The Pain of Others

Anthony Bourdain has committed suicide.  I don’t know when or how.  I do not need the details.  The news is enough.  He follows so many others.  I can’t think of anyone who would have seen this coming.  But we didn’t know him. We knew only his persona.  We knew only the personality he created for television and that wasn’t likely a good reflection on the real man.  Who was he when he was home alone with his thoughts?  We can’t know that.

We can’t know the pain of others. That is the statement we hear most often in these situations.  Some of us do know.  Rarely can we even share our emotional pain with others in words they can comprehend.  I know I can’t put it into words and I actually enjoy putting things into words.  But to put into words things that are bothering me or setting me off can feel embarrassing because of the emotions that escape along with the words.  I don’t like people to see that emotion because I don’t want it to be interpreted as weakness.

I allowed what I will call the “concept” of suicide into my brain when I was in my late teens.  I was experiencing a roller coaster of emotions that I now know was far more attributable to hormones and diet (gluten and processed sugar) than any insurance coded mental illness.

After several years of trudging back and forth from class and work to a community mental health center, I remember asking a therapist how other people were able to claim disability while I continued to acquire a degree and work full time through my constant cloud of depression and pain.  She said I was “too high-functioning” to be considered disabled.  I was better off without the label, but I lived a lot of years with the cloud and pain.  I glad at this time in my life that I never accepted that label or any of the others from the psychiatric community.  I wasn’t disabled by this problem for which I had sought treatment for decades.  This was not me.

I kept moving forward, the pain beside me, a constant companion.  Once in a while it would sleep in and I would have the unique wonder of a day without it.  Then we would meet up again and I would be reminded.

Most people would say they didn’t know that I battled with this for over twenty-five years.  It was not who I was.  I was creative and smart and thoughtful and curious.  I was a reader and a writer and an artist.  I was getting things done and making more lists.  I was high-functioning.  I wasn’t just depressed and emotional and sad and in pain.  It was there, but it wasn’t who I was.  If you have your own companion, you know what that feels like for you.  It is different for everyone.

The problem is that once that concept of suicide was allowed into my brain it never goes away.  It’s like that idea that once you are an alcoholic, always you are an alcoholic.  I am always going to be suicidal…because I once was.  It was once an option, it will always show up in the options list when I run down the numbers and see what might be.   It just doesn’t get chosen.  (I will admit, it is a little haunting.)

I saw a lot of different therapists and some psychiatrists.  I have had so many different prescriptions over the years that I can’t even tell you all of their names.  Currently I have no therapist and take no prescriptions to support that old companion.  Here is the advice I would offer to someone with a pain companion.  If you don’t seem to be making progress towards a prescription-free, mostly positive existence without the cloud of pain/frustration/depression, perhaps your therapist or the chosen therapy isn’t the right one for you.  If you have doubts, move on. Keep looking.  Keep trying new things.  Something will eventually give you the life you deserve, one with some smiles and laughs and peace in your mind.  There is something or someone out there who can help you.


Be kind to yourself and your friends. You don’t know what they are experiencing.


#depression #mentalhealth #suicideprevention


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