Within the past week, celebrity fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain both committed suicide. Early reports indicate that they each hung themselves, so there was no doubt that it was intentional for both of them. Bourdain left a note in which he spoke about his reasons for making the choice that he did. It seems that he struggled with demons in his life; at one point he gave an interview where he talked about being addicted to heroin and cocaine at some juncture, and although he seemed clean in recent years, he often ruminated about the pushing of boundaries. He said at one point “I also do feel I have things to live for. There have been times, honestly, in my life that I figured, I’ve had a good run- why not just do this stupid thing, this selfish thing…jump off a cliff into water of indeterminate depth.” It seems clear that ending his life by his own hand was something that he had thought about before.
Both Kate Spade and Bourdain were celebrities, and because of that, they were forced to spend some portion of their lives in the public eye. Maybe that adds more pressure to a person’s life; not being a celebrity myself, I don’t know. But there are plenty of people who lead quiet, unassuming lives who also kill themselves, so I don’t think that fame can be the single determining factor. No two people have the exact same reasons for killing themselves, I suspect, but everyone has pressure in their lives. Many people suffer from depression, whether they are clinically diagnosed or not. Many more of them have down periods or black moods, and I would certainly categorize myself among them. But I’m one of those who eschew therapy, so I’ve never been told exactly what’s going on with me, nor am I on any drugs to treat it.
I’m not suicidal. There’s a lot in my life for which I’m thankful, and being in a happy marriage and living in a nice house that I own outright are at the top of that list. I have a dog and two cats that I love, and within the past year I’ve been able to get out of an industry that I despised and start supporting myself exclusively through my writing, which is what I’ve always dreamed of doing. And yet, when I hear about someone committing suicide, all I can say is that I understand. I get it. Val Kilmer was quick to call Anthony Bourdain selfish for doing what he did, but who is he to judge? Nobody knows what it’s like to walk a mile or even an inch in anyone else’s shoes, and some people are just miserable. Life is no longer for them.
And it makes so much sense to me…life is just so tiring. It’s exhausting sometimes. In my case, approaching the age of thirty-seven next month, I never imagined that I would still be here. I don’t want to pile on the melodrama, but I was quite sure at one point that I was going to die in my late teens or early twenties. I don’t know if I was exactly suicidal at that point, but I thought about my death nearly constantly during that time. I did an incredible amount of drugs, and I put myself in situations where I could have been seriously harmed, where I could have died. I was so angry and despairing because of my parents’ divorce and the disintegration of the family that it made me crazed. I got through that time, mostly due to the incredible resilience that a young human body possesses, and now I’m staring down the barrel at middle age. I’m better mentally, but I feel on some occasions like I’m living on stolen time, a sentiment that was echoed in certain comments made by Anthony Bourdain.
I don’t have any plans of killing myself, but because I’m the morbid person that I am, I wonder what I would do if Megan died. If she got killed in a car wreck today, would I mourn for a while and then pick up the pieces, perhaps start dating again? Or would I start looking into the direction that Bourdain or Kate Spade took, or uncounted others since humanity began? Would I just say enough is enough, I’ve had a good run, and I can let go, because I don’t feel like I have anything to look forward to anymore? That’s not something that I could know unless that situation came to pass, so it’s pointless to speculate…and yet I can’t help it sometimes. It’s just the way my mind operates.
I don’t know what it was like to live as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade, or anyone else but me. Each human experience is perfectly unique. But I would never call someone selfish for taking their own life. Living is hard, and if you don’t agree, then that’s bully for you, but it’s hard sometimes for me. To Bourdain and Spade, wherever you are now, maybe you just didn’t want to deal with the bullshit anymore, and if so, I completely get it. I understand.