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Emails to my Therapist

Depression Distorts

Dear Nicholas, This is short and troubled. I know I am unqualified to speculate. Still, I have this to say about the suicide of Anthony Bourdain: Even mild depression distorts thinking and causes scalding pain.

Given how much he self-medicated for many years, his depression was surely a lot more than mild. In the decisive moment, I don’t believe he had the capacity to weigh his choices and responsibilities and hopes, any more than someone would who was on fire.

When I look at his pictures today, I hear a small-child voice saying, “Mama, my thinker is sick.” It wasn’t always, of course: he had so much curiosity, talent, and raw life force. He was so accomplished, published three novels well before he became a world culinary guide.

It may be a little while before I can enjoy watching him again on Netflix, but I’ll be back.

I remain a fan.



Anthony Bourdain



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  • R L Jackson
    June 9, 2018 at 12:06 am Reply

    Just made me wonder where were his friends, his relatives? I loved that man. His shows were wonderful, most recently, the Armenia trip. He showed us so many places and lives we otherwise would’ve never seen. Just wonder if his arrest and permanent ejection from the neighboring country had anything to do with his actions? I wonder if he just got fed up with the state of the world and the US. Did he feel hopeless? Wish we could have been there for him. Just in shock. Another massive talent gone.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2018 at 1:22 am Reply

      I’m betting the trigger, if there was one, was more personal, internal, than the state of the world. I do want to see the Armenia show. I’ve seen several mentions of that.

  • June 9, 2018 at 12:13 am Reply

    The song is gone, but the melody lingers on — I hate he musta’ been in such pain.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2018 at 1:20 am Reply

      I’m going to think about it that way, Bob, the melody lingering on. I’m also gratified to see how many ardent fans he has.

  • Linda Phillips
    June 9, 2018 at 4:36 am Reply

    I have suffered from severe clinical depression my entire adult life. I have used medications, been hospitalized on several occasions, and had almost 50 electroshock treatments. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. I can’t pinpoint what trigger may have set off a depressive episode. I doubt that Anthony could pinpoint the exact reason he chose to take his like. You can hide a lot behind a smile.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm Reply

      What a lot of suffering, Linda! I’m sorry. I hope there’ll be some new development in treatment that will solve this problem for you–and a lot of other folks.

  • June 9, 2018 at 3:40 pm Reply

    a lotta’ people were touched by this man, many different and more than I woulda’ realized – his painful back story and tireless food career/personal style interacted to attract great public notice and interest.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm Reply

      I’ve also been impressed by the outpouring of affection for him, Bob, from lots of people I hadn’t known were fans.

  • Lee Grohse
    June 11, 2018 at 12:29 pm Reply

    While we didn’t know him, when we watched his shows it felt like we did because of his unique personality, his brashness, his openness, his enthusiasm. It is so sad and such a loss. He was open about his complicated and troubled history and we don’t know what had been going on with him more recently. And it’s possible that even those closest to him did not know. Important not to blame friends or family for not helping. Many people hide painful secrets even from those closest to them. Wonder how much his tough guy persona might have played into an emotional isolation about deep pain. But that’s just my own speculation. I thought he was wicked attractive. I enjoyed him. I thought he was a wild man. I was inspired by his enthusiasm. I wish him peace.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 11, 2018 at 5:32 pm Reply

      Yes, we felt like we knew him–so many of us– and were delighted and inspired. I am pleased and comforted at seeing how many people of different philosophies shared my enthusiasm for this “enthusiast,” which is what he gave as his job description on Twitter. I’m now telling myself, “Gratitude for Anthony.” But, as he might say, it’s very fucking sad.

  • Margaret Martin
    June 12, 2018 at 4:22 pm Reply

    Thanks for your post, Peggy, and all of you, for your replies. I am a long-time Bourdain fan. I love his “Enthusiast” description too. Loved learning from his explorations as he shared them. So much to learn and to enjoy. Also to think on (as he might have snorted at). I used to have a lot of depression, different levels. Long story of coming to a place, point, and the particular knowledge trigger at the right time to shine a flashlight for me for next steps of learning and growth. Eternally grateful. There’s a phrase in a song lyric I’m reminded of: If the body is a temple, the soul is a bell…. I love this. Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for all you are, were, and gave. May we continue to appreciate life and learn, including to “know thyself” …

    • Peggy Payne
      June 12, 2018 at 5:59 pm Reply

      Very nice tribute, Margaret Martin, and I’m glad you’ve traveled so far from depression yourself. It helps me that others are feeling this loss as I do.

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