Last month, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared how he battled through crippling depression. His frank discussion of dealing with the disorder was touching and refreshing, especially since you don’t expect someone with a phenomenally successful career and macho demeanor to suffer through that kind of sadness.
Now, another unlikely figure has come forward to talk about his own battle with mental illness. As an all-around funnyman, with a loving wife and kids and a great career to boot, Ryan Reynolds is the very picture of a man living on easy street.
But in a new interview for The New York Times, the 41-year-old actor opened up about his own struggle with anxiety.
“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” Reynolds said. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”
Like the character he plays in Deadpool 2, Reynolds uses humor as a self-defense mechanism to offset his own existential angst. That’s why he always kids around in TV appearances, which made him so anxious that he becomes wracked with nausea. It’s also why he also usually does newspaper interviews in character, though he chose to play this one straight. Now that Deadpool 2 is premiering on May 18, he’s so nervous about how fans will react that he can barely eat.
“When there’s built-in expectation,” he said, “your brain always processes that as danger.”
Like many people who struggle with anxiety, his issues started in his childhood, at home. He calls his father, a former police officer-turned-food wholesaler, the “the stress dispensary in our house.” To avoid setting him off, Reynolds tried to keep the house immaculately clean, turning into a “young skin-covered micro manager.”
In his early 20s, he dealt with his anxiety the way many other people do, by drinking and trying to disappear into the crowd.
“I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way,” he said.
Nowadays, he deals with his anxiety in a healthier way, like by using the meditation app Headspace. He also reminds himself that as racked with anxiety as he is before any live appearance, he knows that sweet relief will come once he’s onstage.
“When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set,” he said. “That’s that great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”
To learn more about how celebrities deal with this common disorder, read The Brilliant Way Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley Beats Anxiety.
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