Even superheroes need help sometimes. Thankfully Zachary Levi is getting real about it, opening up about his severe past issues with mental health and where he is today.
In an interview that will be available in full on June 28, the Shazam! star explained to Heart of the Matter podcast host Elizabeth Vargas that he has been battling anxiety and depression for the better part of his life — however, he didn’t consciously know until recently! And at that point it got so bad it nearly cost him his life. The actor explained:
“I didn’t realize that I was struggling with these things until I was 37, about five years ago, and I had a complete mental breakdown.”
Zachary revealed that the breakdown took place after his move to Austin, Texas one night when he was attempting to find somewhere to eat while out on a drive:
“I’m sitting in my truck, and vividly, I remember I was holding onto the wheel and I was just shaking back and forth, that like almost trying to shake myself out of what it was going on, and I’m just weeping. I’m just crying, I’m like, ‘God, help me.’”
What a terrifying moment to experience, especially alone!
The emotional turmoil didn’t end there as the Chuck alum revealed that while “it wasn’t the first time” he was having “very active thoughts of ending my life,” the thoughts resurfaced as he “didn’t have anybody” after moving to Austin.
Wow. Isolation can be one of the most dangerous things, especially if you’re already not in a great place mentally.
“I had been in dark places in my life before, but I guess in those moments I had people around me. I didn’t have a support structure. So, in this particular moment, I’m out here in this wonderful city, but basically by myself, and the darkness surrounds me again.”
Such a scary reminder of how important support structures are. He continued:
“The lies are whispering into my ear and the failure that I felt that I was enough to be like, ‘Zach, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to make it out of this.”
Those are some majorly heavy thoughts to be weighing on your mind!
The Tangled star explained that for the longest time he had been “running to lots of other things, whether it was sex or drugs or booze” in order to distract himself “from the pain that I was running away from most of my life.”
However, he came to recognize that was a very unhealthy way to deal with his problems:
“Booze can give you this temporary relief, but then the next day amplifies that anxiety tenfold, so then you’re running back to get more and it just becomes this vicious cycle.”
And that cycle so often begins before we even realize. Zach explained:
“The majority of my life, I grew up in a household where my stepfather was a perfectionist on the highest of levels, his bar was so high, was impossible to reach, and then a mother who was a borderline personality, so she didn’t have an impossibly high bar. She had an impossible target because it kept moving.”
What a rough upbringing — that’s certainly enough to set anybody on a difficult path. And because of the impossible standards he felt growing up it seems like isolation has been something Zach has felt for a long time, unfortunately.
“I feel like I’m a bit on the outside looking in. I’ve never really felt like I am a part of whatever the cool kid group is.”
Poor guy. Proof that no matter how cool and successful it looks from the outside, everyone feels at times that they don’t belong.
Thankfully, after his Austin breakdown, the American Underdog actor decided to follow a friend’s advice to seek “intensive life-changing, life-saving therapy,” which took place over the span of a month where he was admitted to a “psych ward!” Thank goodness he had that friend to support him. There is unfortunately so much stigma surrounding mental health, but it’s important to hear these stories to help normalize getting help!
Today the actor is leading a more reflective life as he has embraced meditation and prayer. We’re in your corner, Zach!
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
[Images via Zachary Levi/Instagram, Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube, & WENN/Avalon]