Zachary Levi reveals mental breakdown, battle with anxiety, depression – The Hollywood Reporter

Zachary Levi has a memoir released June 28 titled Radical love: learning to accept yourself and others. In it, the Shazam! The franchise star reveals that his journey of getting to a place where he could fully practice self-love and acceptance was difficult as he faced a lifelong battle with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem due to being raised in a complicated environment and abusive family full of high expectations.

The 41-year-old actor says he couldn’t fully identify what his problems were until a dramatic downward spiral caused him to suffer a mental breakdown at age 37, a situation so urgent that he sought treatment for three weeks after being overcome. for thoughts of suicide. Prior to the book’s publication by Harper Horizon, Levi joined veteran presenter and journalist Elizabeth Vargas on her heart of matter podcast for Partnership to End Addiction to discuss all of the above in an unflinchingly honest interview that premieres June 28.

Levi, known for working on other high-profile projects such as Chuck, Tangled, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, American Underdog and Mauritania (It is the next Shazam! Gods Fury), also touched on the misconception that wealthy and/or public figures are free from such struggles, as the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams affected him, why he delayed the release of extreme love and the rituals he practices to keep himself in a healthy place.

In the podcast’s opening moments, Vargas – someone who has been open about her own struggles with substance abuse and anxiety (and recovery), as recounted in her book between breaths — praises Levi’s book as “amazing” and “incredibly honest” for the way it details his mental health issues.

“I struggled with these things most of my life. I didn’t realize I was struggling with these things until I was 37, about five years ago, and I had a complete mental breakdown,” Levi explained before revealing that his struggles began in his youth, growing up in a complicated home. “Most of my life, I grew up in a household where my stepfather was a perfectionist at the highest level, his bar was so high, it was impossible to reach and then a mother who was a borderline personality. So she didn’t have an incredibly high bar. She had an impossible target because she kept moving. Anyone who lives with borderline personalities, if I came home and my mom was in a good mood, I could tell her, ‘Hey, I didn’t do so well on this test at school,’ and she’d be like, ‘Oh no. worry about it. There will be another test and we can work on it,’ whatever it was, but if she was in a bad mood, it was the end of the world. I was a disgrace to the family. I mean, it was a lot of vitriol, a lot of screaming.”

As he grew older, Levi, like so many in the same position, treated his problems with a combination of substances and addictions. “I was running into a lot of other things, whether it was sex or drugs or drinking or things to distract myself, to numb myself from the pain that I had been running from most of my life,” he detailed. “The irony is that drinking might give you that temporary relief, but the next day it amplifies that anxiety tenfold. So you’re running back to get more and it becomes this vicious cycle.”

Levi’s career also played a role in how he beat himself. At one point, he believed that moving to Austin and building a movie studio would be the thing to give his life purpose. “My career was at a place where I felt like even though I had accomplished so much up until that point, I still was, and to be honest, even now, I still feel that way. I feel like I’m a little on the outside looking in. I never felt part of any group of cool kids,” he said, adding that those feelings can be traced to childhood as a “nerdy” kid who was often bullied. “I think that led me to my career in Hollywood, and it’s reaffirmed to you in the lies you tell yourself when you’re not getting certain jobs, not getting hired to do that movie or that show at that level of director. or producer or actor or whatever.”

Vargas asks Levi to detail the panic attack that prompted him to seek treatment and he said he moved to Austin and was having trouble doing routine activities like unpacking boxes and focusing on a restaurant. The feeling of despondency mixed with self-hatred and panic created an emotional scene.

“I probably drove for 10 minutes not knowing which place to eat because I didn’t know which was the right place to eat instead of just saying, ‘Zach, go get something to eat. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you go to that pizzeria or that Chinese place or whatever. Go get some food. If you’re hungry, go get something to eat,’” he continued. “I’m sitting in my truck and I vividly remember I was holding the steering wheel and I was rocking back and forth, almost trying to get rid of what was going on, and I’m just crying. . I’m just crying. I’m like, ‘God help me.’

He later recounts how he was finally admitted to the emergency room due to suicidal thoughts. “I was having very active thoughts of ending my life,” he revealed. “It wasn’t the first time I’d had them. I’ve been to dark places in my life before, but I think in those moments I had people around me. I foolishly, I mean, I think I made the right choice moving to Austin. I don’t think I did it exactly right. I didn’t know I was running away from it so much, but I moved here and there was no one. I didn’t have a support structure. … So at this particular moment, I’m here in this wonderful city, but mostly alone, and darkness surrounds me again. The lies are whispering in my ear and the failure I felt was enough to be like, ‘Zach, looks like you’re not going to make it out of this.’

At the suggestion of a “dear friend”, he sought treatment in a psychiatric ward and spent three weeks in “intensive life-changing and life-saving therapy”.

During the interview, he also opened up about how he was affected by the suicides of Bourdain, Williams and Kate Spade. Of Williams, Levi said: “Robin, he was a hero of mine. His talent, his heart, the way he loved people, the way he loved the homeless, the way he cared for them, he was a very, truly, deeply empathetic person who really cared about other beings. humans, and yet he was so tortured in his own mind. I think maybe that’s why he felt so obligated to bring joy to the world. I felt very, very much like that.”

When he died, “This really, really, really, really shook me up because I felt like if he couldn’t survive, I don’t know how I’m going to continue to navigate this life unless I can somehow figure out how. not keep falling into these places of depression and anxiety.”

Although Levi has overcome his problems, he still lives with them and is able to manage a healthy routine with a focus on good diet, exercise, and sleep habits. “Prayer and meditation are very important, which are also a bit synonymous, I think, in a way. Sometimes my prayer is meditation. Sometimes I’m just standing there and allowing God to take over what that time is. I’m not really saying anything as much as I’m just wasting time. I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is holding my thoughts. Our minds are so powerful, but they’re so easily, so easily hijacked if we’re not really, ‘Oh wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I’m doing this again. I’m starting to badmouth myself again. I’m starting to be harsh or critical of myself. I’m starting to judge where I am in my life.’”

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