The Most Powerful Words
Guideposts|June/July 2021
Depression affects 16 million Americans. And I’m one of them. Here’s what I’ve learned
MICHELLE WILLIAMS

''I need help.” The three most powerful words a person can say. I should know. It took me a long time, but I finally said them. It most likely saved my life.

I guess it started when I was about 13. Today I understand I was having symptoms. Back then they were just feelings that left me unsettled: a passing sense that nothing mattered or would ever really matter, anxiety that made me climb out of bed in the middle of the night and pace the floor for no reason, a kind of spiritual numbness, feelings of not being loved even though I was. I soon learned that these were signs of depression. In a way, I thought I simply had to live with them. Even years later, when I was performing in Destiny’s Child, those feelings would rear up. I’d be like, “Oh, depression. You still here? I gotta go do a show. We’ll talk later.” I tried to ignore what was happening. Or maybe I was just trying to accept it.

Three years ago, I plunged into such a dark hole that I couldn’t get out. I could barely get off my sofa. Things came to a head when I didn’t show up for a promised event with my pastor and his wife. Didn’t call or text. Just didn’t show up.

“This isn’t like you, Michelle,” they said. It was then that I finally allowed myself to say those three powerful words. I need help. I called the therapist I’d been seeing—that much I had been doing—and she recommended a facility to go to. Arrangements got made. I drove myself there. Didn’t pack a bag, a toothbrush, a change of clothes. My hair was sticking up like a bad Halloween wig. I just drove.

More than 16 million American adults a year develop a major depressive disorder the way I had. Generalized anxiety disorder affects nearly 7 million. Less than half seek or get treatment. Less than half. Christians can be especially prone to this, as if we don’t want to let down the Great Physician or think that depression is a failure of faith. I ask you, though, would we do the same if we had cancer or some other disease?

Depression is a disease like any other. It doesn’t care who you are or what your external life looks like. It gets inside you. I had a good career. My music grew out of my Christian faith. Things seemed to be going well for me, at least from the outside. But inside I was a mess. The act of checking into that treatment center was the first step of taking back the power. Here’s what I learned.

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