Nowadays, being transparent is the wave as more and more celebrities are owning their mental health issues and bringing struggles to the forefront in a public way. Michelle Williams isn't new to the mental health conversation and has struggled with depression most of her life, dating back to her teenage years. In the past, the artist has been candid about her mental health journey, including her experience with suicidal thoughts and depression while with Destiny's Child in 2017. Michelle is taking the step of speaking her truth a step further through the forthcoming release of her memoir, Checking in: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life---And Can Save Yours.
The battle with depression is real. And checking in with yourself can be a catalyst to self-healing you didn't know you needed.
For Michelle, depression reared its ugly head during a time where a lot of her prayers were being answered. One of which was a new engagement following a whirlwind romance with her beau Chad Johnson. She was also experiencing some wins professionally, including a gig headlining a Broadway show, as well as starring in a reality show alongside her newfound love. Despite the obvious highs, she eventually checked into a treatment facility in the summer of 2018 after announcing her decision to seek help to the world. In an interview with PEOPLE, she revealed:
"I thought I was over depression. I thought, I'm good. I've got love, I'm working out. But I was so angry. The rage built up in me. I did not attempt suicide, but I was questioning [life]."
Despite seeking treatment, her struggle with depressive episodes throughout 2018 would ultimately cause her to step away from everything, and by December, she left her job, she broke off her engagement, and she left her show. She recounted the experience in a recent exclusive with ESSENCE:
"In December it was a whole 'nother story, sis. I was weak, very depressed and thinking it was the end of my life. If someone had asked me where I would be today, I didn't think I would be alive, because I was so broken. It felt as though I had failed publicly and privately too, and that was just not like me. And I was like, God, there's got to be more."
Her decision to step away wasn't easy, but it was necessary. In an effort to keep going, Michelle had taken on more. Like so many of us who feel validated by what we do, she found herself spiraling while trying to be "busy", not realizing how much burnout was taking a toll. She continued:
"I wanted to be in the season where I did everything. Why should I have to space things out? I thought. I can do everything at once. Well, I got so overwhelmed in that season that by the time I got to rehearsals for Once on This Island [the Broadway show], I was already depleted and exhausted. But we were taught that you'd better get on that stage even when you're sick. People paid their money to see you.
"That was a thing from Destiny's Child. I think I've only missed one show ever in my nearly 20-year career. You just want to push, push, push until you push yourself to exhaustion. Then you have a nervous breakdown, and you can't do anything."
Breaking down was life's way of telling Michelle, "That's enough. You are not fine. Take care of you." That time, she had no choice but to listen. She had to address her depression by checking in with self:
"I had to dig deep. It took a lot of people around me to say, 'Take care of yourself. The stage will be there when you get back. The same God that answered that prayer, He'll do it again.' I had to have faith that what is for me will always be for me."
I'm not about to lie to you, it's an ongoing battle but it's one worth fighting. When it comes to depression, I learned it's important to accept that I will have flare-ups, and that what worked for the last episode may not necessarily work for the next. Even more importantly, you have to get to the root to uncover the things that could potentially stop you from leading the life you deserve.
"When it's untreated or you don't get to the root of things, anxiety and depression can possibly rob you of the very things you work hard for and are praying for."
In short, you have to be willing to try out different tools, but most importantly you have to give yourself grace and find your inner strength. Michelle echoed this sentiment:
"Allow yourself to feel the pain of what you're feeling, OK? ...You have to have it in you to tell yourself to get up. The days do get better. They really, really do. I'm a living testament of it. You have to do the work. And I strongly suggest finding a therapist to talk to."
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