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"I’ve Come A Long Way": Cheryl "Coko" Gamble Opens Up About Bipolar Diagnosis
SWV's Cheryl "Coko" Gamble reveals the moment she knew she needed to seek help for her mental health.
Best known for her fierce role in the R&B group SWV, Cheryl “Coko” Gamble is no stranger to the spotlight.
But when she isn’t on stage singing her chart-topping hits with bandmates Tamara “Taj” Johnson and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons, Coko has become an outspoken advocate for mental health after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder herself in 2017.
Coko recently opened up about the diagnosis and what prompted her to seek help in SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B, airing Sundays at 9:30/8:30c on Bravo.
“I have manic episodes. I could be happy one day and I feel like a wave and then I’m really sad and deep in depression,” she shared.
Coko made the move to get help in 2017 after she found herself plagued by dark thoughts.
“My final straw for me seeking help was I was thinking about killing somebody and I knew that it was an issue,” she said. “It was deeper than I ever understood."
Luckily, no harm came to anyone. Coko said now that she takes medication to control the mood swings and that her mental health is “good.”
“I’ve come a long way. I am slow to anger, as long as I’m taking the medication, because I like being in a good place. I take my meds when I don’t want to beat your a--,” she said with a laugh.
It isn’t the first time the Virginia Beach resident has talked about her mental health struggle. She spoke with Stacia Alexander, a licensed counselor, in May 2020 for Alexander’s Youtube program.
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“I’m not ashamed to share it and I think, you know, everybody can relate to what I’ve been going through,” she said, referring to herself as “beautifully flawed.”
Coko grew up in New York where she met her fellow bandmates and formed SWV (Sisters with Voices). The group achieved success at an early age with their multi-platinum debut album It’s About Time and went on to become one of Billboard’s Top 40 female girl groups of all time.
SWV’s music resonated with fans, but off-stage, Coko realized her shifting emotions were wreaking havoc in her life.
“It was just up and down and at some point, I knew that there was absolutely something wrong,” she told Alexander of seeking help in her 40s. “It just wasn’t normal to me.”
It proved to be the right move and today Coko said she’s a “better person” and bandmate.
“Even with my group members, I’ve just learned to actually watch my words. Before, I would just say anything, I wouldn’t even think about it, just whatever was on my mind, but right now I’m a lot more respectful,” she said in 2020. “I just think before I speak because it’s not always about me and my feelings.”
Creatively, Coko has also found she’s “more focused” with the help of medication to help manage her bipolar depression.
“I have a lot of thoughts on my mind but I take my time with them, like I don’t just jump from one thing to the other,” she said.
Coko’s youngest son, Jalen Clemons, who is known professionally as Jayye Michael, also opened up about the noticeable change he saw in his mom after she got on her meds during a “Mother & Son Chronicles” video posted to his Youtube channel earlier this year.
“It was a big change when, you know, you started taking, you know, your meds and everything and I was like, ‘This is different.’ Jumping around and smiling and just so silly and playful,” he told his mom.
Coko agreed treatment has allowed her to find stability.
"It’s a bit different now because before maybe I’d be like happy and silly for like a week and then I’d be like down and on the bed,” she said. “But now it’s a bit more consistent.”
Coko decided to open up about her mental health journey in the hopes that`her story might inspire others who may be struggling.
“I think growing up in the Black community we don’t ever talk about therapy,” she told Alexander. “It’s just pray about it and the older I got, I just began to deal with myself and things that I was going through and I decided to seek help and get therapy. I just want everybody to know that it’s OK. You can pray, but you can get therapy too.”
Watch SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B, airing Sundays at 8/7c on Bravo. You can watch episodes the following day on Peacock.
Any health-related information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, or before embarking on any diet, exercise, or wellness program.