The death of Anthony Bourdain: Thoughts on productivity, pleasure, and depression

Warning: This is a rare GRS post that contains salty language. If you don’t like salty language, don’t read this article.

Anthony Bourdain killed himself Friday morning.

“So what?” you might be thinking. “He’s just another fucking celebrity who didn’t know how good he had it.” Maybe you’re right. But his death has weighed heavy on me all weekend.

On Friday morning, as I wrote the weekly Get Rich Slowly email, I thought about Anthony Bourdain. On Friday afternoon, as Kim and I worked in the yard, I thought about Anthony Bourdain. On Friday evening, as we soaked in our new hot tub with a friend, I thought about Anthony Bourdain. Yesterday, I thought about Anthony Bourdain. Today, I thought about Anthony Bourdain.

Now I’m writing this article as an act of catharsis. Maybe it’ll help me to stop thinking about Anthony Bourdain.

The Depression Trap

I believe Anthony Bourdain’s death touched me deeply for a couple of reasons.

  • I was a huge fan. Since listening him read the audio version of Kitchen Confidential a decade ago, I’ve loved his work. Parts Unknown was probably my favorite travel show: raw and real — and filled with food. Bourdain connected with everyone he met. His joy for life was contagious and his mind was sharp.
  • Like Bourdain did, I struggle with depression. All my life, I’ve experienced periodic descents into darkness. The first time this happened, I missed five weeks of sixth grade. In the nearly forty years since then, I’ve developed a variety of coping mechanisms but they don’t always work. In recent months — since the middle of March — the darkness has deepened and I don’t know why. (And just as I missed five weeks of school back then, I’ve been unable to get my work done in the present.)

Let me make it clear that I am not suicidal. Right now, the biggest symptom of my depression is my inability to get shit done. But whereas suicide seems strange and senseless to most everyone else, depressives understand the appeal — even if we’d never consider it personally.

One of the many stupid things about depression is that the condition doesn’t care how awesome your life is. It doesn’t care how successful you are. It doesn’t care how much money you have. Depression is not rational. If it were, it’d be easy to think your way out of it.

Paula Froelich, one of Bourdain’s ex-girlfriends, put it like this:

Tweet about Anthony Bourdain's suicide

Bourdain’s death didn’t just make me introspective. It also led to a couple of interesting conversations about pleasure and productivity — and about what really matters in life. Continue reading