Anthony Bourdain’s apparent suicide has scared me. Inadvertently, it hit on some latent fears and also my inability to comprehend the act. Let’s take the latter one first.
I don’t truly understand how a person reaches the point of suicide. I suppose I can’t comprehend it because I’ve never been in those shoes. That does not, however, mean that I’ve dismissed those who reach a point where life is too painful for them to go on. I understand it only from the point of the terminally-ill because that’s the population I’ve worked with for so long. It used to scare me when I would hear someone say the patient was ready to die because they were “just tired.” I couldn’t imagine, and didn’t want to imagine, reaching a point where I was “just tired.” However, after having my own back surgery for a problem that had grown increasingly painful on a daily, then hourly, then minute-by-minute basis, I was made aware (on a diminished scale, to be sure) what it must be like to have a much more painful problem that had gone on for so long that that person would rather die than live with it any longer. I get that now.
Okay, but that’s a physical problem. I still can’t really understand dealing with mental demons that would incapacitate me to the same degree. I’ve always been aware that my darkest thoughts happen at night and that if I can hold on until morning, I’ll feel better. And even if nothing has resolved overnight, I feel better just because I’ve put it aside long enough to sleep and now feel like it’s something I can run with for another day. And even though I might face the same issue every night for weeks, there comes a time when the issue has resolved or I’ve realized it’s not the demon I thought it was and I’m able to move on.
I remember once upon a time in my early Vegas dance career, going right off the deep end over a broken relationship. The cad had walked me out the front door to my car after work every night and then walked around back to meet another girl who was in the same dressing room with me. When he finally decided to make the split official, I found that I couldn’t eat. I was already thin at 5’8″ and 126 pounds, but I went down to almost 110. I would go home and sob every night and, exhausted, try to sleep but, of course, didn’t sleep well. This went on for months. But even then, I never contemplated suicide.
So my fear is twofold: (a) What if, once I retire, I discover that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, I run out of things I want to do or explore, I have nothing better to do than sit around at home and stare at the television, and I begin to spiral down into a place where I will understand how one gets to the point of suicide. I will have become that terminally-ill patient with no future who’d just as soon die. And (2) how can you ever know a person well enough to see past the exterior, to know if their interior emotions have a stronger pull on them than their outer persona? If you can’t see it, how can you help?
I’ve always understood that people let you see only what they want you to see and that they never share all of themselves – in my opinion, never. There are inner parts of all of us that we simply don’t share with others.
So the thought that someone like Anthony Bourdain, who seemed to have pulled his shit together from an admittedly raucous youth, should be suffering and no one had an inkling, is frightening.