WESTLAKE VILLAGE (CBSLA.com) — Michael Jackson's niece is making a name for herself with her fight against mental illness. Yashi Brown's mother was the King of Pop's older sister, Rebbie.
Brown said she began suffering from depression in her late teens and early 20's when her symptoms started to develop and grew worse.
"It became extreme to the point where I began to have altered think. I began to imagine things that weren't well and delusional," Brown said.
She was hospitalized multiple times. Her doctors eventually diagnosed her with bipolar disorder type 1 and schizoaffective disorder--a condition that causes a person to experience a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Brown thought the life she planned was over until she found poetry. Now at age 37, she is sharing her mental illness publicly with her book of poetry called "Black Daisy in a White Limousine."
"Poetry allows the ability to connect with ourselves as well as connect with others," Brown said. "And I started to really hone in on that. I started to also realize how therapeutic it was, the confidence that it gave me."
She holds poetry workshops at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.
"She definitely is tearing down the barriers of exposing stigma," said Terez Henson of Metropolitan State Hospital. She said Brown's workshops have benefited incarcerated patients who are not competent to stand trial and were found guilty by reason of insanity.
"The patients are drawn to her because they feel that she has lived it. She experienced it," Henson said.
Brown said it took years to get her medication right. But she's grateful now to able to help others.
"I know, from inside standpoint, what's happening in your head and the lack of control that you might be going through," Brown said. She wants more people to talk openly about mental illness.
Her book of poems will be re-released in November with music. She will also recite poetry and emcee the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Walks in Downtown Los Angeles on October 3rd.
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