Anthony Bourdain’s suicide took my breath away. Restaurant work consumed my life for almost twenty years and when I read Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, I was blown away. And then his television life – it all seemed almost unbelievable. Look, someone got out of the kitchen as a writer! And such a damn good writer he was.
We don’t get to know what someone’s inner life is like and when the outer life seems so charmed, it can be hard to understand. But I know from personal experience that what we project, what we put out for others, is not necessarily reflective of how we feel. I smile, I post the highlights, I practically tap dance for an audience – this is only part of the picture.
Which is why I want to expand this notion of self care we hear so much about. I like a bubble bath and a massage like the next person, but what my inner self needs on occasion my be different. A visit to my therapist. Seeing if medication could help. Taking my meds. Going to a twelve-step meeting. Maybe in-patient care or rehab or whatever.
Maybe talking about it could help normalize caring for our selves, our inner selves that may be hurting. I’ll go first. A few of weeks ago I was preparing to give a big speech to an HIV/AIDS organization’s fundraiser. It caused me to think about my dad, naturally, who died of AIDS complications in 1996. During this time of writing my speech, my mom found my dad’s ashes (long story), and delivered them to me. As I held the plastic, black box of my dad’s remains – twenty-two years after he died – a lot stuff came bubbling up. Enter in a parenting situation that pressed all of my buttons. I hadn’t seen my therapist for a while, but second to my paddle board, she helped keep me afloat when I had a lot of family stress two years ago. I made an appointment to see her before my speech and I’m so glad I did. Clarity and outside perspective helped me. It was self care on a deep level.
I understand the impulse to post the suicide prevention numbers in response to these public suicides. But I’m hoping we can go further. I sometimes need help to keep my head and heart in a good space – do you?