Ryan Reynolds opened up about his struggle with anxiety in a recent exclusive with The New York Times. Author Cara Buckley paints an all-encompassing picture of Reynold’s in the article, pulling quotes from his Deadpool costars and working in a brief history of his whole life, from childhood to his first days as an actor to his current press tour.
In recent years, Reynolds popularity and fame has skyrocketed. His film career is filled with a series of hits and flops, big roles and small roles that seem to come at random. In some ways, Deadpool was his big break, and his star has continued to grow since then, as fans all over the world obsess over his hilarious social media presence and his love story with wife Blake Lively.
But Reynold’s admits that the persona most of the world sees is not an easy one to project. “I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” Reynolds revealed. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ king of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.” Now on a high profile press tour for Deadpool 2, Reynolds is finding ways to cope with that anxiety without letting it cripple him. He admits that he does a lot of interviews in character as Deadpool, the sarcastic and sardonic antihero. He also uses the meditation app Headspace, and trusts that the anxiety will lift when it finally comes time to walk on stage. “When the curtain opens, I turn on this knucklehead, and he kind of takes over and goes away again once I walk off set,” Reynolds said. “That’s the great self-defense mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”
Reynolds noted that he has struggled with anxiety since childhood, trying everything in his power to keep his hot-headed father calm. “I became this young skin-covered micro manager,” he said. “When you stress out kids, there’s a weird paradox that happens because they’re suddenly taking on things that aren’t theirs to take on.” This stress followed him into the beginnings of his career and his early 20s, which he refers to as his “real unhinged phase.” “I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way.”
This partying phase coincided with his struggle to jumpstart his career, which has only recently seemed to fall into place. Deadpool was a smash hit in 2015, especially compared to Reynolds’ other stint as a leading hero in the 2011 flop, The Green Lantern. Reynolds was thrilled with the opportunity to pick up the story again, but acknowledges the pressure of living up to the original. “When there’s built-in expectation, your brain always processes that as danger,” he said of the film.
As a college student that struggles with anxiety, hearing someone in the public eye open up about it is important to me. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 or older (that’s 18.1%). Only 36.9% of those 40 million people seek treatment, and even less are willing to be open and upfront about their struggle, and it’s significant that Reynolds is choosing to be so candid about his anxiety.
Reynold’ response to his anxiety—excessive partying and substance abuse—is a tale too often told, especially in young adults. Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively are usually pretty tight-lipped when it comes to details about their personal life, so for Reynolds to share such an intimate part of him is really meaningful. I can only hope that more celebrities will follow suit.