C2 Montreal: ‘Success does not cure trauma’, says Michelle Williams at a conference

The former Destiny’s Child singer says you can be the world’s most successful pop star and still suffer from depression.


Michelle Williams delved into gospel music by making her solo albums, and the former Destiny’s Child singer’s talk at the C2 Montreal conference on Tuesday had the feel of a fun gospel session to a packed church hall.

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Before Williams began speaking, session host Varda Étienne fought back tears as she discussed Williams’ book Checking In: How Getting Real About Depression Saved My Life — And Can Save Yours.


“This book was a blessing for me because after reading it, I felt very empowered,” said Étienne, an author and broadcaster from Montreal. “I felt free and I stopped having guilt.”

That set the inspirational tone for the shoot, which was originally going to include both Williams and model and philanthropist Naomi Campbell. The latter could not attend because her flight from London was cancelled.

“Let the tears flow,” Williams said. “There is something healing about letting the tears flow. I also want to say about this room that it is a safe place. Let the tears flow. I don’t care if your boss is the CEO. I don’t care what your title is. But if something should resonate with you, feel your feelings.”

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In her memoir, Williams talks about how she has suffered from depression since she was in the 7th grade and how so many tried to tell her that she couldn’t be depressed because she was a huge pop star with fans all over the world and millions of records. sales for her. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when she was 30 years old.

“Success does not heal trauma,” Williams said. “It doesn’t cure it. It may provide you with resources to get therapy or go to a center to get the help you need. That’s what success did for me and I’m grateful for it. But it didn’t heal him. It kind of shot it and shook it up a bit.

“I remember when I was in my early 20s when I was in Destiny’s Child, I talked to our manager Mathew Knowles at the time and said, ‘I think I’m depressed.’ He said, ‘You guys just signed a multi-million dollar deal, you got Barbie dolls, you’re about to go on tour. I said, ‘You’re right, so maybe I’m just tired, maybe I miss home. I just want to go home and see my family.

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“He and I had a conversation in 2017 about it and he said, ‘Michelle, if I had known then what I know now about mental health, I would have provided you with the help you needed.’

“How many people have told someone ‘You’re too successful to be sad’? Look at your corner office. You have a view of Montreal. Look at your family. You are driving a Tesla Plaid… Why do you have to be sad?

“You feel like if you acknowledge those things about being depressed, you’re not grateful for where you are. You can have gratitude and be depressed… It’s okay. What is not right is that you suffer in silence.

For Williams, it’s about speaking up and saying how she feels and getting others to respect that decision.

“It takes one to be bold, so if I’m bold, you can say, ‘Wow, if Michelle can talk about it,’” Williams said. “I am not telling everyone to shout from the top of the mountain. I think this is my purpose, I think this is my task… it was not a death sentence. It could have been if he hadn’t gotten the help he needed. Have you read the book. I was planning my funeral.

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He talked about how one in five people have mental health issues and to underscore that it could be anyone, he made one in five people in the crowd stand up.

“There could be people in this room right now suffering,” Williams said.

At one point, Étienne called his friend Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, onstage to ask what the federal government is doing about mental health. Grégoire Trudeau said it is a top priority for this government.

“The lesson I learned along the way is that the world is not judging, the world is suffering,” said Grégoire Trudeau, who has spoken of having an eating disorder and anxiety as a teenager.

“The other is that we are all one trauma away from each other. It takes a traumatic event in your life for your brain to change, because all of this is brain stuff. Neuroscience is now helping us better understand mental health issues. We are related by our trauma.”

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