Janet Jackson is adding her name to the list of celebrities who have spoken candidly about their own struggles with depression.
“When it comes to happiness, I’m no expert,” Jackson writes in the feature story.”“I have only my life experience as a guide. I’ve known great happiness and great sadness.”
Using that life experience, Jackson remembers the highs and lows she was experiencing throughout various decades of her life, beginning with her childhood.
“I was happy when my brothers came home from performing on the road. I was happy when my mother lavished me with love,” she says. “But I wasn’t happy with the way I looked…”
Jackson’s teenage years found the source of her joy coming from performing as well, though looking back, she sees bigger things were at play. “Happiness came when people asked me to perform…but I was happiest when I was pleasing others and not myself,” she says. “An older and wiser Janet might have said, ‘True happiness is knowing you’re doing the best you can…’ ”
Much of her sadness came in her 30s, when Jackson faced some of her greatest mental health challenges.
“These were difficult years, when I struggled with depression,” she says. “The struggle was intense. I could analyze the source of my depression forever. Low self-esteem might be rooted in childhood feelings of inferiority. It could relate to failing to meet impossibly high standards. And of course there are always the societal issues of racism and sexism. Put it all together and depression is a tenacious and scary condition.”
Thankfully, Jackson found her way through it. But her 40s still presented a fair share of hurdles.
“Like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value,” Jackson says. “Happiness was elusive. A reunion with old friends might make me happy. A call from a colleague might make me happy. But because sometimes I saw my failed relationships as my fault, I easily fell into despair.”
So how is she doing now? Well, Jackson says 17-month-old son Eissa Al Mana has been a source of true joy.
“The height of happiness is holding my baby son in my arms and hearing him coo, or when I look into his smiling eyes and watch him respond to my tenderness,” Jackson gushes. “When I kiss him. When I sing him softly to sleep. During those sacred times, happiness is everywhere. Happiness is in gratitude to God…”
The July/August issue of Essence hits newsstands everywhere June 22.