I still had pillow creases on my face when I read the news: Anthony Bourdain had died of suicide.
My emotions quickly moved from the sweet calm one feels after waking up after a restful sleep, to a feeling of deep empathy and unfathomable sorrow.
I realized he was more like me than I ever could have imagined. I found myself tearing up with sadness and feeling so incredibly helpless with the news reports that suicide was on the rise.
I used to dream about killing myself at night. I would think about it all day and pray that I would fall into a deep slumber to escape my own brain, only to find those thoughts haunting me in my dreams. I would be hospitalized
for this multiple times over a span of several years, and yet I still wasn’t sure if people believed me. I wasn’t sure if I believed myself.
I rarely shared these feelings with others outside of my treatment team. People likely assumed I was simply being my “strong” and “opinionated” self as I continued to live life to the best of my ability.
Despite these dark and troubling thoughts, I continued to go to work on time. I volunteered at church weekly and showed up at social events. I looked "normal” but I was secretly carrying a deep inner loneliness that felt like a barrier between me and my loved ones .
As I now reflect on what my life felt like, I realize that it is a true miracle I am here today. What I went though and what so many other humans face was purely a deeper twist on the mental health issues that the vast majority of humans will have. Just like physical wellbeing, we all have mental wellbeing needs. Yet some of us find ourselves with unique or complex needs in comparison to others.
Back then, I didn't believe that life would ever get better. Then, one day, I realized it did. So much that I grieved about began to make more sense down the road. So much of my story today is because of my past. But here’s what I find interesting: I didn’t get here by calling a Helpline —
like I see so many people on social media suggesting. I didn’t reach out to friends, or family that often. I would lie in a fetal position on my bed — too sad to cry — and pray that someone would call me because I was physically hurting from the emotion I was feeling and I couldn’t imagine actually moving to call someone.
Thankfully I did have people checking on me. Even when they thought I was "fine". Or strong, or brave, or sassy, or bitchy, or quiet. Sometimes or nearly all of the time I shot them down. I learned over time I didn’t need anyone to save me, but I did want/need people to acknowledge my pain and remind me I wasn’t alone.
Those of us who struggle with mental illness
have some big obstacles to overcome: lack of affordable treatment, wait lists, health insurance not covering medications, or a family that doesn't understand. This is why we need community and loved ones to hold us up. This is why creating a village around us is so essential, even when it is the last thing we may want to do.
With the news of the loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, I was reminded last week that suicidality and depression
don't discriminate against success or money or high profile careers. As someone who has a deeply empathetic heart, heavy news that I can relate to can feel big and overwhelming. I immediately posted something about it on social media and then deleted it because I second-guessed if my post was worthy. I was feeling so deeply, but I questioned if I was the only one. However, as the hours went on more and more people did post about it in my social media feeds, and I was reminded that when we share our stories, we open up a safe place for others to feel connected and understood and that we are not alone.
So here I am, being raw and vulnerable. I’m hurting right now, because I know so many others are hurting too. Nevertheless, instead of judging my thoughts or emotions, I’m simply going to be. And that’s okay.
Nicole Griswold is part of the first Eating Recovery Center Recovery Ambassador Council and is passionate about sharing real stories of hope in recovery.