With her performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in the musical Dreamgirls, beautiful singer Jennifer Holliday became a star on Broadway and in Hollywood. But Holliday’s life and career offstage slipped out of control as she battled a number of diseases including obesity and depression.
Holliday was in despair for more than ten years before she could admit to herself that she had more than just an occasional case of “the blues.” Now she shares her story of overcoming depression—day by day—and stresses that seeking medical treatment for this common disease is the key to successful recovery.
“It’s as if my whole life has started over, and God has shown me how to laugh again, to have fun,” she says. Now a volunteer advocate for the National Mental Health Association, she spreads the message that there is a healing path out of depression’s darkness. Depression, though, isn’t the only challenge she faces with her health. Holliday was diagnosed years ago with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative inflammatory disease causing physical, mental and sometimes psychiatric problems. She now fights back by exercising regularly, meditating and reading. Below are Jennifer’s own words about her struggle back to happiness:
On Mental Health Not Being Sexy
“I’m 55 years old. I never thought that I would be sitting here talking to you. I used to think, I said to myself, ‘I probably would’ve had a much better career if I could invent myself something to go into rehab.’ Because if you’re an alcoholic or a drug addict, it’s just a sexier thing. And it’s just a more acceptable thing. But mental health problems still gets the door shut.”
“Not only did I try to take my own life, but those of us who are in the spiritual world, others have tried to take my life as well. But God made the difference for me, in the sense that he held onto me, to love me so much, to keep leaving me here. But I still had to choose life, though. I had to fight for it. I continually still fight every day for my life, not only still battling mental health problems, but battling multiple sclerosis, which also has depression as one of its side effects. So every day I wake up, I don’t know what it’s going to be. I have been blind. I have been paralyzed. But each day if I wake up, then I know he’s left me here for a reason, and…
Jennifer Holliday: “It’s As If My Whole Life Started Over” was originally published on blackdoctor.org