Janet Jackson Talks ‘Intense’ Fight With Depression In Candid Letter Published In ‘Essence’

Janet Jackson attends OUT Magazine #OUT100 Event
Bryan Bedder / Getty Images for OUT Magazine

Music icon Janet Jackson has written an intimate essay about the “height” of her happiness as well as her “difficult years,” according to E! Online. The new mother and Grammy winner graces the cover of the July/Aug. issue of Essence and opens up about her life from her childhood to present day. In the essay, which is titled ‘Letter From My Heart,’ Jackson discusses her “intense” battle with depression while in her 30s and also how she was able to make her way through it.

“I was happy when my brothers came home from performing on the road. I was happy when my mother lavished me with love. But I wasn’t happy with the way I looked,” she writes. It’s sad to think she felt that way about herself when millions of young girls were looking up to her, thinking she was cute as could be as young Penny on Good Times and even more so when she appeared as Willis’s (Todd Bridges) girlfriend Charlene on Diff’rent Strokes. During those teen years, Jackson says that she experienced happiness when asked to perform but she was happiest when she was pleasing others and not herself, which women everywhere can surely relate to. She notes that when she writes about her 40s.

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“In my forties: Like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value,” Jackson shares. “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.” But it was the actress/singer’s 30s that seemed to hold the real sadness and when her depression seemed to be the worst.

“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, I found my way through it.” Luckily, today she is at the “height” of her happiness because she has her now one-year-old son Eissa to hold. Just hearing him coo, looking into his eyes, or simply holding him close to her fills her with happiness. You can read more from Janet Jackson in the next issue of Essence, on newsstands June 22.