On Saturday morning, I was checking my Facebook feed when a friend posted a link to an article announcing the death of Charlotte Dawson.
I can remember exactly how I felt. My stomach started churning, my mouth went dry, and my heart was thumping in my chest. And then a little piece of me starting thinking… praying…. “No”. I hoped that it was it was just some stupid and elaborate hoax that had been concocted by an irresponsible media outlet that was desperate for more clicks to their website. I refused to click through to the story. I was holding out the hope, for those very last minutes that Charlotte Dawson was still alive, laughing indignantly at the hysteria that was starting to surround the article.
I had been out shopping and had only just returned to the carpark. I remember sitting in my car, barely able to swallow past the lump in my throat, listening to the blood thumping past my ear drums. Slowly, forcing my fingers to work my phone, I googled just two words, “Charlotte. Dawson.” And then there it was. Confirmed. Charlotte Dawson was dead. Charlotte Dawson IS dead. I buried my head in my hands. I rubbed my eyes. I inhaled the breaths one by one. I sat alone in the car and thought “It’s too late.”
It’s too late for anyone to save her.
It’s too late for anyone to protect her.
It’s too late for her to see the outpouring of love that has come since her death. But where was it in her life? Who were all these people that were sending out tweets with hashtag #CharlotteRIP and announcing to the world what a great friend she had been? Where were they on Saturday morning? On Friday night? I knew I was thinking illogically, but around and around in my head it went, “Where the hell were you?”
I should have stopped there. I shouldn’t have read anymore.
But I did.
“Charlotte was in a very bad state”… “her depression had spiralled out of control”… “her death was inevitable.”
Her death.. was… inevitable.
Those words were reportedly spoken by someone close to her… a friend.
And it makes me so mad. And so very very sad.
Charlotte Dawson wouldn’t have known me from a bar of soap. And yet because she lived her life with openness and honesty, I felt like I knew her. I followed Charlotte on social media and I admired her strength from afar. She spoke out against bullies and online trolls. She had a wicked sense of humour and seemed able to relate to all people, and at any level. She had me laughing at her crazy antics, and crying with her when she shared her pain. In 2012 I sent her a message as I watched her face up to a barrage of the most vile and hateful Twitter messages that I had ever seen. I just wanted her to know that I was backing her… that she wasn’t alone. She replied graciously and simply, “Thank you xx.” The next morning I woke up to hear that she was in hospital after attempting to take her own life. I watched her battle the media afterwards as they fed ferociously on her depression and her “failed” suicide. I felt physically sick.
In recent weeks, I was just starting to see a spark return to Charlotte Dawson’s eyes. In interviews she spoke with a new sense of purpose and passion, as though she was just starting to find her feet again – for the first time in a long time. I was excited for what lay ahead for her. I was in awe that she had managed to bounce back from all the setbacks and troubles that she had faced over the years. She was someone I looked up to very much – not as a TV presenter, not as a model, not even as a celebrity, but simply as a person.
And now she has gone. She won’t bounce back from this. Her fight is over.
I see that my finger pointing at those closest to her, is just me trying to find someone to blame. But I don’t now, and probably never will, understand how someone’s suicide can be considered inevitable – no matter how bad things may seem. What I want to say now to anyone… ANYONE, who will listen is that “You are NOT alone.” We should never accept that depression is terminal. Suicide is NOT inevitable.
There were probably a thousand different moments when things might have been different for Charlotte. A phone call, a hug, a kind word. No-one can ever underestimate the power that these small acts of kindness can have on a person. To feel a connection… to feel loved.
Why did the online trolls not for one moment consider that their hateful nasty words would one day break Charlotte’s spirit forever? Why did everyone sit back and watch while it happened? Why was Charlotte’s death inevitable?
We don’t know the answers to these questions and we probably never will.
All we know that is that Charlotte Dawson died feeling like she was alone, and that is the ultimate tragedy.
She was never alone.
She was real. She was loved. And she will be so terribly missed.
For support and information about suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.