Zachary Levi revealed that he once had a “complete nervous breakdown” that led to a three-week stay in a psychiatric ward.
“I’ve struggled with this stuff for most of my life,” the 41-year-old actor said on Elizabeth Vargas’ “Heart of the Matter” podcast in a sneak peek obtained by the Hollywood Reporter Thursday.
“I didn’t realize I was struggling with these things until I was 37, about five years ago, and I had a complete nervous breakdown.”
Levi explained that his struggles with mental health began growing up with a mother with borderline personality disorder and a stepfather who was a “perfectionist.”
“I was a disgrace to the family. I mean, it was a lot of vitriol, a lot of screaming,” he recalled.
The “Shazam!” star said he eventually turned to “sex or drugs or booze or things to distract me from, to numb myself from the pain I’ve run from most of my life.”
“The irony is that booze can give you this temporary relief, but the next day amplifies that anxiety tenfold,” he continued. “So then you run back to get more, and it just becomes this vicious circle.”
Levi admitted to “running away” from his problems by moving to Austin, Texas and launching Wyldwood Studios in May 2020.
“My career was in a place where I felt like, even though I’d accomplished so many things up to that point, I still was, and to be honest, even now I still feel that way. I feel like I’m a look in from the outside a little bit,” he added. “I’ve never really felt like I was part of whatever the cool kids’ group is.”
The mental health problems of the “Chuck” alum eventually escalated to him having panic attacks about where to eat.
“I probably drove around for 10 minutes not knowing which place to eat because I didn’t know which place was the right place to eat, instead of just saying, ‘Zach, just go get some food,'” he explained. .
“I’m sitting in my truck, and vividly I remember holding the wheel, and I was just shaking back and forth, like I was almost trying to shake myself free of what was going on, and I’m just crying. I’m just crying I’m like, ‘God, help me.’”
Levi revealed that he ended up going to the emergency room due to suicidal thoughts and ended up in a psychiatric ward.
“I had very active thoughts about ending my life,” he said. “It wasn’t the first time I had them. I had been to dark places before in my life, but I think I had people around me in those moments.
“The lies whisper in my ear, and the failure that I felt I was enough to be like, ‘Zach, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to make it.'”
In the psychiatric ward, the Tony nominee took part in “intense, life-changing, life-saving therapy,” and has since found ways to cope with his struggles.
“I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is to capture my thoughts,” he said. “Our minds are so powerful, but they’re so easy, so easy to hijack when we don’t really go, ‘Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I’m doing it again. I’m starting to talk badly about myself again. I’m starting to get hard or critical of myself, I’m starting to judge where I am in my life.’”
Levi’s memoir, “Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others,” hits stores June 28.
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues discussed in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.