Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spady, Suicide and Depression

Click here for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline

I am once again faced with the sadness of reading about a famous person’s depression and suicide. Like so many others I woke this morning to read of and hear about the tragic death in Paris, France of Chef and CNN show host Anthony Bourdain.

I watched his show maybe once, ever. But knew of him through interviews and commercials. Its not my knowledge of his death that saddens me. Its the suicide. Along with the death earlier this week of fashion designer Kate Spady we are all reminded of how fame, fortune, and accomplishment are not enough to fend off the terrible grips depression can have on people. It’s power can feel overwhelming. And it can take lives leaving behind a wake of incomprehensible grief for those who knew the deceased. As in the examples of Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spady, Tyler Hilinski in January, and Robin Williams a few years ago; one doesn’t need to personally know someone to be effected.

I have never attempted suicide. I have thought about it.

The betrayal of my ex-wife and the associated circumstances that lead to our divorce after 28 years of marriage caused me to fall into an almost deadly depression. For nearly 2 years I struggled to make it through each day. I cried every day. It got so bad that crying become a necessary comfort. I remember times when if it got late in the day and I realized I hadn’t cried that day, I would make myself cry because I felt I had to cry to feel normal. The will to continue living is weakened in such circumstances. The will to end it and stop the pain grows. Obviously for some ending it all becomes the solution they see as their only option. I felt that way, way to often. It’s frightening to think back on those times now.

If I could say anything to help those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts it would be these two things. Not all people care about you. But some do. Some do very much. The other thing is that you can find salvation, literally, through God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

When I discovered my ex-wife’s cheating and she confessed it and then all the lies and false and incomplete stories came to light I knew right away I would need help. I knew the feelings in me were too strong and too destructive to try and cope on my own. After meeting with and rejecting several counselors and counseling services I turned to my church. My church provided a counseling service I had previously never known about. It provided me a new friend and sound wisdom in the face of irresponsibility and illogical behavior I was faced with every day.

I prayed every day. I read the Bible. I read lots of books. Most of the books I read were self-help books or biographies of successful people I admired. Not surprisingly I kept finding in these books a recurring theme. God was at the center of many people’s success. So, while I always felt I led a good life and believed in Christ; I made a more deliberate effort to pray, read the Bible and eliminate from my character and my behaviors things that were in conflict with God’s teachings. I am also not ashamed to admit reading the Bible and studying it taught me how to accomplish so much more in life and in my relationships. While I had led a good life. I was still doing much wrong, that I didn’t realize. I’ve done much better since. I will continue to improve.

The other thing about depression is that friends and family tire of your depressed state. Initially you can find all the support you can handle. Everyone has a sympathetic ear and kind words of wisdom and support. But as your depression lingers or if it goes away and returns many of these same people ostracize you. They stay away. They no longer want to be part of your problems. You have worn them out.

It’s easy to understand, to a point. Nobody wants to be around a sad person all the time. This sad or depressed person can bring you down and effect your own life. But, there is a difference between a negative person who is always grumbling and having a glass is half-empty view on life versus someone who is depressed. If you are the friend or family member of someone who is depressed, I urge you to hang in there. Don’t turn away from them. And realize you can positively change their life for the better. The perpetually negative half-empty glass type of person is someone you want to avoid. But the depressed person can be helped. If you were there for them at the start of their depression. Be there at the end. You and they will reap the rewards of a closer relationship in the future.

I lost friends and family through my depression. They are gone now and probably don’t care that I have rebounded and am a happy person again. I have found love. And while I now know that falling back into the spiral of depression is something I am susceptible to doing, I am wiser for having come through it and can fend it off on the occasions when it creeps back into my conscious.

So help those that you can. Share God’s word. And if you are suffering yourself be proactive in combatting your depression. Take steps. The pain can go away and happiness can be your end story.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255


My Depression Might Benefit You

Darkness Comes with Depression

As far too many people know a little over three months ago I fell into a clinically diagnosed deep depression. Events in my life which I couldn’t have anticipated and was totally unprepared for hit me like a boulder rolling down hill. At fifty years of age I can honestly say I never felt so bad for so long. Certainly there have been times in my life where I was sad, possibly even depressed. The death of my father in 2001 comes to mind as a particularly painful time. But there has never been anything remotely close to this. And the silver lining of my story is that I hope and expect to come out the other side of this crisis as a better person.

My depression manifested itself in actual physical pain and sickness. It also resulted in an incredible zapping of my energy level. While normally a high-flying person who’s busy busy busy all day long and well into the evening; I am a high-energy guy; but by 4-5 pm every day I was done, and it was all I could do to make it through the evening to a regular bed time.

I had numerous mental lapses completely uncharacteristic of me. The most dangerous and dramatic occurred when I was in my car at a red light, first in line, and absent mindedly without paying attention I thought the light had turned green and I accelerated through a busy intersection while the light remained red. The week before Christmas I discovered four different accounting errors I had created in both my personal and business checkbooks that could have resulted in hundreds of dollars of overdraft charges and other fees. This is NOT normal behavior for me. I’m exceptionally careful in my accounting practices.

During the worst times I went from crying to anger to crying again daily, even hourly. I cried myself to sleep more than a few times. My self-esteem was zero. I didn’t feel I was any good to any body. And, yes, I had some very dark thoughts. I also slept during the day on a few occasions. Choosing bed over running my company. This is something I NEVER have done before.

The Christmas season and my beloved Seahawks playoff run to a Super Bowl title did little to ease my pain. In fact, the holidays made it much worse. Also making it worse were the frequent cryptic and negative posts I made to Facebook and Twitter. One of my friends and co-workers feared I had cancer and was dying (I don’t have cancer or any potentially fatal disease). I’m embarrassed and regret all these public exposures of my pain. I only hope all my friends will think better of me as I go forward and remember that so much of what I typically posted for public consumption was very positive, at least prior to three months ago.

So much of what I’ve read about depression and my specific circumstances has been spot-on, giving me a much more appreciative view of those in the world of psychology and psychiatry. It was if all their writings were being dictated from my mouth.

Depression will show you who your truest friends are. Initially everyone who knew of my hurt offered words of support and encouragement and advice.

“Hang in there”

“I’m there for ya.”

“Call me any time”

and more…

Over time nearly all those supportive friends tired of my despair and made themselves unavailable. To a large degree its understandable. They’ve got lives to lead. They’ve got problems too. Who wants to spend time with someone who will bring them down with their low and dark mood and their desperate cries for help, advice and support? Nonetheless, I can’t help but note those who weren’t there for me; or even some whose actions were outright hurtful, making my pain worse. It’s shocking how insensitive and uncaring some people were to me. But, at least now I know who can be counted on, or why these tangent friends were never close friends to begin with.

As I move to a more positive and stronger mental state I’ve learned a few things that might help anyone whose life’s storms develop into hurricanes.

1. Get help. I knew right away that I couldn’t deal with my situation without the guidance of a professional to whom I could relay all my fears, anxiety and troubles. I called my church St. Stephens the Martyr Catholic Church and met a well credentialed counselor who has been a bright light in my dark night. I honestly don’t know that I would have survived not having my weekly chats with this person. No not a priest. Though my increased visits to Mass also helped.

2. Keep the specifics about your troubles limited to a relatively small number of only the closest confidants. I didn’t do this. In my despair I revealed far too much to far too many people and ended up retarding my improved health. Too many had bad advice, or no advice. And too many didn’t seem to really care. Worst of all on at least a couple of occasions my private troubles were shared to others to whom I wouldn’t want the information shared by those I trusted to keep their mouths shut. It made me ashamed and further put off the time when I could feel good about myself.

2a. “I never take advice from anyone more messed up than I am.”- Tom Hopkins. Those who want to give you advice often have no business giving advice to anyone based on how messed up their own lives are. It’s OK to talk with those who have “been through it”. But make sure they’ve actually been through it and not someone who’s life doesn’t hold up to admirable levels according to your high standards.

3. When you find yourself obsessing over negative and destructive thoughts do whatever is necessary to stop it. This is something I’ve only recently gotten better at in the past couple weeks. When I start thinking I’m worthless or that I’m a victim or bad thoughts about someone else I now will sternly and firmly say out loud, “STOP IT!“. I’ll repeat it two or three times if necessary, STOP IT! STOP IT! YOU’RE ONLY HURTING YOURSELF! And then I will focus on something else. What that something else is can vary. It may be as inane as how the mesh in a wicker chair is woven. Or it may be about my schedule for the remainder of the week. Try it. But STOP with the negative thoughts.

4. Have a mental place you can go. Real seems to be better than imaginary. But I have both. When I’m needing some peace I close my eyes and see my park, a park I always went to as a teen where I could throw a frisbee for my dog and walk all around green meadows, and gaze at the willow trees. I love willow trees. When I do this my breathing eases and my heart quits pounding.

5. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up. Giving up is what a loser would do. And if you make yourself a loser. You’ll be a loser. And how will that play on your fragile mental condition? As long as you’re trying and pushing forward you are a champion. Remember, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going. You’re still moving farther and faster than the guy on the couch.

6. Get up and do something. I exercise 5 days per week. My worst days are when I don’t.

7. Give yourself time. Don’t be mad at yourself or your situation if the next day is not a lot better than the previous or if you’re still depressed or lacking energy. I’m a lot better than I was last month. Last month I was a lot better than the month before. Things will get better, especially if you take the necessary steps to make them better.

I have a much more understanding and compassionate feeling for those who have depression now than I did before mine hit me. This writing is therapeutic. It helps me pass along a closed-caption message to friends that I’m going to be all right, even if more pain remains, which it certainly does. But I’m no longer deeply depressed. I have my moments. My evenings are still filled with complete exhaustion. That comes from expending so much emotional energy which is far more taxing than expending physical energy. Physical energy exertion actually energizes you further. I’m speaking from personal experience.

If you haven’t been through what I’ve been through I am certain in saying “You will never understand”. I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone. But the fact is my experience is not singular. One in ten American adults report having depression according to the Center for Disease Control. And if my writing can help any of them now or in the future than I can be glad. And I can also feel a whole lot closer to my own recovery.

Please know. I’ll be all right. I’m getting there. I haven’t quit yet.

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