Like many others, I first learned of Robin Williams' suspected suicide via Twitter as I sat at my desk at work. When I read the initial news, I let out an audible gasp.
And then I started crying. Crying because I genuinely loved Williams as an actor and a comedian -- I grew up watching Mork & Mindy. Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite films.
Crying because in that moment, I also felt his pain immeasurably.
I felt the absence of hope, the absence of faith that life will get better. The absence of any light.
It's almost the exact same reaction I had earlier this year on March 17 when I learned that the fashion designer L'Wren Scott, 49, had committed suicide by hanging herself in her Manhattan apartment.
I didn't know Scott of course -- until her death, I didn't even know she'd been dating Mick Jagger -- but I knew her name. I'd seen it in magazines, accompanying photos of celebrities wearing her clothes. Scott crafted beautiful pieces that were both modern and retro cool.
Her suicide shook me to my core, bringing me to a horrible, dark place.
Have you ever felt suicidal?
I have. I've suffered from depression for years, and that suicidal feeling is one I know all too well. It is a horrible, awful and dark, dark place. It is the feeling of loneliness and despair and pain and emptiness and a lack of hope and an absence of all things good -- all things beautiful and worth living for. It is all those feelings, wrapped tightly into a homemade hand grenade barbed with self-loathing.
I remember the last time I felt that way: I was in bed, curled on my side, trying to sleep but overcome with a suffocating sense of loss and purpose. A loss of hope, a loss of faith, a loss of light. The feeling was so tangible, it physically hurt. My chest and stomach ached. I felt as though I'd been immersed in a pit of black. A black hole. A vacuum. A vacuum that felt near impossible to escape.
Eventually, I managed to confide in my husband. Then in my best friend. And then in a therapist.
I am grateful that I made it through, but for some that vacuum eventually consumes everything. To be honest, I'll never know for sure if I've entirely climbed out of that pit. That's the brutal mystery of depression.
Now, as I think about Robin Williams, my mind and my heart and my stomach wonder, very briefly, about the place that overcame his mind, heart and stomach in the moments before he took his own life.
And all at once I feel horrible and sad and something of a survivor's guilt but also relief that I made it out of that place, at least for now. When you learn that someone's succumbed to those feelings that relief is both overwhelmingly comforting, but it's also no solace at all.
Please, please, please if you feel yourself falling into that vacuum, talk to someone. A friend, a therapist, a doctor, a complete stranger. Likewise, if you have reason to believe that someone is despondent or considering suicide, please reach out. If you're not sure how to do that, ask someone else for help.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.