I can still remember the first time I talked openly about having anxiety. I was 8 years old, standing in my dad’s garage — where most of our quality conversations happened — as he listened to me talk, with his head under the hood of a car.
“I’m scared, but I don’t know why,” I told him.
The truth is, I was scared about pretty much everything. Scared about dying. Scared about school tomorrow. Scared about growing up. Scared about being so scared all the time.
Those were all heavy things for an 8-year-old to process at the time, and while my parents did their best to calm me whenever I was feeling extra vulnerable, it wasn’t until a few decades later that someone finally put a name to those vague, yet ever-present feelings of internal panic. I had anxiety — a diagnosis that an estimated 40 million other Americans have, too. I just didn’t know it at the time.
Thankfully, we’ve come along way in the last decade or so when it comes to talking about mental health in an open and honest way — with many celebs even leading the pack.
Take Emma Stone. The actress showed up to the Late Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night, where she chatted about everything from her upcoming film Battle of the Sexes to meeting Hillary Clinton backstage. But what really struck me most about her appearance was the story she shared about going to therapy as a child to overcome her anxiety — or as she called it, her little “green monster.”
The conversation spilled out after Colbert held up a child’s drawing and asked, “Can you explain this to me?”
The drawing showed a girl, standing below five little words that altogether said something pretty powerful: I’m bigger than my anxiety.
“This is me, I guess,” Stone said with a laugh, saying that she drew it in a therapy session at age 9.
“I was a very very anxious child,” she explained, “and I had a lot of panic attacks. I benefitted from therapy so much.”
While Stone says she still battles anxiety to this day, she says a combination of therapy and also improv and acting classes helped her to manage her panic attacks and come out of her shell.
And remarkably, her own candidness led Colbert to share that he too once suffered from panic attacks, during his early twenties while performing improv at Chicago’s famed Second City.
“When I was younger, I had anxiety attacks,” he shared. “I’d curl up on the couch backstage at the Second City and [say] don’t talk to me [until] I hear my cue.”
This isn’t the first time Stone has opened up about her panic attacks. In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, the star revealed:
“My anxiety was constant,” she said. “I would ask my mom a hundred times how the day was gonna lay out. What time was she gonna drop me off? Where was she gonna be? What would happen at lunch? Feeling nauseous. At a certain point, I couldn’t go to friends’ houses anymore — I could barely get out the door to school.”
It’s nice to see that Stone has clearly moved past the panic attacks that once used to cripple her. But most of all, it’s inspiring to see her opening up and talking about it in a public way, without fear of judgment. For those of us who still struggle daily, she offers hope that there’s light at the end of the tunnel — and reminds us that that we’re bigger than that ever-present “green monster” after all.