June 08, 2018

Why did Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain Commit Suicide?

When I saw Anthony Bourdain's publicized suicide trending on Twitter this morning my first question was "Why?", but there was no answer to this question in any of the lead stories. Another famous person committed suicide just three days prior, Kate Spade, and, again, I looked for the reason why. There are many potential signs as to why, many overlapping life issues such as substance dependence, but I'm not going to try to offer a definitive answer as to what specifically may have pushed them over the edge and I won't rule out the possibility of foul play either. I'm going to look at all the issues and the overlapping issues related to suicide and I'm going to try to offer helpful answers and encouragement to anyone seriously struggling in life.

My heart goes out to family and friends impacted most by these losses and I pray for their consolation while I'm also hoping that this post will be practical for anyone that might be struggling with serious emotional pain and thoughts of suicide.

There's a saying that "hurting people, hurt people." It's not really clear why in 2017 Anthony Bourdain said that he would poison Donald Trump if he had to cook for him. The fact that CNN kept him on after this statement shows how toxic culture has become normative. Reading about his life, I don't get the sense that he was very political per se, but he was critical of politicians and he was very outspoken regarding sexual predators in Hollywood, especially Harvey Weinstein. On Twitter on May 25, 2018, Bourdain stated: "Looking forward to the Penalty Phase of the #Weinstein trial." And on Twitter, he made numerous other comments about justice being served against Weinstein that are listed on Reddit.

It's not logically possible so far in Bourdain's case to completely rule out foul play.

I looked more closely at the alleged suicide of Anthony Bourdain and there is more than meets the eye in mainstream news. In viewing all of the documented quotes by Bourdain regarding corruption and harassment from Hillary Clinton, you cannot rule out the possibility of foul play. While in many respects Bourdain seemed to be a lost soul, so far it's not logically possible to rule out foul play, as Snopes illogically described as a "false" conclusion. On May 2, 2018, only a month prior to his apparent suicide, Bourdain suggested on Twitter that Hillary Clinton's operatives had been harassing him:

"..and I am in no way an HRC fan. I’ve been on the receiving end of her operatives’ wrath. And it ain’t fun," 6:37 PM - 2 May 2018

Bourdain also suggested on Twitter that Hillary Clinton was fully aware of the sexual assaults occurring in Hollywood:

"know what Hillary Clinton is NOT? She's not stupid. Or unsophisticated about the world. The Weinstein stories had been out there for years" 7:40 PM - Oct 11, 2017

According to TMZ, Bourdain apparently killed himself by hanging, as did Kate Spade. How it is possible to hang one's self on a doorknob, it's not clear to me. But no one seems to find this detail of Kate Spade's death odd. Nevertheless, regarding Bourdain, many are open to the possibility that Hillary Clinton or another powerful individual had Bourdain "suicided" for the sake of covering up the type of widespread criminal pedophilia that Cory Feldman claims he had suffered and is so committed to exposing that he is seeking $10 million to make a film exposing this corruption, as he described in a Vanity Fair interview from November 10, 2017:

“It’s all connected to a bigger, darker power,” says Feldman. “I don’t know how high up the chain that power goes, but I know that it probably is outside of the film industry too. It’s probably in government; it’s probably throughout the world in different dark aspects.”

Politico and many other sources have pointed out that Hillary Clinton covered up her husband's alleged sexual assaults. While French experts were quick to state that there was no evidence of a struggle or a third person involved, the fact is, there are poisons that are almost completely untraceable and most autopsies would not pick them up. Again, I'm not claiming that he was killed, but that it is a possibility.

Bourdain left behind an 11-year-old daughter and Kate Spade left behind a 13-year-old daughter. Kate's suicide note addressed her daughter: "Bea - I have always loved you. This is not your fault. Ask Daddy!"  

Kate Spade's older sister, Reta Saffo, wrote in an email that she believed Spade suffered from bipolar disorder, writing, “It finally took its toll on her. A very tragic and sad ending to the life of a very colorful and delightful being.” She also said that she “tried numerous times to get her help. On top of this, marital and financial issues were also noted: "Police say she may have taken her own life because of money and marital problems."

There were overlapping and compounded personal problems.

A lot of accounts describe Anthony Bourdain's drug-addicted past and quotes of his show that he embraced a romantic view of this experience. His fond description of a fantasy experience on LSD in an interview underscores that he was a lost person in a metaphysical and spiritual sense. While he considered numbing pain with drugs a poor reason to take them, he described escaping reality as something good:

 "Early exposure to LSD had a profound effect on the way I saw the world and continue to see the world. It changed the way I looked at myself, reality, and the world I lived in. I think, unlike most drugs, which are taken to kill pain or to numb you, I took LSD for all the right reasons. It was like sailing away on a pirate ship for me."

Bourdain spoke of addictions to drugs as serious as heroin, and even suggested that he smoked crack: "combing the shag carpet for paint chips in the hope that they were fallen crack bits," he recalls, and "smoking them anyway." Crack is immediately physically addictive and that's why it's more dangerous than cocaine. The very first hit will leave you craving for more. Bourdain said that most people have to quit all substances but he felt that he was strong enough to continue drinking alcohol and he continued to drink on his network shows.

There are many similarities between Anthony Bourdain and Ernest Hemmingway, who also took his own life. For one, they were both atheists. They also both pushed life to the limit. For example, Bourdain described eating a live cobra heart on The Late Show with David Letterman: "It was in Vietnam. It's a table side dish and they bring the cobra by and let him kind of strike at you or hiss and then they zip it open with a pair of gardening shears," said Bourdain. "The little heart drops onto a plate and you eat it. It is in fact beating all the way down."

Aside from the love of travel and adventure that both Bourdain and Hemmingway shared, I was struck that both Bourdain and Hemmingway gained so much satisfaction from eating oysters.

"It tasted of seawater... of brine and flesh...and, somehow...of the future," recalled Bourdain on eating the oyster. "I had had an adventure, tasted the forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life- the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation- would all stem from this moment." - Anthony Bourdain

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”  - Ernest Hemmingway

To put so much emphasis in an oyster as means to personal satisfaction signifies a need for something deeper. There's a risk I'll be perceived as trivializing this subject of suicide with this comparison, but the analogy is plain and obvious and hopefully will help someone.

Hedonism emphasizes the subjective over the objective and as a worldview is a house of cards.

"The world is your oyster" is a metaphor from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor that has a few different subtle interpretations but today basically is interpreted to mean that the world is ours to enjoy, effortlessly. This hints at one of the most common worldviews today, a hedonistic approach. This was a summary eulogy at Rolling Stone: "He was the Johnny Thunders of food, a hard-ass New York hedonist chatterbox who did not mind his table manners."

The fact is, though, that the material world is not all that there is. The sum of existence around us is not something contained that is ours simply for the taking and enjoying. The hedonistic approach to life will leave a person ultimately dissatisfied from a materialist approach. And hedonism from a spiritual approach it idolatrous because the sum of reality and experience in God is much greater than our obtaining something or feeling something from God.

There are helpful alternatives to secular atheism and hedonism.

As a Christian, it's hard for me to imagine life without God at this point. I know that it can seem odd to describe God as a friend, but that's what God is to me and many Christians and how God is often described in scripture. Jesus encouraged us to view Him as our friend based on relationship. We do not hear an audible voice, but we can know God's will for us in more subtle ways today:

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

There's a deeper significance in life found in knowing God. There's the aspect of God as a relational personal being, and then there's the aspect of God's nature as the eternal, unchanging and perfect loving Trinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The bedrock of reality is God's fixed and perfect nature. It's only in dying to ourselves in a spiritual sense and becoming born of the Spirit that we can take on this divine nature and experience true and lasting peace and satisfaction. The missionary Hudson Taylor struggled with severe depression most of his life and he said that the secret to life is living "the exchanged life" in allowing Christ to live in us and through us. This is a part of the paradox of happiness that Jesus described. 

Knowing Jesus Christ personally is the ultimate 'world in an oyster' that we long for. Jesus is the best friend that we all need to lean on and trust in most when times get tough. Life is not mainly about hedonism and seeking pleasure in the world or in God, it's about knowing God personally and interacting with God on many levels both now and in an eternal sense.

Kate Spade's husband said that she was suffering from long-term depression:

"She was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last five years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety,"

Antidepressant medications have serious risks.

While there is a spiritual aspect that influences our emotions, there is also a physical aspect. Whatever the specific reason is that pushes someone over the edge to commit suicide, emotional and physical pain are both causes and they activate similar brain regions. In other words, emotional pain feels just as "real" as physical pain.

This leads to many questions: What are the main underlying causes of overwhelming emotional pain? For some people, there is a serious chronic biological reason for pain and this becomes complicated. While medication can and does help people, it's a two-edged sword. Look into this subject and get more than one professional opinion.  According to research, the medicine itself can be dangerous:

"Antidepressant medications are widely prescribed to try to decrease the symptoms of depression and to reduce the risk of suicide. However, the medications have risks that outweigh the benefits for more patients than you probably realize."

Pharmaceutical companies make a lot of profits when people become addicted to their products, and so there is an incentive to twist the facts and the U.S. government actually sued a big-pharma company for deception:

"The U.S. government is suing GSK pharmaceutical company for misleading physicians and patients about the effectiveness of Paxil in children, and covering up suicides and suicidal behavior."

Anti-depressants have also been associated with violence and school shootings: "36 School shooters/school related violence committed by those under the influence of psychiatric drugs"

An overlapping theme that can't be denied is the fact that religious people take their own lives much less frequently, as shown in a 2016 study: "Compared with women who never participated in religious services, women who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide between 1996 and 2010, says a study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry."

Atheist Hemant Mehta was wrong in his summary of religion and Bourdain's suicide.

Positive results for religious Christians can relate to the element of community support in a church, the hope and positivity that is embedded in Christianity God's goodness, testimonies of experiencing the love of God personally, and also the power of the Holy Spirit described in scripture that helps in time of need. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue correctly pointed out: "...there is an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide: those who are regular churchgoers have a much lower rate of suicide than atheists like Bourdain." Atheist Hemant Mehta came out strong against that statement but was wrong in his own summary: "Donohue, as you’d expect, doesn’t understand what the data shows."

Mehta presupposed that overall research data on this subject showed merely that religion offers, "a tight-knit community, having a social support network, and having people to turn to in times of need". But Mehta's assumption was proven wrong back in a 2004 study: "After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts."

Anthony Bourdain was an atheist and a fan of Christopher Hitchens. Bourdain honored Hitchens at his death on Twitter saying: "Christopher Hitchens RIP. The world just got a helluva a lot dumber."  Hitchens was one of the outspoken "Four Horsemen" of the militant atheism movement and it's significant that he ended up suffering death from cancer due to complications from his hard and self-destructive living of heavy drinking and smoking. In an interview during the time of his fatal cancer, Hitchens quoted from Edna St. V. Millay: "My candle burns at both ends It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - It gives a lovely light."

A writer at the Observer wrote that Bourdain killing himself as a solution to his inner struggles was an act of grace: "In that sense, what Anthony Bourdain did was Herculean. It is the act of grace itself." I never did like the movie The English Patient because it romanticizes euthanasia. It's sad to see that some are romanticizing Bourdain's suicide as a grand and heroic act. But at least there's an openness to talk about different perspectives:

"What’s funny about writing all this is that I’m suddenly realizing the last gift that Anthony Bourdain has given me: I finally have the courage to talk about this dire subject so nakedly, honestly and purposefully…just as he did."

A person may be very talented and smart, but is it wise to shorten life for the sake of existential creativity and fleeting pleasures? Ultimately, when a person takes his or her own life their reasons to live are less compelling to them than their reasons to die. I know for myself that my rock is God, not feelings about God or even the scriptures that show God's promises, but the person of God Himself. Knowing God gives me the most compelling reasons to live. King David described God as his personal rock in this verse:

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (Psalm 18:2 NIV)

God is a rock of stability and a refuge from turmoil, a place to run for emotional refuge as well as any other type of refuge. Both the truth of God's existence and the feeling of experiencing God's love help me if I feel down.Though we cannot control how and when we may feel God's presence as Christians, having felt it at some point is a reminder that it is as real as the historical fact of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

One thing most people agree on, it's good to discuss this subject with others.

There are a lot of reasons why people commit suicide and it can be generally based on exterior circumstances that a person feels they cannot control or it can be based on internal overwhelming feelings from physical or emotional pain. For example, five New York City taxi drivers in five months have committed suicide because they paid a life's fortune to obtain a special permit and then Uber came along and took away business. The main reason for teen suicides is bullying from peers and a sense that there is no escape. When a loved one separates this is also beyond a person's control and can cause extreme pain. In a list of ten reasons people choose to commit suicide, stress was voted #2 as a cause. A person that has lived a hedonistic and sensual life may come to find that getting old is unbearable and losing physical attractiveness is also a big one.

If you struggle with deep emotional pain or believe you are in a situation that is unbearable, it's important to not keep it to yourself but to talk about it with someone you trust. We need to first be honest about where we are emotionally and understand that God's love for us is unconditional. The idea that we should seek happiness with all our might is not biblical. Whether you should take medication or not is up to you and your licensed physician(s). On the same day that #suicide was trending, hashtags #BestFriendDay and #ImpactThatMatters were also trending. Maybe we can try to reach out more to those around as and offer support in case someone needs some help. Ultimately, we can point people to the ultimate answer that is much more than a "Higher Power" or an abstract force. God is a personal being and through a relationship with Jesus Christ there is true and deep peace, the shalom we all need more than anything:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

UPDATE: Bourdain was cremated by the French Authorities even though according to Page Six the family wanted Bordain's body flown back home, according to Page 6:

"Bourdain’s family is still waiting for the French government to allow the TV chef’s body to be flown back to the US for burial, after he hanged himself in his French hotel room Friday.“They won’t be shipping his remains back for a couple of days because of formalities,” said Gladys Bourdain, 83."

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