My Facebook newsfeed is usually comedians making jokes or sharing articles that highlight the wretched state of the world. But as news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide spread, my news feed was radically transformed into a place where people spoke candidly about their mental illness. My feed was transformed into a place where people were emotionally vulnerable and receptive to emotional vulnerability, and I can think of no more beautiful a sendoff for Anthony Bourdain than that. I only wish that it would last more than one day.
Devon Courtney Knight, Comedian and Storyteller
I was diagnosed with clinical depression around the age of 10 or 11 after a suicide attempt. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. At the age of 21, that was reclassified as refractory (basically untreatable) major depressive disorder. I've been on several different MAOIs, SSRIs, NSRIs, tricyclics, mood stabilizers (Drs said just to try), stimulants (Drs said why not?), Intravenous ketamine and electroconvulsive therapy for this disorder and none of them helped. I've attempted suicide more than 20 times. And in none of those times would knowing that I'm not alone or that there's help out there have stopped me.
Knowing that I'm not alone, it's crushing knowing that somebody else understands the pain that I feel. It's awful because nobody should feel how I felt at the depths that I've been at.
I know there's help out there and it's not good.
Even before my diagnosis, I had been in therapy, grief therapy to deal with my father's death a month before I turned 4. I've been in therapy 25 years. I've taken all the pills. I've done clinical trials where the doctors cared more about the drug than the patients. I've hospitalized myself to keep myself safe so many times– keeping myself from living my life fully. A phone call or a hug would not have kept me from feeling the way that I felt. When I have attempted suicide I wasn't thinking about whether people love me or not; I was thinking about survival. About whether or not I'm willing to do what it takes to survive in this world or whether I'd rather be dead.
So what it takes to prevent suicide is to live fully. For everyone to be living fully. Every time we make a compromise for our joy or our souls we contribute to suicide. When we work soul-crushing jobs just to pay the rent when we deal with oppression because somebody is an authority figure (hey they're the boss, that's just the way it is, etc) that contributes to suicide. If at any point in your day-to-day life you are compromising and you are feeling your "Self" be destroyed you are contributing to suicide. What would end suicide is changing this world; not being complacent in a broken system. Fighting for what you believe and what you feel is right and fighting for happiness. True happiness. Uncompromised happiness. Save your phone calls and you're not alone and use your energy to fight.
Rachel McKay Steele, Writer and Comedian
I'm Bi Polar II. I'm in recovery from an eating disorder. I have anxiety. I've been suicidal.
But I am also happy. Even though many things are still hard. Therapy and medication saved my life. Yoga, comedy, friends, family enrich my life. I'm so glad I'm here. I'm so glad I have a cat that puked in three places yesterday. Two nieces. A sister-in-law. An improv teammate. I'm glad I can quote 30 Rock in any situation. I'm glad I can balance in tree pose and roses make me smile. I'm glad for writers like Laura Groff and Pema Chodron. I would've missed all of this if I hadn't asked for help one summer night in my twenties.
I cry a lot. I wish we could see the stars in New York City because the stars are humbling and this city is built on ego. Sometimes, I'm sad at how long I was in pain. So I hold that sadness near to my heart and I tell myself I care, about myself.
Take care. Give hugs. I'm here if you need me. Literally, here. I'm on Facebook a lot. Too much. That's a different post.
Follow Rachel McKay Steele on Instagram: @rachelmsteele
Scott Friedstein, Comedian and Writer
Self-hatred and pessimism can go from being annoying habits to heavy blankets that cover and suffocate. I feel these things every day, but what's made things better is my attitude toward them, and knowing that they aren't me. I still need to work constantly to separate my feelings from reality, and to remind myself that I am more than what my brain tells me. People like to say to reach out when suicides happen, but that can be the hardest thing. Depression actively isolates you, and can make you feel like an afterthought when all is said and done. I'm still fighting these things, but I want to be there for others who may be feeling the same -- even though I'm terrible at it. I err on the selfish side when it comes to my depression, but I think we can all do better by opening up a little more. Even when that seems like the hardest thing to do.
Follow Scott Friedstein on Twitter here: @scottfriedstein
Dominique Nisperos, Comedian and Writer
Trigger Warning: Suicide, Police Violence, Hypocritical Comedians
I was shocked that Anthony Bourdain committed Suicide. And then I went about my day. And then I saw people post about their struggles with mental health and mental illness. And I thought oh how honest. And then I saw more. And then I saw more. And then I saw people who I have seen shame neurodivergent folks and kick them off of their teams post about compassion for mental health. Or people who I had told that I was inappropriately touched by cisman tell me he wasn't such a bad guy post some shit too. And now I am mad. And I am wondering why?
Maybe because I feel like people are doing performative facebook activism. Maybe it’s because I am angry that it takes a successful white man dying because of suicide to make it an issue? Maybe because 2 years ago a Black Lives Matter activist, MarShawn MacCarrell killed himself? Maybe its because Erica Gardner died fighting? Maybe it’s because scores of marginalized not prominent people are dying explicitly by state violence or implicitly by it via suicide because of their inability to fight anymore.
Maybe it’s because I have been trying to write an article on this very subject for the past week and don’t even have the fucking time to do laundry because my depression is acting up and I stay awake beyond the time that I want to be awake worrying and trying to sleep. Maybe its because mental illness is endemic to capitalism and it is more profitable to ineffectively treat it than get rid of it's cause?
Maybe it’s because I have so many family members who have mental illness who I fear will be killed by the police if they go off of their meds. This fear has happened when mentally ill family members have been sent to jail instead of getting care. Maybe it is because this worry is so founded and so real and so constant that I forget it is there.
Maybe it is because I would like to publish the things I write, but never find a means to do so, and yet see my white man socialist friends be invited to share their mediocre facebook posts in print publication.
Maybe I am just bitter?
I don’t have answers. I am very tired. I have a lot of work to do. I am going to cry and eat a chocolate cookie and watch Coco again.
Also don’t commit suicide: 1-800-273-8255
Maria Luisa Acabado, Writer and Producer
Anthony Bourdain was many things, but the thing that resonated most with me was his willingness to use his privilege to stand up for the browbeaten, those without voices, those who often suffer in silence for unfair reasons regardless of race, creed, or gender. Unpretentious and grateful to all the people and places he traveled for sharing their cuisine and culture with him, Bourdain showed us that anyone brave and vulnerable enough to share their heritage, background, and passion with others is a person worth listening to, regardless of status. We’ve lost another light, and we can’t lose anymore. #anthonybourdain #mentalhealthawareness #18002738255
To all my friends struggling today, this week, whenever - I will listen. Let’s take care of each other when we can.
Follow Maria Luisa Acabado on Instagram: @maria.luisa.acabado
Samantha Jane Gurewitz, Comedian, Actor and Musician
I was suicidal when I was in middle school. I tried to hang myself once with a couple of belts from Target, that broke, and then I felt like I couldn’t even kill myself right and cried for hours alone in my room.
I’m so happy to have that behind me. I’m so glad that cheap plastic belt broke. I’m so grateful that after staring into the abyss I decided that life is a more interesting choice and I choose that. And every year since then I have felt like a slightly happier, more full person. The benefit to being a depressed kid is that I had no choice but to go up.
But I’ve been there. I get it. If you ever want to talk about it I’m a safe ear.
And if you ever need a hug I’m here.
I suspect none of us get enough hugs these days.
Come at me, hugs 🤗
Follow Samantha Jane on Instagram here: @samsweets
Kristy Belich, Comedian
It's hard to see people post about the "ask for help" version of suicidal depression.... it's not that easy. I tried to jump off the George Washington Bridge a few times because I didn't think I was perfect enough. I thought I was a fraud in science. Recently a Biological uncle of mine commented that I am crazy. Recently my own family said, "how does it feel to be the least successful cousin"... I've been called lazy by my own father. I was never lazy, I was a double major, a straight A student, and a hard worker. Suicide is fucked, but standup comedy is what gets me pumping, makes me feel human again. Jokes about suicide are imperative, especially to people like me who have a dark sense of humor, and appreciate that this is a tricky subject.
Follow Samantha Jane on Instagram here: @trustyourglitter
Noah Cicero, Writer
I am really saddened about Burdain. As a person that worked in a kitchen for 13 years, and has traveled to different countries and ate strange food, Bourdain was a hero to me, a kitchen guy who wrote books.
I think he was probably bipolar, and asking anyone to live for 61 years with that is a tough request. Please don't say "I though he was stronger than that." A bipolar person has to wake up every day with a sense of bravery, because you do not know what your own brain will do by the end of the day. You might have to have three contrasting moods before the day is over. Decades of that leads to an exhaustion.
Follow Noah Cicero on Twitter here: @NoahCicero
Iliana Inocencio, Comedian, Actor, & Writer
Hello, everyone. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your struggles with depression today. You are all such beautiful, talented, funny, happy, confident individuals and I am admiring your strength in sharing your story today. I also wanted to say... please continue sharing your story.
All of you sharing are so successful, happy, etc that I found myself saying, "geez I can't believe he/she is depressed" but I had to check myself because I know many of us are saying that about Anthony Bourdain too. And as someone who personally deals with depression and have recently been more open about it, I've had friends say the same thing to me or about me. And to me, that's what's so scary about mental illness: sometimes it wears a mask and creeps in when you least suspect it. I'm not sure how to "fix" our world's mental health issues or prevent suicide, but I do think being more open and honest about our feelings to friends or whoever you can is important.
So again, those of you sharing...thank you. And if you're on the other side of the coin and don't understand/have never dealt with mental illness, maybe try truly listening to someone and truly seeing someone and having the patience to empathize. Thank you again, everyone!
Be well. You are not alone. ❤
Check out Iliana Inocencio online at: IlianaInocencio.com
Mike Blejer, Comedian and Writer
I’ve always felt that anyone sufficiently intellectually curious has at least considered both suicide and butt stuff. I strongly encourage you to only go through with one of them but talk to people about both.
I think there are a lot of things in our society that people can’t process because they can’t bear the exposure involved in being public or communal about them. This frequently comes up with painful histories like abuse, and things like abortion or sexuality that people may have conflicting feelings about because of public shaming whether they have any personal shame about it or not. These are all allowed to fester because of the shame-driven conspiracy of silence that surrounds them. But an especially American illness is the inability to cope with loneliness, isolation, sadness, and depression.
American society is regarded as fiercely individualistic. That’s the nice way of saying it. The flip side is painfully alone. When I’ve been in other countries I’ve seen multigenerational families and communal collectives of people who grew up together and support each other through their struggles. In America you’re basically encouraged to have a significant other who fulfills all your emotional needs, a church or synagogue if you’re religious, and maybe friends and a therapist if you’re progressive. We blame individuals for their suffering all the time, because if they’re responsible for their own lot then we don’t have to help with social security and welfare programs, and because it’s better for capitalism if everyone has to buy a McMansion of their own and not live more collectively.
We talk about mental health as though it’s an individual problem, and it can be. Many of us have struggled with it and many more struggle with it in silence. I don’t seek to de-medicalize it or normalize it by suggesting that it is far more prevalent than we’re comfortable taking it to be. But it is. And it’s a social disease that’s been made worse by the craven political values of our country. I’m not blaming Trump for this, because he is merely a symptom of something that has plagued us for much longer than he’s been a relevant political actor. We need to be better at loneliness, at community, at sadness, at depression. I’m not saying it’s easy, and technological advances have brought us both closer and made us falsely comfortable with more real distance. But I think dealing with the factors that lead to isolation and suicide is a task of our age, and like butt stuff, it may be really uncomfortable at first, but I think it’s in our collective best interests to start talking about it way way more.
Follow Mike Blejer on Twitter here: @mikeblejer
Ben Kharakh, Comedian and Writer
I have bipolar disorder 1. These last two weeks I started to experience symptoms that concerned me. Luckily, I had a lot of people in my life who were willing to talk with me extensively. I really appreciated it. It made a very big difference while my doctor adjusted my meds and as I began to make a determined effort to make use of coping skills. We do comedy, so we talk to a lot of people. You might not even have realized how big of a difference you made just by being open enough to have a genuine conversation. Thank you.
Follow Ben Kharakh on Twitter here: @BenKharakh