Anthony Bourdain and Suicide

I’ve written about suicide a number of times on this blog. But now it’s trending thanks to the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.

I had never heard of Kate Spade until people started talking about her suicide on social media. I had heard of Anthony Bourdain. But until he died, all I could have told you about him was that he was one of those cooking show guys on TV. I’ve seen some of the stuff people have been sharing and I can tell he was a pretty interesting character. I’m sure Kate Spade was too.

Along with these two high profile suicides, the other thing people have been sharing is the statistic that shows suicide rates are going up in America.

A few years ago I wrote about my own attempt at attempting suicide. I couldn’t call it a true suicide attempt since I didn’t get very far along with it. But it was definitely an attempt to attempt suicide. The TL;DR version is that one day, when I was still in Akron, before I moved to Japan, I decided that I was going to end it all. I put some rope in the trunk of my car and drove out to a park to go find a tree. But when I got to the park I saw some kids and families playing and I thought, “No matter how far out into the woods I go, someone is going to find my corpse.” And that would be a nasty thing to put anyone through. And I thought of my mom, who was still alive then, and how much it would bum her out. And I thought about how sad I still was over the suicide of an acquaintance that had happened ten years earlier. So I went home and decided to kill myself a different way. I decided that, from that day on, my old life was over and I would start living a new one. And I did.

Things got a lot better after that. I’m glad I didn’t kill myself.

But thinking about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, I thought maybe the whole “it gets better” thing might not always be the way to go. I realize that the “it gets better” campaign a few years back was more aimed at queer teenagers to tell them that being queer gets a whole lot easier as you get older. But the same sentiment is often trotted out to try to try to help us folks with suicidal thoughts.

I’m not sure it always works. Because if you had told Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade that it gets better they’d probably have laughed in your face. They had it about as good as anyone gets to have it in this life. They had money, fame, status, and all the things most of us long for. And yet they must have come to the conclusion that life still sucked.

This is precisely the realization that inspired the Buddha. He was the son of a king, who lived a life of luxury. It didn’t get any better in India circa 500 B.C.E. than the life he was living. And yet he knew that even the best possible life is still filled with suffering.

I’m sure the Buddha must have considered suicide. He seemed open to any possible way out of suffering. Suicide can certainly seem like a viable solution to the problem of suffering. No one knows what happens after we die. But there seems to be strong evidence that basically nothing happens. All experience ceases, and you suffer no more.

I am not strongly convinced this is actually the case. I’ve seen and experienced a few things that lead me to believe that’s not what happens. But with no concrete evidence to put forward beyond my own subjective experiences, I have to admit that it is possible that we just vanish into nothingness at the moment of death. I assume this must have been what Mr. Bourdain and Ms. Spade thought.

My thought there in that park in Akron was that even if I don’t suffer personally after my own suicide, I would be spreading my personal suffering out to a lot of other people through killing myself. The suffering itself would still be present— even if I wouldn’t experience it. In fact, the overall level of suffering in the world would increase. Suicide seemed to me like the ultimate dick move. Did I really want to be that much of a dick?

Another thing that keeps getting talked about on the interwebs is how to interact with people you might know who may be thinking of suicide. As a person who has thought about suicide ever since I was about nine years old, maybe I can weigh in.

I’m not really into talking about my suicidal thoughts or my depression. I do it from time to time in places like this and on my YouTube channel because I think it’s good to acknowledge this stuff. It can help others who have the same tendencies to know they’re not alone. But the last thing I’d ever want is for some well-meaning person to sit me down and try to draw me out about it. Ugh!

It’s like that song Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies. “All I want is a Pepsi!” the singer says. I know how that feels, even though I’ve never much liked Pepsi.

But it is nice when people talk to you about other things, when they let you know you have friends without saying so directly. That means a lot. So if you decide you need to do something for that friend of yours who always seems depressed, do something. But don’t make it about their depression.

I don’t have much else to add right now. But I’ll leave links below to three other articles I’ve written that touch on the subject of suicide. Maybe you’ll find some value in them.


The Buddhist View on Suicide 

Thoughts of Ice Cream and Suicide 

I Hate Myself 

Lost Time is Not Found Again 


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