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.

The Productivity Trap

Friday afternoon, I received email from a GRS reader we’ll call Michael:

I’m sure you saw Anthony Bourdain killed himself. This to me was a telling quote:

“When asked during a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal whether he ever thought about stepping back from the breakneck pace of a job that kept him on the road 250 days a year, he replied, ‘Too late for that. I think about it. I aspired to it. I feel guilty about it. I yearn for it. Balance? I fucking wish.'”

Obviously I didn’t know Bourdain personally, or even know much about him as a public figure, but I think that mentality is common: Once you’ve become successful, the thought of ever ratcheting back seems unthinkable. Obviously, suicide is rare, but I think this mentality is common among successful people — they stay in an unhappy status quo simply because they have so much invested in their self-image and public perception of themselves as successful people.

I think Michael is onto something. I’ve seen this in my own life, in the lives of friends and family, and the lives of colleagues. They fall into what you might call the productivity trap. (Here’s an article I almost linked to the other day about the productivity trap: If you’re so successful, why are you still working 70 hours a week?)

I have one friend, for instance, with an enormously successful career. He has a popular blog, a popular podcast, best-selling books, and even an annual conference that attracts attendees from across the planet. Yet he’s never satisfied — not with himself nor with anybody else. He’s always looking for ways to make things “bigger and better”. He seems unhappy with who he is and what he has. He’s written publicly about his struggles with mental illness, but he hasn’t revealed its full effects.

It’s not just my friend. It’s me too. I see this pattern in my own life, and it’s something I’ve deliberately decided to approach more mindfully. Why do I want to have a hot tub or travel to Ecuador? Why did I repurchase Get Rich Slowly — and how often should I publish here? Why do I keep agreeing to public speaking gigs? Do I really want these things? Are they aligned with my personal mission statement? Will they really make me happy? (Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no.)

In his email, Michael continued:

I think this is really the key to personal finance and early retirement — actually stepping back and figure out what is important to you, and doing it, even if it seems like you’re turning your back on a great career, or a nice house or whatever. That is the hardest part, which keeps most people in a life they don’t want. They think “I went to school X or work at company Y, so therefore I must live in this city or have that job or have that wardrobe” and never ask themselves what, as individuals, makes them happy.

The Pleasure Trap

As our email conversation continued, Michael brought up another interesting point. He noted that our culture — and this is especially true in the world of financial independence blogs — is obsessed with “experiences”, such as travel. Yet in many ways, collecting experiences is no better (nor any different) than collecting things.

Here’s Michael again:

[Bourdain] had the ne plus ultra of modern life: rich, famous, a job that 99% of the population would kill for, saw everything he wanted to see, ate everything he wanted to eat, I’m sure slept with tons of women if that is what he wanted, took all the drugs he wanted. You name it, he had it. And, he hung himself in a hotel room in France, a twice-divorced man a continent away from his daughter and girlfriend.

I’m not bagging on him. I just think he illustrates something: A meaningful life doesn’t consist of a series of cool experiences, or traveling or eating cool stuff. Bourdain did that stuff to an incredible degree, and it still didn’t make him happy.

I think that is what our society has forgotten. I feel like we’re always being told we should move a lot, travel a lot, be vaguely or overtly dismissive of the town or state we were born in, move for college and never move back home…in short, basically be a free agent with fewer and fewer personal connections, or weaker connections. And, we get this [higher suicide rates].


I think this relates to personal finance. There is always this thought that thrift requires these huge sacrifices — less travel, fewer new experiences, fewer new restaurants. But what if [these aren’t sacrifices]? What if irrespective of cost, that stuff isn’t really a source of happiness? I mean, people accept that with respect to possessions — nobody says a Cadillac or a 5000-square-foot home is the key to happiness — but many, many people in our culture think new experiences are crucial to a happy life. It may be the opposite — the continuity and free-time to invest in loving relationships may actually be the key to happiness.

I told Kim about my conversation with Michael. “It’s the pleasure trap,” she said. “People fall for the lie that momentary pleasure equals happiness. But pleasure isn’t the same as happiness.”

She’s right, of course. Happiness is like planting a garden, watching it grow, then enjoying the harvest. Pleasure is simply eating the fruit. Happiness is deeper and richer and longer lasting. Pleasure is fleeting; happiness is not. But happiness involves time and work and patience.

Now, I’ll admit: I’m guilty as anyone else of falling into the pleasure trap, and in oh-so-many ways! I have to make a deliberate effort to look past immediate pleasure in order to consider long-term happiness. This often requires enduring unpleasant activities. Do I really want to go out in the cold and the rain to dig in the mud and plant my garden? No, not in this moment. I’d rather sit in the hot tub. But if I don’t plant the garden, I’m sacrificing greater happiness in the future.

Final Thoughts

While I think that Kim and Michael are onto something — the productivity trap and the pleasure trap are both real and both problematic — I keep coming back to Anthony Bourdain’s battle with depression.

During my recent road trip through the southeastern U.S., I talked with two friends who are fighting depression in their own lives. One friend has a spouse who cannot shake the condition despite counseling, despite exercise, despite a loving family. The other friend fights the condition himself and it’s led to weight gain and addictive tendencies. Therapy has helped some but it’s not a cure-all.

As for myself, I haven’t yet returned to therapy although I’m considering it. (Not so long ago, I spent a year working with a therapist to find ways to cope with anxiety and depression. It helped.) I want to stress again that I am not suicidal. But the depression has most definitely affected my daily existence, including my relationships, my health, and my work here at Get Rich Slowly.

It sucks. It sucks. It sucks. But I know that it’ll get better — someday.

57 Replies to “The death of Anthony Bourdain: Thoughts on productivity, pleasure, and depression”

  1. Kingston says:

    I’ve come to believe that contentment, not happiness, is the name of the game. Pleasure and happiness are both beautiful but fleeting, in my experience. Contentment is the sense that what I have is enough or on its way to being enough, and I’ve never known contentment to be followed by an emotional crash. As I get older (I’m 55) that’s what I strive for.

    • Peter says:

      Absolutely agree with you. In my experience trying to achieve happiness is pretty futile and disappointing while being content is achievable. The concepts of the hedonic treadmill and the happiness set point come into play. If you have a very good life event you will return to your “normal” level of happiness, the same happens for bad life events. I.e. you will never find bliss but always return to your everyday mood.

    • olga says:

      I love this comment.

    • WantNotToWantNot says:

      Kingston, I’m almost a decade older than you are, and could not agree more with your statement about Contentment, and knowing what is Enough. As I get older, little stuff matters less and I’ve been freed to concentrate on the things that matter most to me: my family, friends and community.

      Contentment, however, is no antidote for depression. If only it were that easy! Depression can be a pernicious companion, leading one to constantly question everything in life in an attempt to find out why it (the psyche) is hurting. Having been through bouts of depression myself, at various times of my life, I have found the best relief through talk therapy, which led me to make changes in behavior and thought-processes that lifted the depression.

      Good luck to you, J.D. in your quest to live under bluer skies. It can be done. Given your self-awareness and intelligence (as we all see in your blog), you will overcome this challenge too! We are cheering you on!

    • Joe says:

      I think contentment is more sustainable too. Contentment punctuated by occasional happiness sounds perfect to me.

    • Agnes says:

      “I suggest that the ability to feel contentment is a key component of emotional well-being. It is also a goal of many religions and philosophies that recognize that the source of human unhappiness is our habit of comparing our experiences to those of others and finding our reality to be wanting”………Andrew Weil in Spontaneous Happiness

    • JR Knoxville says:

      Thank you for your intimate disclosure. As a physician specializing in psychiatry I understand the horrible stigma of brain illness. I just want to remind everyone that we have excellent medical treatment which includes medicine and psychotherapies which help most people.

    • Stacy says:

      I love this little comic because it says with wit and humor and tenderness what your blog post says about travel and experiences.
      It’s brilliant and true on every level.

  2. Josie says:

    I just want to drop a couple reminders here for you or anyone else that might need them, and if they’re not needed, that’s wonderful to hear, I just wanted to make sure 🙂

    depression lies and my friends and I often remind each other of these truths:

    1) returning to/seeking out therapy is not a sign of weakness or failure. It shows that you know yourself well anough and are brave enough to seek outside advice for something new going on in your life or head

    2) finding a therapist and/or going to therapy feels like an overwhelming time/money sink, but if you’re considering the option, you’ll likely get significantly more value out of that investment than you expect right now. If time is the problem, ask a family member to make the call or do the research. If it’s money find a hotline or e-therapist or something more affordable. Or at the least open up to a friend about your struggles (and grant the friend the compassion to know they’re not equipped to be a therapist and they’re trying their hardest for you)

  3. mike says:

    Pleasure Trap. I like it. One of my all-time favorite books.

    I look at depression as being on a see-saw. It can be a delicate balancing act behooving one being aware of what keeps the saw from staying grounded in the wrong direction.

  4. tim says:

    Robert Lustig recently wrote a book about how we have confused pleasure and happiness. The Hacking of the American Mind.

    You might find it an interesting read.

  5. Yohai says:

    Going to therapy is giving yourself the time and effort that you deserve. It’s a sign of strength; you improve yourself by investing in yourself. I never went personally but I’m quite jealous of people who go.

    On a personal note J.D., we don’t know each other and I don’t usually comment but your writing is touching. It’s not just matter-of-fact articles, they are truly enriching on a personal level (not just this one which is clearly geared towards that goal but all of them). You have a lot of friends that you’ve never met, and I am one of them. Thank you.

    • Jo says:

      And I’m another.

    • L says:

      Yohai, I like this thought: “Going to therapy is giving yourself the time and effort that you deserve. It’s a sign of strength; you improve yourself by investing in yourself.” My friend and I were just talking about this at lunchtime. Both of us have been to therapy, although he for much longer, and he was mentioning how much $$ it has cost him over the years… yet I couldn’t help but think how the investment he has made in doing so shows strength and an impressive commitment to bettering himself, trying to dig deeper into what makes him “him”. I think many more people could benefit from it. I think the majority of people live life on the surface of things, afraid of their emotions, afraid to ask questions of themselves. Yet how can you ever really know yourself if you don’t wrestle with the questions? You said you were jealous of people who have availed themselves of therapy. Perhaps someday you will!

      • Yohai says:

        I absolutely agree that many more people people could benefit from going to therapy. Most people only go when they’re in crisis, but that’s like waiting until you’re sick to see a doctor. No, you should do yearly checkups and get a vaccine now and then.

        As for me, I’m sure I will some day. I’m very interested and curious to see what this can do for me.

        • Josie says:

          I’ve found therapy useful as a tool to explore my true feelings on the goings-on in my life. I’ve gone when I’ve been overwhelmed by life circumstances, I’ve gone when I’ve needed an objective opinion on something I’m processing, and I’ve recently found myself going because as a society we don’t make the space to dig in deep to our emotions and how they ebb and flow, and I’ve found a lot of value in exploring that once a month or so. When I try to do it with friends it becomes a different kind of conversation where we’re all trying to understand each other but not ourselves.

          Hopefully hearing a that therapy is useful even when not tackling mental health disorders or overwhelming life experiences will help you figure out if you want to give it a try yourself.

  6. JanBo says:

    Thank you for addressing depression. I do not see it as any sort of trap, but a feeling that simply can overwhelm- even on the “best day”. I think those with depression can see it and those who don’t – never will understand it.

  7. Tammy says:

    Thank you for this post. It helped me to understand what those who suffer from anxiety and depression experience. It is also refreshing to read something so honest and unfiltered.

  8. S.G. says:

    JD, this is what I was getting at a few weeks ago when I said fishing all day might be a goal, but it’s not a purpose. Meaning might not fill all the holes inside us, but it can help. You hear of suicides who felt their life was DEVOID of meaning. I haven’t gotten the impression than Bourdain looked at his success in terms of bringing joy to people, but as a stressful job he was trapped in.

    I think most people struggle with depression, just some more than others. But as common as it is, I’m not sure we handle it that well. Depression might not have lifestyle triggers, but I don’t believe it is totally divorced from life and lifestyle. There does seem to be a subset of people for which is is a distinct medical condition, but I think far too many antidepressants are handed out rather than people work through their problems. I remember a line from a mivie that said “Sometimes low self esteem is just good sense”. Well sometimes people are depressed because things really are bringing them down. I find myself in black moods when I loose control of my sleep.

    In other words: Life balance, sleep, and people you can trust to talk through the tougher bits (friends, family, or therapist) all seem integral for otherwise healthy people to keep themselves together.

    Perspective helps too, which really help to keep you grounded. Keep that perspective, JD. You’re loved, valued, and appreciated for the unique things you bring to the world.

  9. Matt Spillar @ Spills Spot says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience J.D., this was a really raw and thoughtful post. It’s easy to say, “Stay positive, things will get better” but we often times forget the different struggles that people around us are going through.

  10. Financial Samurai says:

    The productivity trap is tough. You get so addicted to the success, the momentum, the money, that it’s hard to take a step back.

    I’ve tried my best to step back w/ the birth of my son… but it keeps pulling me back in b/c ironically, I feel I now must work harder in order to take care of my wife and son.

    It’s interesting you mention buying back GRS. Although you bought it back cheap, has it inadvertently created a lot more stress because now you feel like you have this tremendous responsibility to grow it back to the success that it once was? Do you suffer from guilt for selling it in the first place, and you need to make up for the lost time to your old readers?

    Is it possible to take a step back from GRS as well and post less?

    The hot tub really is worth it. It’s the best money spent in a long while!

    Here’s to taking a step back.


  11. Fred says:

    Frank, honest posts like yours are helping me begin to understand depression. 25 years ago I went through a multi month dark period. My world was collapsing. I’d pace the floors at 3 AM, weeping, and failing in my efforts to decide a course of action.

    If depression is anything like that, then I sympathize.

  12. RayinPenn says:

    My 2 cents…
    1) talk to someone (a professional).
    2) avoid sad stories, movies, toxic people
    3) Targeted reading success stories and feel good books. (Some are a real help)
    Lastly make a conscience decision to feel better and work hard at it.

  13. john klabunde says:

    wherever you are standing now, I don’t care where you live , draw a 3 mile circle around you and all the mysteries of life are there. All it takes is for you to stop look and listen. No need for travel. The internet has all the pictures and you can learn to cook the ethnic meals from home.

  14. ALICIA says:

    I’ve been wanting to kill myself since I was 10 years old. I’m 70 now. The only thing that has sustained me is my relationship with God. I find great comfort in knowing there is a God up above who watches over me, will never leave me, is always constant and is my best, best friend. When I put my life in His hands, I feel great comfort and I know that whatever happens was for the best. I’ve been rich. I’ve been poor and hit rock bottom. But God said is was AOK. He helped build me back up to a more sustainable life. One that I enjoy. It’s a pleasure to wake up in the morning, knowing I can spend another day, happy and with God.
    Another thing that helped me was keeping a journal. I write in it most days. All the fears, hatred, depression and bitter thoughts I have are poured into that journal. And after I write it out, I feel so much better.
    You have to have hope. You have to have faith. You have to have someone, who you can toss all your burdens on, and then forget about them because you now have a trusted friend who is going to take care of all your problems and resolve them. That is what I have found to be true in my walk with God.
    Try it. You might like it!

  15. Joe says:

    JD, you should talk to a therapist. Maybe make it a regular appointment. Once a month or something like that. You can afford it and you know it will help.

    I got hit with depression once. That was when I really hated working. I had panic attacks and various other problems. I got out of that situation and I’ve been good since. Normally, I don’t get depressed.

    The productivity trap is a tough one. I’m cutting back on blogging this summer to take a step back. I’ll post just once per week and that’s good enough. Summer is slow anyway.

    Take care of yourself first. Best wishes.

  16. Anon says:

    There is a form of therapy that is less well-known and is more effective than CBT and it’s called EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming. It is particularly helpful for negative events that haunt you and particularly for negative thoughts that bully you in your own mind. If you’ve had these troubles for a long time, please do check into Pete Walker’s accounts of Cptsd and his books, articles, etc.

    You’re worth it. Please stay. Keep going until you find the right help for you. Please stay.

  17. Ris says:

    Therapy helped me with my depression, but what really made a difference was going on medication. It corrected the chemical imbalance in my brain and has made the last three years the most stable, happy, and content years of my adult life. If you’re wondering if medication is the right choice for you, talk to your healthcare provider and be open to trying it. I cannot believe the difference a low dose of a common antidepressant has made in my life. My only regret is that I resisted it for so long.

  18. Peter says:

    Thankfully I’ve not experienced depression myself, but I’ve seen it’s crippling effects in the lives of those close to me. It really isn’t a rational thing that can be easily shrugged off, it’s just a feeling of complete and utter loneliness despite being surrounded by people, and even those who love you dearly. It’s a sense of not being able to move or function, like there’s a heavy weight pressing down on you.

    A friend who has experienced the crushing weight of depression who came close to the brink of suicide, said the only thing that was able to pull him out of it was trying to move the focus of his life less from himself, and more onto others around him, into a mindset of helping others, being more compassionate towards others, more forgiving and working towards making a positive impact on other people’s lives. He focused outward on helping others, instead of inward on his problems, and in the process it helped his inward problems as well.

    I believe some studies have actually shown that that when we practice compassion and caring in our lives toward others, it can lead to improved relationships, less anxiety and depression. By the same token when we are more worried about an image, and portraying a “put together”persona without ever being vulnerable in social interactions, it can have the opposite effect- more and deeper depression. I can see how the productivity trap and pleasure trap could feed into those ideas – of having a certain successful image that you feel you need to maintain, but without necessarily having as much of the vulnerability. Of looking for the next “pleasurable experience” to give you that momentary high, but feeling let down when the feelings from that experience wanes.

    J.D., I don’t know you well, but have had the opportunity to meet you on a few occasions – and even play Exploding Kittens with you at Fincon (that was a lot of fun!) – but I can tell that you have a big heart, and that you feel things very deeply, and definitely want to help others through your work. Just know that you have helped me – and countless others over the years, and we’re all indebted to you. So thank you for who you are!

    Keep on looking onward and upward!

  19. Katherine says:

    I did not personally know Anthony Bourdain but I loved him. When I was young someone closed to me committed suicide. That hurt has never left me. It makes me so sad to think how tortured Anthony must have been to not have any other way out. JD have followed your writing here and elsewhere since approximately 2008. Please do whatever it takes to lift yourself from that darkness.

  20. Erin | Reaching for FI says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this the last few days—I’m more or less at an okay place mentally right now, but of course the two very high-profile suicides last week were something I couldn’t stop thinking about.

    I’ve been ridiculously busy so far this year, partly for reasons out of my control, but I’ve absolutely also been bad at saying no when maybe I should’ve. But as much as I hate feeling like I’m constantly behind and running to catch up on my own life, part of me absolutely welcomes the busyness. I don’t stop too often to ask myself why that is, but I’m sure it’s no coincidence that stopping or standing still feels like stagnation and free time means I have to actually face my thoughts. And that’s hard and scary and a lot of work, so productivity trap it is!

    I think the garden metaphor for the pleasure trap holds true for fighting depression/anxiety, too. I *know* that going to therapy for the last year has helped me. But I never actually want to go when it’s time for the next appointment or to put in the work to change my thought patterns outside of my appointments. When my depression gets bad I become extremely apathetic about everything and I don’t want to do the things I know I should be doing. I’m so tired of life being that much more work thanks to my crappy brain chemistry. But that’s what I’m working with, so I have to do the extra work necessary to live and get things done. There’s a ton of extra work that goes into cultivating my personal garden. But I have to hope that it’ll be worth it.

  21. Vania Silva says:

    Hi J.D. I’m Vania. (I tried to e-mail you but your e-mail doesn’t appear to be working). I read your blog and wanted to reach out to congratulate you on your content and continuous success! I admire the way you expose yourself – especially in this article. We are all fighting a battle. Please do seek help and focus on yourself – you deserve it and sharing such personal information with your readers only shows your strength. You’ve already received lots of love on your post and encouraging words, so I will leave it at that. But if you ever need a non judgmental and confidential ear about what you are going through, despite not knowing each other, please know that I am here. Please reach out. Depression should never be fatal.

  22. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies says:

    Depression is a bitch. It really is.

    Giving yourself permission to step away when you need to or want to or simply have to because you can’t write a single thing was the best thing I ever did. One of the most important things I’ve ever written was a post about finding contentment in enough (you even shared it once! ah!), but I’ll be damned if I’m not constantly losing sight of it when I’m in the personal finance world.

    I’m always glad you write, but I’m especially glad you wrote this. Thank you.

  23. lmoot says:

    I think his depression and his witnessing and knowledge of human suffering (I noticed that was often the theme of his shows, and probably why he was drawn to certain places) got to him; the disillusionment of discovering there were more bad guys than good guys in the world, and too many of those who were supposed to be the “good guys” were baddies in disguise, causing much of the suffering, made him feel hopeless.

    Obviously I didn’t know him personally, but anecdotally my experience with depression in those close to me, is that some people suffering from depression feel disassociated from others, and that feeds their depression, and others are the opposite–their depression is triggered by an unusually heightened sense of empathy, almost to the point of feeling responsible for others’ suffering because of their inability to stop it. From hearing his own words, I can’t help but think Anthony Bourdain was the latter, and absorbing all of negativity that came with some positive moments in his travels, was too much. He truly understood human nature, whether it came naturally to him, or he learned on the job, and we needed more people like him. It’s a loss for our world.

  24. Larry says:

    “…this mentality is common among successful people — they stay in an unhappy status quo simply because they have so much invested in their self-image and public perception of themselves as successful people.”

    I’m surrounded by this as I work at a top tech company which, almost, exclusively recruits from the top grad schools in the country. I don’t have an MBA and went to a state school. It’s a constant challenge to keep the boundaries set with my peers and Directors/VPs when it comes to the whole work/life balance. Some work every day of the week, including weekends. Work very late into the evening and assume everyone else is on the same “bus”. By choice, I live in a house that is a third, or less, in size than my peers in a neighborhood w/ no HOA. By choice, I drive a Honda that I paid cash for new. My peers all drive either Euro sedans or Teslas. They go on trips to exotic places while I find there’s more than enough for a lifetime of exploration in the U.S. (yes, I’ve been out of the country several times, but it isn’t a priority). Being at parity with the majority of my peers’ salaries, my lifestyle is based not what is expected, but what I choose to tolerate, which is mostly around debt (I have none). No debt is a freeing mental state and the addition of a considerable amount of cash (FU money — 3 to 4 years) gives me flexibility at work to say “no” to nonsensical requests that most of my peers feel obligated to accept in order to pay for debt and maintain a perceived lifestyle expectation.

    As a human condition, there are many people who set an expectation upon themselves on what they perceive as the expected lifestyle at their salary level. It’s difficult to step back from that and get off that hamster wheel. Everyone thinks they’re going to be a VP, but, that pyramid gets very narrow at that level. It’s difficult for people to step back and see the bigger picture of what’s going on when just trying sustain themselves in the productivity/pleasure trap consumes their day. Some much needed introspection would benefit most of us and to realize what’s most important. At times, it’s difficult to watch because their “happiness” is tied to a lifestyle.

  25. Caroline says:

    My husband when thru a severe depression and eventually got help, both therapy and medication. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough to help him and he ended his life anyway.
    If you feel depressed or suicidal, reach out and get help.
    If you know someone who seems/is depressed, be there for them and encourage them to get help.
    And if you can, try to donate time or money for research on mental health, so they can keep improving and providing help as needed.
    Close to 800,000 people die of suicide every year, most of them are not celebrities, they are someone’s son, daughter, husband, mom, dad, best friend…

  26. Aaron says:

    JD, thanks so much for writing this. Like yourself, I’ve been a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, eagerly anticipating each new episode of Parts Unknown. I loved how he let other people tell their stories without getting in the way. What a rare and beautiful gift.

    I was devastated by the news on Friday and have only been able to stop thinking about it when consumed with some other activity. I never met him, yet it feels like I’ve lost a friend. I think that “Michael” is on to something, but I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it all. I hope this article brought you some catharsis, and I also wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing more generally. Glad to have you back at GRS.

  27. Debbie says:

    Thank you for writing a real article for I know someone if not many someones, it will make a difference in them taking a step forward to help themselves. Even with qualified help, there are times Depression is very difficult to live with on day by day basis. Sometimes even hour by hour. I’ve heard so many people commenting that they do not understand why he committed suicide due to his being famous, rich, etc. But they are comparing his outside personality without giving thought to the real person hidden inside. Money and fame do not cure what ails the Soul. There are so many people that put the public mask on and fill their daily life with work, etc to stay so busy to try not to feel the black hole of Depression. I do hope that from his death and Kate Spade’s death that more people will become aware and reach out for help. Also agree that being in contact with people on regular basis helps. Isolation only feeds the black hole but one has to be in contact with people that really see you and hear you. Not the normal superficial that seems to be prevalent in our society.

  28. Cindy in the South says:

    One of my sons (the middle almost 28 year old) texted me today, that he wished I would kill myself. He does that when I do not pay for something he wants me to pay for. While it depresses me, and makes me cry sometimes, I have to understand he has issues of his own. His other three siblings (two other sons, one daughter) are not like that at all.

    • S.G. says:

      I hope he’s not in your will.

    • Caroline says:

      Hi Cindy, it must be awful. Is he getting help? Are you?

    • teinegurl says:

      Cindy- even if he’s your son you shouldn’t tolerate that kind of language. Cut him off financially because its just enabling and he will never get on his own two feet and cut him off emotionally. you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can keep others. Your #1 in your life

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life says:

      Cindy, I’m so sorry he feels that’s an acceptable way to treat you. Of course it’s not but some people just fail to see past their own noses and wants. You know I have a sibling who is like that, and I saw or heard stories of him being horrible to my parents in a similarly self centered way, and have all the empathy. I hope you’ve protected yourself and your finances from him, as best you can.

  29. Manuel says:

    Great article.

    I beleive real happiness is more self spiritual than experiences, money or whatever.

    People are always trying to build happiness. You knw what’s the problem about that ? :

    They forget to see they’ve already got everything inside them. Even in the depression. Even in the anxiety. Even in the shitty periods.

    Real happiness, to me, starts when you are happy living good and bad experiences. Especially bad experiences.

    When you start smiling in shitty periods – and I mean sincerely, you’ve won everything. Yet it still can be hard and it is okay to cry or whatever. But never forget that while you’re living that… well : you’re living.

    A depressif guy

  30. Financial Samurai says:

    One more thing I am realizing: the desire to be relevant.

    It seems like the majority of folks who sell their sites because of the lure of money seem to feel despondent after a year or so because they no longer become relevant to the community they were in. They realize they traded their relevancy for money, and that feels bad, so they decide to start another site or buy a site.

    Isn’t this the typical case that money doesn’t buy happiness, but a good social network does?


  31. Maura says:

    Thank you, JD, for writing about living through depression. My brother died by suicide, and it makes a huge difference for other men to be public about mental illness and about getting treatment. I appreciate your strength and courage and hope that your symptoms abate soon.

  32. Agnes says:

    Thanks JD for writing this article and I hope you are getting all the help and support that you need. I too was a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and his sudden passing on Friday really hit me hard. And to make it worse it was my birthday this Saturday and I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate it since I was overwhelmed with sadness and I still am. I never knew him in person,however, I felt such a connection with him and it saddened me that he felt he had to end his life the way he did. As much as I love reading your articles, I rather you take all the time you need to take care of yourself and don’t feel the pressure of producing articles. I believe all your loyal readers will wait for your articles, and don’t be afraid to take a break from the website if that is what you need.

  33. Will says:

    Not being someone that is typically very moved by celebrity deaths, I found Anthony Bourdain’s recent suicide to be something that I kept coming back to over and over, whether mentally or in conversation. Bourdain had an intelligence, authenticity and good humor that was rare in a television personality, and seemed to be someone that had lived a real and multi-faceted life. I also never really considered the possibility that Bourdain would commit suicide, as for public purposes he seemed to have a rather ideal professional life and a deep interest and commitment to what he was doing. Obviously, we all tend to be more moved by deaths when we can relate–in whatever way–to the person who died. Beneath a certain gruffness, Bourdain had a charm and deep humanism that made him a compelling person, and someone that will be irreplaceable in his craft.

  34. Kristy says:

    Great post. Thanks for your honesty – it’s why I love GRS and follow you. Money/finance thoughts & tips shared by a real person!

  35. Dani says:

    Thank you.

  36. Gui says:

    Thank you for this posting. Kingston you are spot on, and at 55 I think you are on the right track of what life is about: Contentment.
    The main points I walk away with are: 1) Pleasure 2) Happiness 3) the by-product of not having control of 1) and 2) which leads to depression and worse.

    I agree that both pleasures and happiness are fleeting. We know that pleasures are short-lived and to maintain them the resources of time and money may be required…putting one in an hamster-wheel to perpetuate 1) and 2)

    Happiness is the result of this “something” which, yes, happens to us…..whatever that something is…you become happy as a result of it. You receive you first Rolex watch, or other material possessions, or just a chocolate ice-cream which you are happy to buy because you can’t resist the pleasures from chocolate. Too much of if is likely to give you a different message, yet that up to you.

    Like Kingston, I believe the balance of life dwells in contentment. Nobody in their right mind get in this hot tub simply because they have one at home, so convenient that they don’t need to go to the SPA. Forget the SPA!!! would you really let the hot water of your hot tub constantly run, or would you reasonably turn off that water faucet once the tub is full to the rim… Well it is up to you to decide amongst the following what is meaningful to you:
    1) What brings you pleasure
    2) What makes you happiness
    3) At which point will you be content

    Since 1) and 2) are fleeting, finding the middle-point of contentment is what life requires all of us to practice daily.

    Bigger is never better, and trying to keep up with the Jones’ will eat you alive. Be nibble and know that the right size normally is the best fit. Learn to manage well the small things life has blessed you with and don’t let outside peer pressures and commercial forces sneak on you.

    Be proud of your achievement(s), be a good steward of your blessings and let contentment be your living guide.

    The rest, leave it to the press…

  37. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life says:

    Depression is a tough beast to wrestle. It took me three years to write about it, and longer to admit to people in my life that I had been through a suicidally depressive period, but for me, being able to discuss it at all was an indicator of progress in my journey.

    I’m glad you were able to write about it. I hope it was cathartic enough to get you further down your journey away from the depressive period. If not, I hope you find the thing that helps you out, soon. I know it’s incredibly hard to self motivate when depressed, that’s one of the areas I get hit too, and I lean pretty hard on my dogs to keep me moving until I can do it for my own reasons.

  38. Katharine says:

    Sending heartfelt wishes to everyone commenting here.

    This post reminded me of two things a recently saw and wanted to share:

    From The Cut, an article on the Yale class on How to Be Happy: “An abundance of money is considered a status symbol, while an abundance of time is considered shameful. That’s why, in America, there’s a premium on busyness — on having a deficit of time. (According to research, this does not hold true in many other cultures, where there is no stigma to an abundance of time.)” https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/how-to-be-happy.html

    From The Financial Diet YouTube channel: I don’t remember the exact video, but it debunked quotes that you often find on Instagram, refrigerator magnets etc. “Spend money on experiences, not things.” Their advice was that it was often better to spend on neither.

  39. Mysticaltyger says:

    I don’t believe Anthony Bourdain’s death was a suicide. Alternative explanations are out there for anyone who’s interested.

  40. Ms. Fiology says:

    His death is tragic.

    JD, a lot of people listen to what you have to say. The fact that you are willing to be raw about your struggles is what can help them.

  41. Leah says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been wondering lately whether retiring early will really grant me the happiness I think it will. Will controlling more of my time, having the freedom to travel for long stretches and explore the world, and living more slowly truly make me happy? I want to make sure I am managing my own expectations of how I will feel once I reach my goal. The answer I come to is that it probably won’t make me significantly happier than I am today.

    One of the things I’ve realized is that just having a long-term goal that I’m focused on increases my happiness, so I expect that after I’ve spent a few years on travel and chilling it will be important for me to pick a new long-term goal to work toward once I’m retired.

    One thing that puzzles me is why, when many of my friends and family members struggle with depression, and when I too had issues with it as an adolescent, am I happy? I keep looking for something outside myself to explain it, and it feels just as inexplicable (though far more pleasant) as being depressed. I’m doing my best to enjoy it anyway.

    I hope you find a path that works for you and brings you closer to contentment.

  42. Cubert says:

    I’d like to meet up with you someday and reminisce about AB with you over a few beers. He was one of my heroes.

    I’m still thinking about what went down a full month later. The guy was seemingly living the dream. I’d always tell people, “THAT’S my ideal job.”

    We can be grateful that he showed how travel, even later in life, can inform and enlighten.

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