The Art of Faking It

I am not okay. I may seem like it, projecting a public persona of someone who has their shit together and their emotions in check. During media interviews it may even come across as cold indifference. But it’s all an act, not for television audiences, not the general public, and not even for my friends. It’s just for me.

Eighteen months and two weeks ago was the absolute worst day of my life, and I have struggled ever since to make it through a day that seems at least a little bit normal. And often it’s exhausting, hard work to make it through an hour, much less 24. There have been days when I didn’t care if tomorrow came. I’m sure there will be more. But suffering, grieving, wallowing in the pain each and every day just isn’t sustainable. It’s maddening and I’m sure I would take my own life if I let it take over. So I don’t. I fake happiness and normalcy to get through each day and onto the next.

But this blog post isn’t just about me, my struggle or my own self pity. It’s about you. Them. Us. If you have a brain, then you are susceptible to mental illness, chemical imbalances, stress, depression and yes, even suicide. More than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. This morning during breakfast, as I sat in a crowded restaurant with close to 50 other patrons, men and women of all ages, I looked at each person closely, wondering who the other two were. Who was faking it just to be there, like me?

It’s often not who you might suspect. Today there is so much focus on teens and suicide prevention, and rightly so. But it might surprise you to know that 70% of all suicides in the US are carried out by white men, most of them in their fifties.

Perhaps my biggest surprise during the past 81 weeks is the number of people that have reached out through social media and this blog to share their stories of suffering with depression, suicidal thoughts and marriages that ended in ugly, painful divorces, suicides and even murders. People are suffering, many without help. Many others without hope.

My own wife had been struggling with depression for years, and it was only after our marriage began to crumble that she finally sought professional help. I had fallen out of love with her and in love with someone else. Looking back, it’s so much easier now to see the cruelty of my actions. I broke her heart. I failed her as a husband, as a friend and as a human being. She needed help and I failed to recognize the deep despair and deadly thoughts she was having. And I have to wake up and live with that every day. But I’m trying to do something with it, by sharing my story, so that others won’t make the same mistake.

Somedays are strides forward. Others are major setbacks. This past week alone I learned that in a video my wife had recorded of me sleeping, she was holding a .357 magnum. As I lay there, she stood ten feet away with a gun in one hand, a phone in the other. For three minutes and forty-six seconds, she recorded me sleeping while firing an unloaded gun at me. Not once but three times. Click. Click. Click. Was it truly unloaded? I’ll never know.

But knowing that she stood there, the woman who swore she loved me so much she couldn’t live without me, contemplating, rehearsing. It has had an effect on me I can’t even explain. Anger? Fear? Sadness? I don’t know how to feel. So I don’t. I only wish I had awoken, and saw her desperation. Then maybe none of this would have happened. She wasn’t a bad person. Far from it. I wish she could have told me and others the thoughts she was struggling with.

Do I wish she would have shot and killed me instead of Meredith? Yes. But she didn’t. Instead she wanted me to live, to suffer for the rest of my life. For now at least I do.

I am raw. I am tired. I am not okay. Are you?

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13 thoughts on “The Art of Faking It”

  1. Your words are true and honest… mostly outline how I feel everyday. I cannot believe you have made it through the last 19 months, but I thank God you have. You help, you are real and mostly a voice for Mental Health but Suicide. Being Suicidal is way of life… it’s always there in the background like a safe silent friend. How sad is that? But you put it in paper and share what so many live with in silence. Smiles pictures etc. no one really knows and that little secret is therapeutic…. because when it gets bad you always go to that place. I don’t go there anymore… I don’t want this to be a thought I have everyday I wake up and go to bed. I still go there but you are helping. Thank you Mark

  2. I am so sorry for what you are going through… I still think of Meredith and feel so sad for her… she just got involved and sadly killed… 😢 not fair for her either…
    I think she does deserve some recognition some space…. since you did love her, but I sense from what you write all this love for your wife and practically not the same feelings of LOVE for Meredith. She walked away from all her life and husband because she fell madly in love with you…
    it saddens me her life ended like that simply because she fell in love with another man who’s ex wife did have depression and showed signs out of normal character previously of her death.
    I thank you for what you are doing… but Meredith did die loving you and thinking you loved her the same way…. May they both Rest In Peace… May you find peace and happiness once again… praying for Meredith’s family and their great loss as well.

    1. I like to think I have my “shit” together as a single Mom with 3 great kids , a beautiful home and successful career. I have life really in control and enjoyable. But yet the thought of my ex husband cheating and leaving me for a much younger woman turns this level headed confident woman into a crazy person!! It’s been 7 years and I still struggle with it everyday. Hell, just reading Amnerys’ heartfelt post about Meredith Chapman angers me as I feel the opposite about Meredith.

      We all have our hot buttons that open the areas of our lives where we are “not well”. When Jennair’s divorce coach said being replaced by a younger, prettier model crushed her..I can feel her pain to my core. When my husband abandoned me I had unending support from family, friends and professional help. On the financial side my father saved me from the financial mess my ex created. With all this help I barley made it through. I can only imagine what Jennair went through being alone.
      My Dad has a saying, “you can’t control how angry a person will get… so you better take care who you piss off”. Take that and throw in some serious mental illness and now you have makings of a cryptic video of your wife pointing a gun at you as you sleep. Scary!

  3. Mark.. You are a very, very brave person and not the sum of your worst mistakes. Far from it, as was true of your wife and Meredith as well. What really strikes me is how this relates to what the psychologist in the 20/20 show said about your wife – that she was invested in showing the world a pretty picture. Perhaps for survival mode reasons, or other reasons – I don’t know. I also wonder the same about many people and how they are really feeling. I can so relate to what you are saying about faking it. But I think in some ways, it’s a healthy response to wallowing and good practice for when you will be better – plus you are aware and speaking out about it. Just know you are helping many people by being honest and sharing what you have shared. I appreciate it and I’m sure many others do too.

  4. Beautifully done. I am grateful for your honesty about not being okay. We are not given a handbook on how to feel when things like this happen. Not knowing how to feel is perfectly okay. Society will tell us it’s not, but in reality, unless you have been there, you can only sympathize. I am so proud of this blog entry, my friend!

  5. What a difficult thing to find out! I’m not sure how I would feel after finding that out. But I can certainly say I wouldn’t be ok either. There are far lesser things that have happened in my life and I wasn’t ok, so I’m sure finding out what you just did would take a while to come to grips with. Hang in there- one day you will truly live again. It’s not your fault.

  6. Mark,
    You have the blog I keep coming back to. Like I mentioned in my comment in your “Heavy Price” thread… as Jennair, I lived through my husband dumping me for a younger woman. It heartens me to see you taking responsibility for your role in this terrible tragedy. When Dr Oz asked you what you would do differently you answered “not have the affair”. I was so relived when you said it. Those are the right words, the moral words…. not the words your heart might want but the words that keep you in the real world and not a secret dishonest world ruled by lies and deception. Remember, you did not get to your place today alone. Jennair treated you as her employee not her husband wearing on you for years. Jennair’s mental illness and the double lives all three of you lived made this tragedy. No Mark you’re not “faking it”, you’re coping and healing. To me you were “faking” during the affair but now you are in reality. Good for you.

  7. I am stunned and deeply saddened at your description of the video. How tragic that you continue to discover such horrifying evidence of the depth of your late wife’s emotional problems. Did she ever mention any conflicts she had with her family growing up? Did her parents ever tell you about concerns they had about her mental state? I have read it is not uncommon for those with mental illness to mask their problems, even those with schizophrenia. You are in my thoughts. It takes courage to examine your life so closely and openly and to admit your own flaws and mistakes so publicly in the hope of helping others – perhaps so they can avoid finding themselves in similar tragedies. Thank you for that.

  8. I too am drawn to this blog. I have some thoughts though. Not sure what is real but I think this might be the first time your wife did not get her way throughout her entire life. If this is true there would never be a sign because there was never an issue. When faced, for the first time, with not being able to control things and manipulate them her way the “real” person came out. We have a choice as humans to be violent or not. I’ve been dumped by my husband. Did I go red alert and decide to kill him or the girlfriend? No, because I am not selfish, I can see my ex is a real person who has a right to live happily. If things have changed and he no longer loves me it may be painful (the most pain I’ve every felt) but I have no right to take his life away or that of his new love. It is his life as this was your life and Meredith’s life. As I read I wonder how you really feel. Are you afraid to express how much you deeply loved Meredith and how heartbroken that love was taken from you as quick as it appeared. Are you mad at this other person for taking your life away. How can you really love that person so much as to say you wish you would not have left. You missed out on so much, no children, probably isolation from your family and friends to some degree because that is how your wife wanted it. You had such a beautiful future ahead of you both but, sadly, I believe all things happen for a reason. I’m not sure what the reason is for this but it apparently was not to spend the rest of your life living a lie.

  9. Describing a person with borderline personality disorder as “selfish” might me a little harsh. Fear of abandonment is the first symptom listed with this disorder. So even under the best of conditions life was very difficult for Jennair. Just as a person might care for a loved one who is autistic or confined to a wheelchair it makes life difficult or even non enjoyable on the care giver. Having this disorder and having recordings, etc of Mark and Meredith was devastating for Jennair. Mark be proud if you years with Jennair. In God’s eyes you are special.

    1. I agree. Jennair was actually very giving, not selfish, in so many ways, I am proud of the years I spent with her. Despite the troubles, there was often joy. Thank you , Blue Hen.

  10. Mark – while I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through, I feel compelled to state the obvious — you are forcing yourself to feel daily pain with no end in sight because of the extreme guilt you have for what happened to Meredith & Jennair.

    I hope your therapist tells you the same thing – that YES you were wrong to have an affair, you should have done all you could (i.e. counseling, being honest/upfront with Jennair, no affair/respect until you were divorced), but I do NOT believe you should have stayed in a marriage where you felt suffocated, controlled and isolated. You shouldn’t feel like you give up your life because of what she wanted/how she wanted you to live. That’s not fair and that leads to resentment, sadness and anger. Not the ingredients for any positive relationship. That’s control, not love.

    I feel like Jennair is still controlling you from the beyond. She wanted you to feel pain for the rest of your life and she’s succeeded. That’s not love from her, that’s control. And it’s so extremely sad to me.

    I hope one day you can see that you were not wrong for feeling like you wanted to get divorced from that relationship, but that you are able to see that you were wrong for the way you went about it. Two very different things.

    Sending peace your way.

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