Michelle Williams: “Depression Felt Like A Slow Crumble”

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Depression is more than feeling blue or down for a few days. It’s a real illness that can impact a person’s day-to-day life. Millions of Americans have depression, and it’s more common among women than men. Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams is one of those women. She shares what depression feels like to her, why she decided to get help, and how she’s learned to manage her depression.

Will you tell us a little bit about your experiences with depression?

My experience with depression started in my early teens, but it wasn’t until my 30s that I knew what to call it. I thought it was growing pains — I thought that was simply how it felt to be a girl growing into a woman. I also experienced depression for a period of time in college and then again while in Destiny’s Child.

What I’ve found especially hard is trying to share my feelings with people who haven’t dealt with depression. I’ve had people tell me, “You have all these great things in your life — you can’t possibly be depressed.” They think that being depressed means I’m not grateful or thankful. But that’s not what’s going on. I can be thankful for the sun that’s shining but still feel sad.

What did depression feel like to you?

For me, depression felt like a slow crumble … a slow melt. I felt sad and deeply tired, and I could sleep through an entire week. I also felt a sense of hopelessness, of wanting to give up everything. When I was depressed, I had no interest in the things that usually brought me joy and energy. It felt like I was simply going through the motions of my life without really being there. And during those times, if I had to cancel performances or fall behind deadlines, I didn’t feel bad about it.

Now, when I recognize that I’m starting to feel this way, I try to do exercises or other activities to stop me from melting completely. If I melt completely, I find it much harder to get back to my normal self.

When did you realize you needed treatment?

For many years, I didn’t think treatment was for someone like me. I thought it was for people who had lived through very difficult experiences like abuse or who had more extreme symptoms than me. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and a friend talked about her own therapy that I realized therapy could be right for people in many different situations.

I turned to therapy in my 30s, when I realized my depression had led me to isolate myself and to feel hurt and angry around those closest to me. I didn’t want to be unhappy or make unhealthy decisions that would change everything I’d worked for. I didn’t want to get to the point where I would isolate myself from everyone who had ever helped me or could ever help me.

When I finally sought help, I was so happy with my therapist that I recommended her to everyone around me! It helped me figure stuff out about myself and my actions. And it helped me un-learn the less healthy behaviors I had been doing for 20 years.