Willow Smith, 20, got really candid with Red Table Talk viewers on Dec. 22 by revealing that she recently struggled with “extreme anxiety” and used self-soothing techniques to make herself feel better.
The singer made the confession during an episode of the Facebook Watch show, which was dedicated to survivors of suicide. In particular, she was responding to the story of one of their guests, introduced only as Emma – a 20-year-old former varsity cheerleader who shot herself in 2017 in a bid to end her life.
During her interview Emma shared with Willow, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and “Gammy,” Adrienne Banfield-Norris, how she has since worked with a therapist to learn new coping mechanisms, such as “just simply breathing” to help when she’s feeling anxious.
“I think self-soothing is the single most important thing you can learn how to do in life,” Willow said. Her mom agreed. “I really do believe that, when we get into those tough spaces, that sometimes it can be even more tough for us if we’re expecting for others to do something about how we’re feeling,” Jada said.
At that point Willow opened up about “an experience” that she had “four days ago.” “I was having extreme anxiety,” she said. “I had to just go – I couldn’t talk. I had to just cocoon and just be with myself for a moment. And that was so important because it would have been more intense if I was looking to you to be like, ‘No, help me.’ And then when I was ready, [I opened] the cocoon.”
Reflecting on what it’s like to be (as Gammy said) “in that space,” Willow added, “There’s shame. There’s guilt. There’s sadness. There’s confusion. And then you don’t even want to talk about it because you’re like, ‘I feel crazy. I feel crazy for feeling this way and I don’t want them to think I’m crazy, so I’m just not going to say anything.’” Jada agreed, saying, “And then it just gets compacted.”
The mother, daughter and grandmother then broke down into tears as they watched footage of Emma walking. (See above.) Despite internal bleeding pressing down on the base of her spine, suffering several strokes and being paralyzed from the neck down the former cheerleader was able to defy the odds. Doctors even told her that she only had a 1 percent chance of ever walking again.
You can see the full episode of Red Table Talk above or on the show’s Facebook Watch page.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 for help.