Two Years Later
My friend Luke, who I lost to depression.
This has been hard to write. The original title was “One Year Later.”
On January 1st 2014 my friend Luke Arduini jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge to end his own life.
In the week before his suicide he made a point to see all of his close friends. Completely unaware of what he was going through he and I drank scotch and talked about his upcoming project.
He had already written his suicide note.
Once he posted his note we scrambled to find him, hoping he hadn’t done it yet. I jumped over the fence of his apartment building, pulling a key from under his mat where he said we could find it to take care in his cat. I expected to find him half or wholly dead but instead I only found a sparsely furnished apartment.
In the weeks that followed his friends and family tried to piece together what had happened. The police were useless. Marisa Mayer stepped in and hired a private investigator (Luke was a Yahoo! employee at the time). Eventually the investigator put together a series of events that showed clearly exactly when and how Luke’s life had ended.
Like many Golden Gate suicides his body was never recovered. This means that his family will have to wait several years before they see a real death certificate. This also means that his death will never be included in the official Suicide Count for the bridge, which is exactly what they want.
I have a lot of anger about Luke’s suicide. I’m mad at him, I’m mad at the city, the bridge, I’m mad at someone he cared for and treated him poorly. And of course I’m mad at myself.
“I’m very good at hiding it.” That’s what Luke said about his depression. I sometimes feel the same way about him, that I’m good at hiding how I feel about him, and about how he left us.
In the last few years we’ve seen a lot more outreach towards people with depression in our industry.
While I’m happy to see and participate in this outreach, none of it would have saved Luke. Luke didn’t think that people would accept his depression if they knew about it, he hid himself from everyone, at a great cost. The only thing that I can think of that might have saved him was if we all spoke openly about all of our own challenges with mental illness.
About our own neurosis. Our own anxiety. Our own depression. We often pretend to speak openly about ourselves but leave so much on the table that might make us vulnerable.
So I’ll start. This is what I wish I had said to Luke when we drank whisky at Heinhold’s Last Chance around Christmas, instead of startups and frameworks.
I suffer from relatively severe anxiety. The worst is a crippling fear of death, which if I focus on enough can only be stopped by physical pain like biting myself.
Until mid-2013 I didn’t know I suffered from anxiety at all. After listening to an interview with the author on the WTF Podcast I started reading Monkey Mind and about 40 pages in realized that he was describing exactly what I had lived with my entire life.
Prior to this realization I would just grow increasingly irritable if I didn’t get “time to myself” which mostly involved walking alone for an hour or so. Once I knew it was anxiety I found it much easier to deal with. Although it’s still a constant part of my life I’ve found that regular meditation keeps it to a manageable level.
I will routinely leave conferences and other events mid-day in order to mediate alone so that I can be more functional. Even though I’m known as a pretty social person I suffer from constant social anxiety which I have self medicated for a few decades using alcohol (which is quite effective short term).
It’s not severe depression, but it’s what I live with and have shared with few people but my wife. My family wouldn’t even know about it if I hadn’t suffered a severe panic attack shortly after my sister’s wedding (I may be the only person to have suffered a panic attack in Kauai).
In his last words Luke mentioned a video he and I made to promote DHTMLConf. It was the most fun either of us had had in years. Luke wrote, directed, and edited it perfectly.
Below is the raw footage, which I’ve never shown to anyone. It includes the parts where we were laughing too much to finish some scenes. This is all I have to show just what we lost when he decided to take his own life.