Note from Dino: Before the interview, I'd like to say something for the benefit of all the folks who will eventually be reading it. First off I'd like to apologize for the length, this interview is going to be a long one. While I'm sure most readers just want to get some insight into who the real Mary Kay Bergman was - and don't worry I will talk a great deal about her - I do feel a certain responsibility ... namely to those readers who may be suffering, or know someone who is suffering, in the same way as Mary Kay. For that reason I am compelled to talk at length and in detail about the mental illnesses that eventually lead to her suicide. The simple truth is my beloved wife died because she believed that no one could understand her pain and that no one could help, and on both counts she was wrong, and it cost Mary Kay her life - so if there is even the slightest chance that anything I have to say here can help convince a fellow sufferer to seek help and choose life, then the time spent with this interview will be well worth it. And finally to you both, Doreen and Nora, what I want more than ever is for people to learn from this tragedy, and by providing this forum you are helping to do just that. If this interview helps anyone, please remember that you both are responsible for that. If what they say is true that "What goes around, comes around," then you two have a lot of good coming your way. A big thank you to you both, and to your readers.
Note from Doreen & Nora: We are honored to share our interview and soundbytes recorded Thursday, June 29, 2000. The resulting interview has been edited and embellished, because it's now November of 2000 and Dino felt more comfortable discussing some details that he wasn't ready to talk about in June. He also has provided photographs taken throughout Mary Kay's life and career. The 21 captioned images are linked to throughout the interview and will pop up in new windows so you won't lose your place in the text.
We met up with Dino Andrade on a warm, breezy summer afternoon. After enjoying a meal of fine Argentine foods on the patio of a local restaurant,
we settled in for a nice, long talk:
Dino: I have to say that I'm just happy to talk about it, talk about her ...
Doreen: Talking's good. It's not healthy to keep stuff bottled up.
Dino: Exactly, one of the things that is emphasized when you are a suicide survivor is to talk and deal with your feelings, emotions, etc. immediately. Don't try and bury them, or put them off, because if you suppress those things you run a very serious risk of much worse emotional and psychological damage down the line. I've seen it happen.
Doreen: I'm living proof. My mom died of cancer when I was 8 ... my dad still can't talk about it. I'll be 40 next May. It's been 32 years and we've still never discussed her death.
Dino: It is part of the healing process, but some people I've seen just can't heal. I don't think I'm going to be any good if I don't. That's why I'm continuing my work as a filmmaker as opposed to dedicating my life to this crusade. My life is not entirely about the MKB Memorial Project. If I gave up being an artist for this crusade, I would come to resent it. That's not what Mary Kay would have wanted.
There are going to be people who will forever see the suicide when they see me - for them I will be forever about the suicide. And it doesn't help, of course, that I'm so open about my work with the memorial project, but that's the sad truth of it. It's very important to me to do something about it, but I'm not living the suicide. My life is forever affected by it, and I will always love Mary Kay, she is my angel with red wings, but I have to move on. My life isn't even half over, I've got no idea what's in store for me. I can only hope that this tragedy will help a lot of people and that I will have been made stronger by it.
I would like to say to anyone who has recently experienced a similar tragedy, that there is hope. I can't get over the fact that I'm even functioning the way I am. If somebody had told me that one night in November 1999, I would lose everything that was dear to me, I'd say that by this point I'd be reduced to a mass of Jello, completely unable to function, but no, I'm working, living, laughing. I'm still seeing that there is beauty in life, I've not turned dark and cynical, and I've seen people do that ... turn against life, become bitter. I refuse to do that. She loved the beautiful things in life, she'd want me to continue to enjoy them. That's where I'm at. And I cannot emphasize enough how much the program Survivors After Suicide helped. If any of your readers have suffered such a tragedy I would urge them to contact their local Suicide Prevention Center and ask about Survivors Support Groups. They helped give me back my life.
Doreen: I'm curious as to why she would keep this from you. You'd think as these fears began to grip her more, she'd tell you what was going on.
Dino: There are a couple of ideas ... truth is, we will never know. Number one, I believe it is very much a component of the disorder. The majority of advanced GAD sufferers keep their suffering a secret. I have read lots of theories by many doctors as to why this is, not all of them agree. My personal feeling is that the secrecy comes from the insidious nature of the illness. GAD is a fear-based disorder, in which you are completely aware that your fears and anxieties have no basis in reality - in short, you know for a fact there is no reason for your anxieties and fears but you can't help it, the brain chemical imbalance makes it impossible for you and your body to distinguish perceived fears from reality. As a result you prefer to keep your suffering to yourself out of an even greater fear of being called "nuts." I firmly believe she was afraid of being branded as "crazy," should her phantom fears become known.
Another reason, as strange as this may sound, is because of how much she loved me. She was in a great deal of pain and suffering, and she didn't want me to share in that. I know that there were family members, to whom she had confessed to suffering from a mental disorder - although she never once mentioned suicide. I know in those conversations that she told those people that I was not to know. That she couldn't put me through any pain. She always put on the brave face around me.
Doreen: Did you see any signs before it happened?
Dino: For the longest time I maintained that we saw no signs at all, but that was untrue. In the weeks prior to the suicide we clearly saw depression and stress setting in. The cruel irony was the timing. Mary Kay's mother had just been diagnosed with cancer, so all concerned mistook Mary Kay's depression as a reaction to her mother's illness coupled with job-related stress. We had no fear of suicide. In fact, a week before the tragedy, Mary Kay had sent a wig to her mother to wear after chemotherapy, in the hopes of keeping her mother's spirits up so she could fight the cancer. With such behavior, why would anyone suspect suicide? I almost mentioned it during the People magazine interview. I quickly realized that if it were widely reported that Mary Kay committed suicide shortly after learning of her mother's cancer, her mother would feel responsible for her daughter's death, and I couldn't allow that. It frustrated the hell out of the interviewer but it couldn't be helped.
Mary Kay's mother has since passed away, mere days from the first anniversary of Mary Kay's death. As mother and daughter are now together, I feel free to tell the truth about what was really going on those final days.
In the final weeks of her life, Mary Kay was still wearing the bright smile, cheerful around people and always happy to do a voice or sign an autograph as long as it made someone happy. But underneath we could see a lot of anxiety, great sadness, some depression, still she continued to function and work. She kept on top of her schedule without so much as a complaint.
Then, privately she confessed that she was afraid that she was losing her talent, that sessions weren't going well and that soon people would learn that she had lost it and that would be the end of her career. I found no evidence of that, and everything was done to reassure her that this was untrue.
Another week went by and her fears seemed to be lessening as her mother was doing better. She was voted one of the top five in the business by the Hollywood Reporter, and with the bright outlook of South Park we were making plans to buy a house within a year. And yet she was still very sad - I mean wouldn't you be if your mother had cancer? She continued to suffer physically: insomnia, muscle aches, nausea. "Severe stress" was the final diagnosis. Still with no clue or indication that she was suicidal, Mary Kay and I decided that she needed to get away, so we planned an elaborate getaway in Las Vegas, but a week later she was gone.
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The Official Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Site
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