Ryan Reynolds on learning to live with his debilitating anxiety

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Kayleigh Dray
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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 02: Actor Ryan Reynolds attends the press conference for Seoul premiere of 'Deadpool 2' on May 2, 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. The film will open on May 16, in South Korea. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/WireImage)

“I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum,” admits Ryan Reynolds.

It is all too easy to look at people in the spotlight and assume that they are living a perfect life; they look glamorous and confident, they make millions doing a job they truly love and they seem, genuinely, to be happy and successful.

However, with statistics from the Mental Health Foundation indicating there are at least 8.2 million cases of anxiety annually in the UK alone, you can never truly know what someone is going through behind closed doors.

That is why it is always so heartening when celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds publicly discuss their struggles with anxiety, in a bid to further tackle the stigma that depression sufferers face – and pave the way to a better understanding of the issues faced by so many.

In an interview with Variety last year, the actor touched upon the fact that he has battled with crippling anxiety ever since he was a child. And a lot of that was due to the pressures put upon him by his father.

“Our father was tough,” explained Reynolds. “He wasn’t easy on anyone. And he wasn’t easy on himself. I think the anxiety might have started there, trying to find ways to control others by trying to control myself. At the time, I never recognised that. I was just a twitchy kid.”

Now, in a new interview, the Deadpool star has opened up further about his life-long struggle with anxiety and how it affects his day-to-day life.

“I have anxiety,” he told The New York Times. “I’ve always had anxiety.

“Both in the light-hearted ‘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.”

In the interview, Reynolds explained that his anxiety often peaked when he was trying to keep the peace between his father, himself, and his three brothers: “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.

And things only grew worse when the actor reached his early 20s, a particularly tumultuous period in his life which Reynolds refers to as his “real unhinged phase.”

“I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way,” he said, adding that he frequently awoke in the middle of the night, “paralysed by anxiety” and “agonising about his future”.

He got through it by self-medicating, but after a few friends died of overdoses, he toned the partying down and found other ways to manage his fears. Nowadays, he uses the meditation app Headspace, speaks frankly and honesty about his feelings with his wife, Blake Lively (“she gets me a lot”), and does all his promotional interviews and talk-show appearances in character as Deadpool.

“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-defence mechanism. I figure if you’re going to jump off a cliff, you might as well fly.”

Anxiety is, according to the Mental Health Foundation, a “type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now”.

Symptoms include psychological sensations, such as being unable to concentrate, feeling emotionally numb, and having a sense of dread, as well as physical sensations, such as nausea, tension headaches, difficulty sleeping, or dizziness.

If you suffer from anxiety, your GP can offer talking treatments and certain types of medication to help you stay on top of your anxiety. The charity Mind also provides a number of self-care tips. These include breathing exercises, complementary therapies, and ideas on how best to break the cycle of fear and anxiety.

Visit the website for more advice or, alternatively, contact Anxiety Care UK, Fearfighter, or No Panic for a wealth of information and support.

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.