019
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