I wrote this one very late night last week, spurred by a particular expression I had heard so many times before. I sent it to be considered for publishing, which meant having to hold off for a few days with posting it. By next morning the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide hit, making the context of this piece tragically obsolete. Yet my pleading remains unchanged. The most efficient way to help ourselves and help others is a radical, positive acceptance of depression and anxiety as a life-long companion, one that must be wrestled with “by all means necessary.” As in “yetzer ha-ra” – if left roaming inside us it can wreak havoc, and yet it is a source of creativity, sensitivity, drive to make the world good and beautiful.
We are everywhere. We are your family members, friends you love, bosses you adore or hate, strangers on the street. We walk around with this terrible-horrible-no good secret. We are often incredibly skilled in covering it up by a cheery, energetic front. And sometimes we are not good at this game of pretend and convention at all, and you can detect THAT THING in the way we present ourselves, the way we move, the way we look at others, in the hollow, pained expression of our eyes that appears when we think no one is watching us. Sometimes you reach out and touch us, and sometimes you pull away – it might be a heavy load to share if you get close.
We know depression intimately, and anxiety is often our middle name – these two love each other’s company in our brains and souls. Each minute is an existential struggle, pushing against the dark ocean that is about to swallow us yet again. The struggle, the pushing, the learning to recognize the signs of an incoming tsunami – they never end, they just vary in intensity and in the amount of energy we must spend on keeping the miasmatic darkness at bay.
There are moments, sometimes days, sometimes months, of reprieve, of feeling grounded, focused, energized – if we are fortunate, that is. There are loved ones, friends, communal ties, personal mentors, spiritual guides, religious and spiritual contexts larger than us – they all weave a loving net, a trampoline to let us bounce back once we slip, and fall, and let the darkness too close. The net is there for those who are fortunate; so many of us are lacking it, and then tragedy might ensue. But the struggle is real in the same manner for all of us, every second of our waking hours, and often in our dreams, too. It is an exhausting, life to death fight, one that takes a toll on everyone around us.
So I humbly take a loving, respectful issue with a particular expression from Andy Spade’s official statement addressing Kate’s tragic death, as incredible of a tribute to her as his words were. Describing the family’s shock and the “out of the blue” quality of Kate’s suicide, he says that “it clearly wasn’t her.” But it was, it absolutely was!!! Maybe it simply was that one moment when the darkness crept up too close, and there were no emotional resources left to continue pushing it away.
May the souls of Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and so many others, find eternal peace, and their families find comfort in the loving embrace of their community.