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Cichon's personal story on depression and anxiety strikes a chord

After reporting the suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain at about 7:30 a.m., June 8, WECK-AM/FM news director Steve Cichon grabbed his cellphone and typed a story that he had been thinking about for more 30 years.

Cichon, 40, spent close to two and a half hours composing a 2,500-word essay posted to his blog, BuffaloStories.com, with the title of "A brief memoir in depression and anxiety."

He tucked it away, then made some changes that night and Saturday morning before hitting send and posting it on Facebook and Twitter.

The stream-of-consciousness post immediately struck a chord with Cichon's followers and became one of his three most memorable blogs that have elicited a response from readers.

"It was definitely the most heartfelt response," said Cichon, who started counseling for depression and anxiety a few months ago.

The three posts all have something in common – Cichon's shared personal stories.

The other two blogs that got a big reaction were heartfelt posts about the death of his father in 2010 and the death of his dog about a year later.

"When my dog died – it sounds like a silly comparison – I wrote a heartfelt piece, it was shared by the SPCA," said Cichon, who previously worked at WBEN and ran for Erie County Clerk. He also writes historical stories for The Buffalo News.

From 1880 to Today: Church of the Messiah, in today's Fountain Plaza
Buffalo in the '80s: Radice’s Go-Go Girls on red-light Chippewa
Torn-Down Tuesday: Polish Everybody’s Daily and the streetcar Y at Walden and Hoerner, 1948
From 1880 to Today: The Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane

"When my father died, I wrote a similar piece," said Cichon. "People don't often spill their guts in a raw sort of way in public and leave themselves wide open. Whenever you do that — and this is definitely a case of me doing that — people respond to something that speaks to them."

In the post, Cichon shared that he has "been suffering from depression and anxiety as long as I can remember."

"You will read this and never think of me the same way again," he wrote.

In the telephone interview, Cichon said he feels that has happened.

"When you've held something inside and all of sudden it becomes public, I think it is different internally," he said. "I know that people are looking at me and understanding something that they didn't know about me a week ago."

He didn't expect a negative reaction. In fact, he got the reaction he would have predicted.

Some people told him it "was a good thing you've done." Some people said they were "proud" of him for doing it. And there were those who said they thought "more highly" of him for doing it.

"That is mostly the response and that's the response I would have expected," he said.

However, he thinks that down the road some people who lack understanding of mental health issues might think otherwise, that it could even cost him a future job.

"You have two guys who are good and one guy has come out and said he has mental health issues, it might be an easier pick (for the other guy)," he said.

But possible repercussions be damned, he had to do it. Finally.

He first thought about writing it when reading a story about the late legendary CBS newsman Mike Wallace's battle with depression.

"As I was reading that 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I don't remember the exact date, I was deciding I had to tell my story," said Cichon. "And someday I would. The culmination of that was Friday morning. "

"The other part was watching people struggle with how to deal with it," said Cichon. "Not people who understand. This was sort of an expression of people who don't understand, to try to help people understand what is going on."

He wrote some similar things a few times, but never with the intention of posting them.

He recently thought of doing it after the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade four days before Bourdain's death.

"This is something I had thought about many times before," said Cichon. "I was very close to trying to figure out how to write something when the news of Kate Spade came out and people were writing things and trying to make sense of it. It didn't come together for me."

It came together after the news of Bourdain's death.

[Read: More than anything else, Anthony Bourdain was real]

"Almost immediately, as I was sitting in the newsroom, it flowed from my fingertips," said Cichon. "It was my writing style. It is sort of pure emotion. It is different than when I am sitting down writing a piece of journalism."

It also was pure poetry.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you check it out on Cichon's website, BuffaloStories.com.

Email: apergament@buffnews.com

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