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?