On a recent episode of their Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk, Willow Smith, her mother Jada Pinkett-Smith, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones, addressed the topic of loss, and the youngest at the table revealed something shocking to her mother and grandmother for the first time. [CW: discussion of self-harming behavior]
Willow Smith has been killing it lately with her music, and I love the relationship between her and her mother. Red Table Talk allows them, along with Banfield-Jones, to get into some pretty deep topics from a multi-generational perspective. When Pinkett-Smith asked Smith what her biggest loss has been, Smith thinks for a moment then answers, “my sanity,” with a bit of a chuckle.
She then proceeds to talk about how she felt at nine-going-on-ten years old after the success of her hit single, “Whip My Hair.” Smith explains:
“It was after that whole ‘Whip My Hair’ thing and I had just stopped doing singing lessons and I was kind of just in this gray area of, ‘Who am I? Do I have a purpose? Is there anything I can do besides this?’
“After the tour and the promotion and all of that, they wanted me to finish my album. And I was like, ‘I’m not gonna do that.’ And after all of that kinda settled down and it was like a kind of lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music. It was just so crazy and I was plunged into this black hole, and I was cutting myself.”
She says this as a matter-of-fact part of her past, but for Pinkett-Smith and Banfield-Jones, it was their first time hearing it. “What? When were you cutting yourself?” Pinkett-Smith asked. “I didn’t see that part. Cutting yourself where?”
Smith then talks about that part of her life in a little more detail:
“On my wrist. I mean, you can’t even see it but there’s still a little something there. But like, totally lost my sanity for a moment there. I never talk about it because it was such a short weird point in my life. But you have to pull yourself out of it. I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain, but my physical circumstances weren’t reflecting that.”
While she never told her family what was going on, she says that she did confide in one friend, and that she stopped when she realized that her behavior was “actually psychotic.” After telling her story, a shocked Pinkett-Smith said, “That’s good to freaking know! Willow, I had no idea. I never saw any signs of that.”
The rest of this episode of Red Table Talk, embedded above, is definitely worth a watch. It’s a really great and well-produced show with a very unique perspective.
I think it’s so important (and brave) for Smith to be talking about this, even all these years later. As the older women at the table mention, “cutting” wasn’t something that was talked about when they were coming up. Even now, with all the awareness we have, there’s still a stigma around issues of mental health.
What stuck out to me in Smith’s story is that she says, “You have to pull yourself out of it.” While recognizing and dealing with one’s own mental health problems is absolutely a step that needs to be taken, I cannot stress enough that it doesn’t have to just be “yourself” pulling you out of it. Asking for help is absolutely okay. In fact, it’s crucial.
It’s good that Smith confided in a friend, and while I know nothing about her story other than what she’s shared, I’d venture to guess that telling her friend was a part of the lifeline that kept her connected to the world outside her own depression. It’s even better that she’s now able to share this with her family. She, nor anyone else needs to be completely alone when going through stuff like this.
If you’re hurting yourself, or otherwise experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, you don’t have to be alone either:
- If you’re a teenager going through some hard stuff and need someone to talk to, try TEEN LINE, where you can talk to trained peers about whatever’s going on with you. (800) TLC-TEEN (nationwide toll-free) from 6pm to 10pm PST.
- Do better with texts? The Crisis Textline is here for you 24/7. It’s real, actual people on the other end, but via text if talking makes you uncomfortable. If you’re having a difficult moment and need to reach out to someone right away, text ‘CONNECT’ to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. and a live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and lets you know they’re are here to listen.
- There’s also the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is also available 24/7 and toll-free: 1-800-273-8255
We all deserve kindness from ourselves and each other. If you’re struggling to find that, please reach out for help, because we really want you around.
(via People.com, image: screencap)
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