A talented icon and an absolute pro on a performance stage or in a talk-show setting, Naomi Judd was nonetheless suffering through all of it and was very open about her crippling struggles with depression.

THE SHOCKING DEATH OF NAOMI JUDD

Her death still came as quite a shock because the country music legend was a physically healthy and active entertainer, having just performed "Love Can Build a Bridge" with daughter Wynonna at the CMT Music Awards less than a month ago.

The candor in Wy and Ashley's statement regarding their mother's passing sort of brought it back into focus for all of us.

MY OWN PAIN RE-TRIGGERED

And it re-ignited some pain for me that had begun to subside somewhat ever since I lost one of my closest friends a month ago. I'd only known my dear friend Eric for a few years--he waited on me and another friend at Bar Louie and was just this outgoing, affable fellow who was easy to befriend.

And so I did. And we became close very quickly. In three short years--not even that, really--he became like a brother to me, and I to him.

In late March, when I got the news that he'd taken his own life, my immediate reaction isn't one I think I can describe...but I'll try.

WHERE TO LOOK FOR ANSWERS WHEN SOMEONE TAKES THEIR OWN LIFE

I quickly began trying to remember every conversation we'd ever had, and I guess it was an effort to retroactively SPOT any indication that something was wrong. Of course, one can't remember EVERY conversation, but I can honestly tell you I can't recall anything that ever sent up a red flag. So I really dug in deep, because something had to be there.

Everything I remember about Eric was about joy. He was fun and funny. He was an extraordinary father and amazing life partner to his girlfriend. He loved FAMILY. And, on so many occasions, his demeanor reminded me of my dad's--never met a stranger; a helping hand was there for anyone who needed it (he helped me move, for example); and he seemed to know EVERYONE.

Again, just like my dad.

NAOMI JUDD'S DEATH IS A WAKE-UP CALL

But something WAS wrong, and we've all been trying to figure it out. And it may never happen. I have no training whatsoever, but I have an opinion. At this point, it's the best ANYONE has. Either something was inside him that overtook him and caused him to just blank every good thing in his life out of his mind, or he never said anything because of the exasperating stigma surrounding mental health. (Certainly, THAT is something that has to go away.) No one I know who knows him saw this coming.

In the last couple of weeks, it's been getting better. But the Naomi Judd news sort of opened up the wound again and I've been having a tough day. But I will rebound again, and I'll continue to get better.

DON'T HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS AND INVESTIGATE

And I will say what everyone else is saying. If you see something that doesn't feel right, ASK QUESTIONS. Investigate. And if you're lucky, you WILL see something that will lead to those questions.

Naomi said she was diagnosed with "treatment-resistant severe depression." I can't imagine what that felt like, and I can't imagine Eric going through that.

What's worse, none of us ever SAW that kind of pain.

Finally, it would never have occurred to me that I would write this story for this or any other website. But today, I found myself unable to write or THINK about anything else, and I knew I couldn't do another story until I did this one.

May is National Mental Health Awareness month; the website for the National Alliance on Mental Illness has some terrific information for anyone who needs it.

The National Suicide Prevention hotline number is 800-273-8255.

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