Celebrity

Janet Jackson Opens Up About Her "Intense" Struggle With Depression

From the outside looking in, Janet Jackson seems like one of the only members of the Jackson family that has a perfect life.

While her father, Joe, and some of her siblings, including Michael and Jermaine, have found themselves caught up in some very public scandals, Janet quietly worked on her career and maintained a relatively low-key public profile.

What many didn't know was that the youngest of the Jackson siblings was silently struggling for years well before she was humiliated in front of the world during her Super Bowl performance with Justin Timberlake.

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The 52-year-old was brave enough to finally open up about her mental illness during the July/August edition of Essence magazine called "The Happiness issue."

Janet revealed that despite having money, fame, and a family that showered her with love," she started experiencing highs and lows during her childhood.

"When it comes to happiness, I’m no expert,” Janet wrote. "I have only my life experience as a guide. I’ve known great happiness and great sadness."

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Janet candidly recalled being unhappy about her appearance when she was a child, and offered a piece of advice to those who may be going through something similar.

"I wasn't happy with the way I looked. For most of my life, that lack of happiness followed me," she writes. "I wish someone had said, 'You look fine. You look healthy. Being a little chubby is the least important thing in the world. Enjoy your childhood. Enjoy running and laughing and playing. Stop looking in the mirror and comparing yourself to others."
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The singer found comfort and joy in music, and performing for others was what made her happiest.

“Happiness came when people asked me to perform…but I was happiest when I was pleasing others and not myself,” she continued. "An older and wiser Janet might have said, ‘True happiness is knowing you’re doing the best you can…"

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Sadly, things did not get better the older she got. In fact, it worsened when she was in her 30s.

“These were difficult years, when I struggled with depression,” she wrote. “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.”

The "Together Again" singer managed to persevere, but there were a few hurdles, including a couple of failed relationships that kept her from attaining true happiness.

"In my forties: Like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value," Jackson wrote. "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."

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In 2012, Janet married Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana in a private ceremony after two years of dating. Four years later, she hinted that they were expecting a child.

On January 3, 2017, Janet and Wissam welcomed a son named Essa, three months after announcing the pregnancy.

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Unfortunately, Janet and Wissam have recently parted ways, but the singer's 17-month-old son has been her biggest source of 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 gushed. “When I kiss him. When I sing him softly to sleep. During those sacred times, happiness is everywhere."

It took over 50 years, but Janet, who was recently honored with the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Music Award, finally understands what it truly means to be happy.

"Happiness is in gratitude to God. Happiness is saying, 'Thank you, God, for my life, my energy and my capacity to grow in love,' " she concluded.

We're so glad Janet has managed to find light after struggling for so long.

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.