Taraji Penda Henson has recently revealed her struggle with anxiety and depression. She said she had to deal with mood swings, palpitations, and feelings of helplessness, and realized that she should seek help about a couple of years ago.
The Empire star told SELF, “I noticed the mood swings, like one day I’d be up and the next day I’d be down, feeling like I don’t want to go out in public. Almost agoraphobic, like, ‘Ugh, too much to deal with.’ Feeling really awkward in my skin, feeling out of sorts. And just down, like Debbie Downer, like a dark cloud.”
The 49-year-old said she had intense anxiety along with mood swings, palpitations, and helpless feelings.
“There were days when my brain wouldn’t stop racing, which I would think of the most worst scenarios in the world, which would heighten my anxiety, and people were like, ‘You just need to meditate and yoga and things like that,’ and I would do that but by brain would still race,” she added.
She now regularly consults with her therapist, prays to manage her symptoms, and practices meditation in order to keep her mental health under check.
The Hidden Figures actress said, “For me, there was no shame when I started to recognize it. It was like that I have to get some help because I’m the life of the party and when I go dark I go dark. I don’t want to leave the house and my friends started to notice me pulling back.”
“I felt such a relief when I finally said it publicly,” she continued. “I was drowning, and once I spoke my truth, I started to float back.”
Henson also said that it is not always easy to openly speak about your mental health. She said, “In the African-American community, we don’t talk about mental health. It’s a stigma surrounding it. We’re just not allowed to be vulnerable, we have to be strong all the time. This is 400 years of damage, 400 years of trauma that we have not dealt with.”
In order to stop the stigma attached to mental health in the black community, Henson started the “Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation,” which she named after her father.
The mental health foundation works in association with schools to offer safe spaces for children to talk about their feelings and emotions. The foundation also works in association with students in tough home situations and provides access to therapists.
She said, “We have to deal with these traumatic situations [that children experience], and these teachers and therapists and social workers need to be trained in cultural competency to be able to pinpoint [when a] child is having an issue that’s deeper than just wanting to be bad in class.” Henson believes that her dad had bipolar disorder. Her dad died from liver cancer in 2006. She said, “I think he’d be really proud” the work she has been doing in his name.