DAVID CHANG quote in People Magazine
“High school was where I first noticed something was off. I remember feeling sad all the time, that I didn’t belong or fit in. I had debilitating anxiety. I spoke to the in-house therapist a few times, but I didn’t really feel comfortable spilling my guts to someone who had lunch with my teachers seven days a week. I saw another counselor in college. It took him two minutes to prescribe me Paxil. I never took it and never saw him again. I was embarrassed. I didn’t feel justified in seeing a therapist or taking pills. For one thing, I didn’t know any other Asian people who saw therapists.
I showed up to a career fair and signed up to teach English in Japan. I’d come to think that my problems were in America, and I wanted to live the life of an expat. Cut to the track behind the high school in Izumi -Tottori and me running around and around and loving it. I had boundless energy. I felt invincible. At night, I read dense Russian classics. I finished War and Peace in a couple of days.
Before long I was fixating on suicide. I’d make it look like an accident or just put myself in enough cars with s***** drivers. The last thing I wanted was to burden my parents with the dishonor of having a son who killed himself. When I returned to New York from Tokyo, I started a dead-end job at a financial services company. I would ride my bike all over Manhattan, weaving in and out of traffic and blowing through stoplights. There was a New Year’s Eve party that began with valium, speed, pot, washed down with twenty drinks and ended with my falling through a giant glass table. The ER doctors said I narrowly missed an artery.”
At 22 age 22, he finally decided to become a cook.
“But six months into my tenure at Cafe Boulud, my tenacity began to fall short. I’d always known I could hack anything as long as I was ready to work and work. If I could embrace the numbing repetition of the kitchen, I could keep everything else in my life at bay. But doubt leaked into my psyche. One thought began to surface repeatedly. I still wanted to die.”
My sole breakthrough was a private one. If nothing mattered, what did I have to lose? Thoreau said, ‘I said no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.’ I took that to heart as I contemplated suicide. Work toward something. Open a restaurant. If it doesn’t pan out there always the other path. To fight mental illness you need help. Medicine, yes, but people are key. You can’t do it alone. I’m lucky to have Dr. Eliot. The mere routine of talking to him has kept me alive. He brings out my most thoughtful and considerate self. When we’re talking, I’m the version of me that’s happy to wake up and face whatever challenge lies ahead.”