Over the past week, many people have discovered the passing of Anthony Bourdain. Whilst I haven’t done the typical “RIP” post to facebook that everyone tends to do in these sadly increasing circumstances, this particular death has hit me pretty hard. It’s odd when a celebrity dies – you don’t know them at all but their faces are so familiar to you, you’ve heard them talk, sing, you’ve read about their lives. They’ve told stories in your living room for years.
Personally, I feel he was different to most so called “celebrities” – so raw, unapologetically human and flawed – with such a deep zest for life, travel, people and food. So many people identified with him, admired him and connected with him in some way. His realness made him relatable, and his struggles resonated. He made it ok for a lot of people.
But I have to talk a little about the elephant in the room. About mental illness, depression and the struggles that people go through in their hearts and minds every day.
In this age of social media, we’re more connected than ever, and lonelier than ever. This is a world where we compare ourselves and our happiness to the “highlight reel” that people project to the world through their online personas.
Its a world where we’re so afraid to really show ourselves, to appear less than happy, less than perfect. A world where everyone harps on about mental illness and daily struggles, but people are still afraid to admit it’s happening to them.
One thing I observe is that the people who decide to take their own lives are often deemed “happier than ever” by their friends a family… we forget: its when people are alone, with their thoughts and their fears – that they are the most vulnerable. When the mask is off, and the mental boxing gloves come on, and the battle rages once more in hearts and in minds. People are afraid to be alone with their own thoughts.
Depression, anxiety and mental illness in general – it never goes away. Not really. So even if a person seems fine – it doesn’t mean they are without struggle, or they are ‘cured’.
In an increasingly vapid society, where looks and personas and “personal brand’ reign supreme – its more important than ever to occasionally consciously disconnect from anti-social social media, and reconnect with self. To step away from mental self-talk and ego, and into the present moment.
Living in the present moment, in the now, is so damn powerful. It allows us to connect, experience, relish and squeeze joy from our lives and experiences.. the ego is only thinking about the past or the future and it sucks our joy with false worry and fear.
When someone who seems to have all this figured out, who seems to thrive in the present – succumbs to fear, anxiety, depression – and ultimately takes their own life – we often think “shit, if they can’t see past this – how am I to get past this?”.. and we are sucked back into that fear pattern.
But comparison is ego – it’s mind talk, it takes away your power and your ability to find joy. If you catch yourself doing this, and having these thoughts – you have the power to stop them in their tracks just by acknowledging the fear, and not following the thoughts. It takes a lot of practice – but it’s a powerful tool.
I think a lot, and I often ponder what my “legacy” will be for the world.. ultimately we all want to make some kind of impact. We want to make sense of the world, and our place in it. When we look to a man like Anthony Bourdain, and observe and understand the impact that he made in so many peoples lives – it can be both overwhelming (comparison) or inspiring – depending on our lens of the world.
Personally, if I can make people think, feel, give them tools to help them make sense of their lives, craft writing/ string together words that resonate, maybe a feeling of being less alone than they thought – and ultimately if I have been kind, then thats is a pretty sweet legacy.
In the meantime – check on your strong friend. Don’t wait – don’t think about it and not do it – drop them a “been thinking about you – hope you’re doing ok ?” message… you just might find you get the same response… and we’ll all be a little less lonely.