Husband sent me a message earlier this afternoon, saying there was terrible news on smh.com.au regarding Charlotte Dawson.
I was blithely eating fish and chips with the kids and my parents at Ryde Acquatic Centre.
As I read the words, my heart sank and horror seeped into my bones.
“Oh my god, I think Charlotte Dawson is dead!” I told my mum, before I even Googled it.
Dad, even with his hearing aid back in, said: “Who?”
As Mum tried to explain who she was, I tried to understand why it mattered so much to me.
I didn’t know Charlotte Dawson, my only encounter with her was a lingering defamation case when I joined Woman’s Day in 2002. The magazine – prior to my arrival – had published a tell-all about her messy marriage to Scott Miller and she’d taken us to court over it. As the years and costs dragged on, we finally settled and I banished her from my magazine’s pages and thoughts.
But, over recent years, it became hard to ignore her public struggles with depression. I kept wishing, despite my antipathy, that she’d avoid social media and the trolls who stalked her there. No-one, especially someone plagued by mental illness, should be subjected to that sort of abuse. But damaged souls tend to be the ones who can’t look away. They’re the ones who must read the terrible words and believe them in their darker moments.
In 2012, she attempted suicide after being subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter.
I feel terribly sad that Charlotte Dawson has died. She had so much to live for, but she just couldn’t see it.
As I wrote after Whitney Houston died in You Don’t Want To Be Famous, celebrity can’t help: it’s more of a curse than a blessing:
She was beloved by millions, yet it wasn’t enough. And that’s the other big problem with fame. It makes you numb. You can have anything you want, but nothing really satisfies. The “normal” thrills become boring, you’re desperate to “feel” something, so you explore stuff the Average Joe wouldn’t. You constantly wonder if people like you for yourself or your fame.
And when they turn on you, it cuts deep.
Social media is alight with outpourings of shock, sadness and love for Charlotte, words that would have meant so much to her that she’ll never read.
Alex Perry lead the celebrity tributes, posting the above pic on Instagram, captioned: “WE LOST A BEAUTIFUL, BRIGHT, SHINING GIRL TODAY… REST IN PEACE MY SWEETHEART…I LOVE YOU. X”
He also told news.com.au: “She was such a beautiful girl, she had so much energy and such a sense of humour but her battle with her mental illness just made it so difficult for her to really go in so many parts of her life.
“It was such a battle and as she got older it was harder to deal with, I just can’t believe she has taken her own life but all I can do is pray for her and know now that she is up there with her mother who she dearly loved.
“I loved Charlotte so much but she was a very tormented woman and really was finding it hard to battle her mental illness.
“She obviously has tried and tried so hard to raise awareness of mental illness but it really did just totally take its toll and got on top of her. As I said, I pray for her.”
Among the other outpourings of grief …
Chrissie Swan: “To be remembered for bravery, generosity and kindness says a lot about the woman Charlotte Dawson was. Vale Ms Dawson. And bravo. X”
Women’s Weekly: “Goodbye gorgeous: The beautiful Charlotte Dawson‘s life in pictures. We’ll miss you. http://www.aww.com.au/news-features/celebrity-stories/2014/2/goodbye-gorgeous-charlotte-dawsons-life-in-pictures …”
Mamamia: “Vale Charlotte Dawson… Please friends, don’t suffer alone – for support about suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.”
Mornings: “Today we lost a member of our Mornings family. Charlotte Dawson was a wonderful, vibrant and passionate woman. She will be missed enormously”
Melissa Hoyer: “Troubled. Funny. Opinionated. Wry. Clever. Beautiful. Passionate. Wanting to b loved. That’s the Charlotte Dawson many of us knew. Rest now.”
(Melissa also told news.com.au: “Having known Charlotte for 20 years she was always bright, funny, beautiful and with a turn of phrase that would just make you laugh, no matter what she was talking about … Charlotte’s mental illness just seemed to be getting the better of her at times and it is such a tragedy that she has ended her life under such circumstances. All of us who have known her for such a long time, whether as friend, colleague or family are collectively in shock. I just hope she finds the peace that she wanted in every part of her life. May she rest in peace.”
Marieke Hardy: “Oh my god. Staggeringly awful news about Charlotte Dawson. Please all take care of yourselves. x”
Ben Fordham: “Totally floored by the news that Charlotte Dawson has passed away. Always enjoyed chatting to her in hallways at Channel 9. Great girl.”
Jennifer Hawkins: “RIP beautiful Charlotte. You will always be loved and missed! ❤️ Love Jen. x”
Megan Gale: “Words just seem insufficient right now and can’t come close to expressing just how much you will be missed Charlotte.. You were a fantastic woman, friend and work colleague who always knew how to make people laugh and you gave the best advice. You’ve left us far too soon, but I pray now that you’ve found peace and are at rest – Love Megan xxxx”
Ricki Lee: “I’m so sad to hear this tragic news. A beautiful, vivacious, charismatic & funny woman – may your beautiful soul rest in peace. Let this be a lesson to all of us to show more love & compassion – to spread love & positivity, not negativity & hate! R.I.P @mscharlotted”
Kyle & Jackie O: “Heartbroken to hear news that Charlotte Dawson has died. In shock right now. U will always have a special place in our hearts Charlotte. RIP”
Sonia Kruger: “Deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Charlotte Dawson. Our thoughts go out to her loved ones.”
Larry Emdur: “This is just the saddest day …”
Fifi Box: “Reports that our friend Charlotte Dawson has been found dead in her home. Heart broken x”
Rachel Hunter: “RIP Charlotte Dawson . I’m devastated such an amazing woman & kind soul. Heartbreaking !”
Mia Freedman: “Oh no….no no no no no”
Mrs Woog wrote a blog tribute to her friend (read it in full here): “Charlotte, if you are listening. I love you. I miss you. Know how much you are loved. I shall see you at the disco in the sky. I will be waiting for you with a cold bottle of wine, two straws.”
And as one of her friends blogged over at Bad Hostess:
I have been thinking about how Charlotte would like her death to be discussed today. Of course, she would enjoy that it is a Trending Topic. Of course, she would be happy that she sparked conversation about mental illness and kindness and whatever. I have just finished speaking with our mutual close friend N who laughed when I said “Charlotte wouldn’t have wanted to be a poster girl”.
“Yes she would! She would have loved it!”
And it’s true that this fabulous, sexy gasbag would have enjoyed your cheap attention for an hour or two. Then, that processing unit would have kicked into maximum efficiency. And she would see your ignorant, self-serving need to turn her beautiful life into a dreary narrative.
But how else do people process something so senseless?