Taraji P. Henson Talks Battling 'Ugly' Depression & Anxiety With Therapy & How 'Empire' Changed Her Life
By Leena Tailor
Dominik Bindl/Getty Images
Taraji P. Henson is opening up about fighting depression and how fame has affected her happiness.
The Empire star founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which aims to fight the stigma surrounding mental health among African-Americans, in honor of her late father in 2018.
Her work with the organization has recently seen her honored as one of Variety’s Power of Women nominees, however in a new interview with the outlet she revealed why the cause is so close to her heart.
“I suffer from depression,” Henson said. “My anxiety is kicking up even more every day, and I’ve never really dealt with anxiety like that. It’s something new.”
Henson then detailed how she deals with her anxiety and depression, noting how she feels it’s vital to talk to a professional, not just loved ones, about such struggles.
“I have a therapist that I speak to. That’s the only way I can get through it,” she shared. “You can talk to your friends, but you need a professional who can give you exercises. So that when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off that ledge and past your weakest moments.”
“It’s a professional -- someone who studies the human mind, and someone who has no stakes involved,” she continued. “Their job is to make sure you’re mentally sound, whatever that is and telling you the truth, which might hurt. Sometimes your friends don’t want to hurt your feelings. If I’m going to change for the better, I need honesty, and sometimes your friends and family don’t have it in them to be brutally honest.”
The 48-year-old actress admitted she went through several therapists before finding one she connected with. Describing the process of visiting different professionals as a “craft,” she said it was necessary to find “the right one,” in order to feel completely safe while “dealing with this ugly stuff.”
She now attends regular sessions and has dialed down her time on social media.
“Even if life is good for you, you can still get on there and become depressed because people are filtering pictures and living these false lives, and it makes you second guess yourself -- not intentionally, it just does," she said. "It makes you compare yourself.”
“If you just stay in your lane and mind your business … that’s why I put that away,” she added. “It was affecting my mood. I’d wake up in a good mood and I’d see something on there. I can control that -- just don’t look at it! Because that thing can depress you. It can knock you off your game.”
Asked whether a lack of privacy due to her fame had helped lead to depression and anxiety," Henson admitted it “wears on me,” since she feels she needs to be conscious of every move and every word that comes out of her mouth.
Her fame has only heightened due to the success of Empire, in which she plays Cookie Lyon.
“There was just something about Cookie that propelled me to superstardom,” she said. “It just took me from one level to the next. But look, you have to take the good with the bad. This is what I wanted. This is what I worked my ass off for my entire career. I’m not complaining, but things are just different now. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Henson also addressed the controversy surrounding her Empire costar, Jussie Smollett, who was recently charged with allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime.
"We’ll never be the same," she said during the interview, which was conducted before all charges against Smollett were dropped. "No one will ever be the same. Forever changed. And it’s sad."