Monica Lewinsky on Bill Clinton Sex Scandal: 'I Came Close to Disintegrating'
10/20/2014 AT 01:45 PM EDT
"Frankly, I came close to disintegrating. No, it's not too strong a word. I wish it were, but it isn't," Lewinsky, now 41, said Monday at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia. "A relentless mantra in my head: I want to die."
Recalling the public reaction that suddenly exploded all around her, Lewinsky said, "Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure, to a publicly humiliated one. I was patient zero – the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet."
As for her own reaction, she said, "During this period, I gradually came to realize that there were two Monica Lewinskys ... There was me, and there was public Monica Lewinsky. A somewhat curious character, constructed by political factions and the media. Constructed with a little fact, and a lot of fiction. My friends didn't know that Monica. My family didn't know that Monica. And this Monica, the real Monica standing here today, didn't know her either."
Lewinsky, who joined Twitter on Monday, first broke her decade-long silence about the affair in May, when she wrote in Vanity Fair, "It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress."
She now works on behalf of victims of online humiliation and harassment.
Saying she "deeply regret[s the affair] for many reasons, not the least of which because people were hurt, and that's never okay," Lewinsky also cut her young self some slack, describing herself at the time as "more than averagely romantic."
"I fell in love with my boss. In a 22-year-old sort of way, it happens. But my boss was the president of the United States. That probably happens less often."
Reporting by AURELIE CORINTHIOS