For today’s post I had planned to write about my highly frustrating week trying to resolve technical issues with my website. It drove me utterly mad and I was SO close to actually smashing up my computer. I had some entertaining stories to share with you to show you that blogging isn’t just a mere case of “writing a bit about what you ate in restaurant X and adding your Instagram-perfect photo to it”. However, after finding about yet again one of my celebrity heroes committing suicide, I felt I had to dedicate some space on my website to this topic. I must add that I’m not an expert on this subject of course so please don’t feel offended if I’m not always using the correct terminology!
Bourdain’s death (just writing these two words feels unreal) is the third high-profile depression-related suicide I heard about this week. The week started with the shocking news of famous designer Kate Spade hanging herself, followed by the news that the death of the Dutch Queen’s youngest sister Inés Zorreguieta’s, last Wednesday, was highly likely the result of suicide. I’ve been moping about my website and social media accounts lately, wishing they would engage a bigger audience, but these sad deaths prove that all the success and money in the world in fact don’t mean anything.
The day I saw Anthony Bourdain during my first New York trip
In all the news reports I’ve been reading on his death, Anthony Bourdain is referred to as a ‘rock star chef’ and ‘gifted storyteller’. I’m copying these words as these are my very first associations when thinking of him.
From the first time I saw his travel and culinary show No Reservations back in the early 2000s, I was hooked. This foul-mouthed, tattoo covered and strongly opinionated chef was so different from all those celebrity chefs I had seen on the TV before. With his bad boy attitude he whisked me away to some exotic destination or even a European city I thought I knew well, avoiding the cliché tourist traps and showing me the true traditions and cuisine of locals, washing down all the culinary treats with litres of alcohol of course, which more than often would lead to a craving for greasy comfort food the following day, preferably something that would include meat (or some other body part) from a pig. I don’t eat pork, but his worship of the pig always highly entertained me. Over the years I’ve watched him bravely eat a raw seal eye offered to him by the Inuit, who think this is a true delicacy and regard it as a great honour when offered to you, and learned through him that authentic Korean kimchee is fermented cabbage that’s been buried in the ground.
Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” – Anthony Bourdain
But it wasn’t always just fun and game in his TV shows. He would also show his viewers the brutal truth about local life, how his newly made friends would struggle with poverty, extortion and violence on a daily basis. Bourdain and his crew happened to be filming in Beirut in 2004 when a war broke out there. I remember how I watched the episode they shot whilst their hotel was in lockdown, leaning on the edge of my seat. This episode was later nominated for an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Information Programming” in 2007.
Except for being a multi-award winning TV host who managed to engage viewers into his fascinating adventure-filled and high-calorie world, Bourdain was mostly known as the author of a number of The New York Times best-selling non-fiction books. The most significant one is of course Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000). In that book he reveals what happens behind those revolving kitchen doors in restaurants, and what those (mostly) men are up to after their late-night shift. I discovered that not only rock stars, but certainly also chefs own the whole “sex, drugs and rock and roll” lifestyle.
I was actually reading that book during my first trip to New York City in 2011. One day before walking the High Line, a public park built on disused rail tracks, I spotted a familiar face just across the road. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it was Anthony Bourdain and his film crew. I still regret not walking up to him to greet him, but then again, he was filming so they probably wouldn’t have been really happy if I had done that. If I had my book on me at that moment, it would’ve been a different story of course, but as you can see here I did manage to snap some photos of him.
When even your heroes can’t cope with life
Unfortunately, the three high-profile suicides I mentioned in the beginning are no exception. It’s been just over a year ago that Chris Cornell ended his own life and his death truly shocked me. I grew up with his music, played his records over and over again during certain periods of my life, and saw him play live many times. I was so excited when Soundgarden reformed so I could finally hear him sing those classic songs live with the whole band. He seemed so stable, having outgrown the whole young rock and roll scene and surviving his peers such as Kurt Cobain.
I know this topic is rather heavy to think about on a Sunday morning, but it hurts my heart to think that people of all different backgrounds and ages can feel so overwhelmed by life that they’d rather end it than live on. When it comes to celebrities, there have been many confessions and sad suicide cases. Jim Carrey for example has been battling depression for many years, apparent superhuman Dwayne Johnson has spoken out about his depression, and actor Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Of course the whole world was shocked when Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington committed suicide almost a year ago, and the sad losses of world-famous DJ Avicii and talented Icelandic music composer Jóhann Jóhannsson are also believed to have been suicide cases related to long-term anxiety and depression.
This Independent article makes a good case about the pressure put on artists, often by their management, which could lead to mental health issues, or worse.
However, it’s not to say that when you’re depressed you automatically also toy with the idea of ending your life of course. I read that only 4 percent of the people who suffer from depression actually commit suicide (still too much of course!). Also, it’s not correct to say that all suicide cases are linked to depression. There could be many more factors, such as drugs and alcohol abuse, long-term illness, divorce etc.
So far the celebrities, what about us, the normal people?
Looking at my own circle of friends and acquaintances, I realise many of them struggle with depression, anxiety or burnouts, and some take antidepressants. I know it’s easy to say that depression isn’t that much of a taboo anymore – at least that’s what I experience in Western Europe – and that you should always try to reach out to friends, family or professionals for help, but I know from experience it’s not that easy. I was still young when my sweet, beautiful and talented cousin-in-law hung herself. Also, when I was around 17 years old I felt insecure, anxious and like losing control of my life, so I decided to take control of that one thing I could influence directly: the amount of food I put in my mouth.
It seems like a whole lifetime ago now, but I remember very well how measuring out my ‘meals’ and limiting my intake, made me feel in control and empowered. Despite my family’s efforts, I didn’t stop until I managed to heal myself, mentally. And I still go through bouts of depression at times, usually related with those pesky monthly hormones or the time of the year, when I can feel this dark entity taking control of my body and mind. Although it can get rather numbing, it’s nothing too serious and usually doesn’t last long. While my UV light box certainly helps me through winter, I do urge that if you do feel like life’s getting too much to handle on your own, you will try to reach out to your friends, family or a medical professional!
If you’re battling with a mental illness or have suicidal thoughts and feel like you want to speak about it to someone other than your friends, family or doctor, bear in mind that there are special phone numbers you can ring.
For the UK, check this website.
Informatie over Nederlandse hulplijnen vind je hier.
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones!