For me, and many other Americans this year, the news has been tough. Political and social unrest, polarizing extremists’ groups, gun violence, hurting families, impossible situations, natural disasters and so much death. For most of my adult life, I have asserted a great effort to stay informed, and up to date on the events happening in our country and around the globe. The process actually helped anesthetize the sometimes-overwhelming feeling that I have no idea what is actually going on, and worse yet, have no control over any of it.
Yet, about a year ago, I came to terms with the reality that my religious-following of the headlines was actually negatively impacting my quality of life; that many of the issues plaguing my consciousness had no direct impact on my life and ability to live it well. So, I pulled back, and have greatly reduced the amount of time and mental real-estate I give to the news.
The results have fared me well, and have allowed me to stay informed with less emotional attachment to whatever is going on.
That is, until I read the headlines this morning. “Anthony Bourdain, dies after apparent suicide at age 61”. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and for a brief moment refused to believe it was real at all. Much like the response to the death of friend or family member.
His death and the tragic loss of Kate Spade, and the vast number of unnamed souls who felt the cloak of darkness too heavy to withstand, are indeed growing in numbers each day. And to be honest, largely, I’ve grown numb to the reality of the suffering endured by these individuals and their families; the emptiness and the hopelessness that must saturate them entirely.
So why, Anthony’s death? I mean, I loved his show, his style and demeanor were impeccable, and he seemed to be living the life most people dream of. But the same could be said for many artists and heroes of mine that have fatally lost their light to mental health or drug addiction; but the news of those losses was usually met with that all-too-familiar numbing sadness. So again, why Anthony? Upon further inspection, I’ve found the death of Anthony so disturbing because I relate to him on some very deep, very personal, levels.
Throughout his career and public life Anthony spoke with candor about his history with drug addiction, depression and that underlying angst that many of us feel. I identified with Anthony’s insatiable thirst for exploration and his inexcusable desire to connect with folks that are often overlooked; to learn from them, rather than impose himself onto them. He did this with so much style that it helped me, and countless others take these steps ourselves.
His image was powerful, attractive and compelling. But that is just it. An image, a presentation. No doubt genuine, because I believe that is who Anthony was, but clearly not complete. I understand this conundrum on a cellular level, and I think most of America does as well. In recent years, our culture has developed an obsession with image, presentation, and our own personal “brand strength”. And hell, we’ve gotten good at it.
The disparity between the content each of us push out on our social platforms and the staggering CDC statistic that tell the truth of where we are at, as a society is confounding. The CDC reports that in 2016 there were over 45,000 suicides and over 46,000 fatal overdoses in our country, and it is my estimation that the majority of these fatalities we’re “unexpected” and that those lost, suffered in silence.
I am not a sociologist or a dignified health care professional, I am just a guy who knows what it feels like to live in the lonely place between what people see and how you feel. I also know what it feels like, to have a brain that steers you away from joy and truth, and what it is like to swim upstream from that darkness every day. I know what it feels like to feel hopeless and out of options. And I know what it feels like to fantasize about turning it all off, for good. I remember the pain of eye contact and the lethargy of a smile. I didn’t know Anthony, and the chances are that I don’t know you, but from one fellow to human to another, if you are struggling, I know what that feels like.
And if there is one thing we have done well as a society over the last decade, it is open up a conversation about these issues. Indeed, we have so far to go, but I can see the progress we have made. And despite what it may feel like to be suffering in this way, or to love someone that is, we must all understand there is always hope; and the path to healing may be narrow, but the trailhead is open for anyone willing to take that walk.
So, if you are reading this, I urge you to inquire within and honestly ask yourself how you are doing, and to consider looking past the presentation of those around you, and ask them how they are doing. This is a time where we must get honest with one another, and to champion each other’s health and vitality. Here in Longmont Colorado and, more broadly, Boulder County, we know that suicide and addiction are inexorably linked. No one should have to suffer in silence. if you are in search of a listening ear or just someone to talk to please call us at 888-509-3159 or the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
There is always hope.
About the Author
Taylor Gibler brings a diverse skill set to Redpoint Center’s team, hailing from a background in the non-profit sector, marketing/brand development, and in behavioral health intervention. Taylor’s professional pursuits were born out of a sincere desire to help marginalized groups and at-risk populations. In his early 20s, Taylor joined a Honolulu based non-profit, that used surfing as a way bring a positive force into difficult situations. Taylor has been apprenticing under one of the most highly sought-after interventionists in the country and has been formally trained and certified in multiple modalities of intervention; maintaining and growing in his ability to help guide people to a path to recovery.