A man arrived at a doctor's office in Rome, with a deep, sad look on his face.

"Doctor, you must help me," the man cried. "I am suffering from a dark and terrible depression that is making my life a living hell. I have tried everything, but no matter what, I cannot escape these feelings of doom and despair. Please, Doctor, isn't there something you can do to rid me of these black moods."

"My good sir, I believe I have the solution," the doctor replied. "In Italy, there is a clown named Bumblionni. He is considered the greatest clown who ever lived, and has brought joy and laughter to thousands of people who have seen him. My advice is for you to see the great Bumblionni, and your gloom and despair will be lifted.

The man's face grew sadder still.

"Impossible," he said, with a sorrowful shake of his head.

"Why not," asked the doctor.

"Because I am Bumblionni!" the man replied.

I first heard this joke many years ago, but sadly it has become extremely relevant, when one takes into consideration what occurred a few days ago. As most you know, comedian and actor Robin Williams died on Aug. 11, having taken his life by hanging himself.

I'm not going to speak about all the joy and laughter Robin brought me over the years - although it was considerable, I assure you. I have very fond memories of seeing him perform in various rolls - Mork in "Mork and Mindy," and the Genie in "Aladdin," and I know the world has suffered the lost of a great and entertaining performer.

Instead, I'd like to talk about depression, because I read with interest that Robin suffered from severe depression - as well as other maladies - all his life, and that was probably the factor in what caused him to commit suicide.

The reason I find this so interesting is because is because I too suffer from depression - although thankfully not a much as Robin or many other people less fortunate than I. Still, it does cause me enough problems that I have a prescription for medication for an anti-depression that I should take on a regular basis.

Note the word "should." Sometimes I forget to take the pills for extended periods, much to my sorrow (literally). Because when I do I run the risk of occasionally dropping down into a deep pit of despair.

By one of those weird coincidences that nobody believes if you see it on a television show, but seems to happen all the time in real life, I suffered one such anxiety attack on Saturday, just two days before Robin took his life.

It was my day off, and thank God for that, because I just didn't want to see or have to deal with anything. All I did was stay in bed for a majority of the day, with my head under the covers, feeling the black mood in my brain roiling and boiling unabated. Unfortunately, words are a poor means of describing how I felt. If you've never had to deal with misery of a depression attack, there's no way I can adequately describe it for you. And if you have experienced it, there's really no point in describing it, because you already know exactly what I mean.

After about a day my mood began to lift - albeit very slowly. It took a few days but eventually I got out of it. And was very grateful, because I'm told there are people who suffer even greater bouts of depression for much longer periods of time.

From what I heard over the media following his death, I can tell that Robin Williams was one of those people. I just can't imagine how he - or anyone else - can deal living with the black mood which just gets deeper and deeper and stays with you for weeks or even months at a time.

I understand why people who suffer from severe depression often turn to illegal drugs or alcohol in such circumstances. While those things can't cure you they often provide some temporary relief to the black despair which otherwise never seems to end. Trouble is, such things can ultimately make you worse.

It is a testament to the comedic genius of Robin Williams that he was able to successfully hide his depression behind a mask of manic energy which provided laughter and joy to millions of people. I've been reading comments on the forums from people who are certain that Robin's death was not a suicide, that it is impossible for someone who was so funny would end his life due to despair.

Ah, if things were only that simple. There are many cases where people who suffer from severe depression tap into their creative outlets to such an extent it causes them to reach great heights of artistic achievement. It's a shame that such a brilliant man had to pay such a terrible price for his genius. Because Robin Williams brought the gift of laughter to so many people, while at the same time battling the black beast of despair. Sadly, the world will be much poorer as a result.