Zachary Levi has a memoir due out June 28 titled Radical love: learning to accept yourself and others. In this one, the Shazam! The franchise star reveals his journey to getting to a place where he could fully practice self-love and acceptance was difficult as he faced a lifelong battle with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem due to having been raised in a complicated environment and abusive household filled with high expectations.
The 41-year-old actor says he was unable to fully grasp his issues until a dramatic downward spiral led him to suffer a nervous breakdown at 37, such an urgent situation that he sought treatment for three weeks after being defeated. by suicidal thoughts. Prior to the book’s publication by Harper Horizon, Levi joined veteran broadcaster and journalist Elizabeth Vargas on her heart of matter podcast for Partnership to End Addiction to discuss all of the above in a bluntly honest interview that debuts June 28.
Levi, well known for his work on other high-profile projects like Chuck, Tangled, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, American Underdog and Mauritanian (and the next Shazam! Fury of the gods), also discussed the misconception that wealthy and/or public figures are immune to such struggles, how the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams affected him, why he delayed the release of radical love and the rituals he practices to stay in a healthy place.
In the first moments of the podcast, Vargas – someone who has been open about his own struggles with addiction and anxiety (and recovery) as recounted in his book between the breaths — praises Levi’s book as “incredible” and “surprisingly honest” for the way it details his mental health struggles.
“I’ve struggled with this kind of stuff most of my life. 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 shared before revealing his struggles began. in his youth as he grew up in a complicated household. “Most of my life I grew up in a family where my stepfather was a perfectionist at the highest level, his bar was so high, impossible to reach, and then a mother who was a borderline personality. So she Didn’t have an insanely high bar She had an impossible target because she kept moving Anyone who hangs out with borderline personalities, if I came home and my mom was from mood, I might say, “Hey, I didn’t do that test so well in school,” and she’d say, “Oh, don’t worry about that. There’ll be another test and we’ll We can work on it, whoever it is, but if she was in a bad mood, it was the end of the world. I was an annoyance to the family. I mean, it was a lot of vitriol, a lot of shouting.
As he got older, Levi, like so many others in the same position, treated his problems with a combination of substances and vices. “I was running towards a lot of other things, whether it was sex, drugs, alcohol or things to distract me, to numb me from the pain that I was running from most of my life,” said he detailed. “The irony is that alcohol can give you this temporary relief, but the next day it increases that anxiety tenfold. So you come running back for more and it just becomes this vicious cycle.
Levi’s career also played a role in how he fought. At one point, he believed that moving to Austin and building a movie studio would be the thing to give his life. “My career was in a place where I felt like even though I had achieved so much up until then, I still was, and to be honest, even now I still feel that way. I I feel like I’m a bit on the outside looking in. I never really felt like I was part of the cool kid group,” he said, adding that those feelings can be traced back to growing up as a ‘nerdy’ kid who was often bullied.” I think that’s been with me in my career in Hollywood, and that’s reaffirmed to you in the lies you say to yourself when you don’t get certain jobs, you’re not hired to go and do that movie or that show with that level of director or producer or actor or whatever.
Vargas asks Levi to detail the panic attack that ultimately led him to seek treatment and he said he moved to Austin and had trouble doing routine activities like unpacking boxes and concentrating on a restaurant. The feeling of discouragement mixed with self-loathing and panic created an emotional scene.
“I probably drove around for 10 minutes not knowing where to eat because I didn’t know which place was the right place to eat instead of just saying, ‘Zach, just go eat a little. It does not matter. It doesn’t matter if you go to that pizzeria or that Chinese restaurant or whatever. Just go get some food. If you are hungry, go get food,” he continued. “I’m sitting in my truck, and I vividly remember holding the steering wheel and shaking back and forth, like I was almost trying to get myself out of what was going on, and I’m just crying. I just cry. I’m like, ‘God, help me.’
He later recounts how he ended up going to the ER due to suicidal thoughts. “I had very active thoughts of ending my life,” he revealed. “It wasn’t the first time I had it. I had been in dark places in my life before, but I guess in those times I had people around me. I had stupidly, I mean, I think I made the right choice moving to Austin. I don’t think I did it exactly the right way. I didn’t realize I was running away so much, but I moved here and I had no one. I had no support structure. … So at this particular time, I’m here in this wonderful city, but mostly by myself, and darkness surrounds me again. The lies whisper in my ear and the failure I felt was enough to be like, ‘Zach, I feel like you’re not going to make it.'”
At the suggestion of a “dear friend”, he sought treatment in a psychiatric ward and spent three weeks in “intensive, life-changing and life-saving therapy”.
During the interview, he also opened up about how he was affected by the suicides of Bourdain, Williams and Kate Spade. Of Williams, Levi said, “Robin, he was one of my heroes. His talent, his heart, the way he loved people, the way he loved homeless people, the way he cared about them, he was a really, really, deeply empathetic person who really cared about other human beings, and yet was so tortured in his mind. I think that may be part of why he felt so compelled to bring joy into the world. I felt very, very close to that.
When he died, “It really, really, really, really, really shook me up because I felt like if he couldn’t do it, I don’t know how I’m ever going to keep navigating through it. this life, unless I can somehow figure out how not to keep falling into those places of depression and anxiety.
Even though Levi has worked through his issues, he still lives with them and is able to manage a healthy routine with an emphasis on proper diet, exercise, and sleep habits. “Prayer and meditation are very important, which are also somewhat synonymous, I think, in some ways. Sometimes my prayer is meditation. Sometimes I’m just there and letting God take control of that moment. I don’t say anything as long as I’m just hanging out. I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is to keep my thoughts captive. Our minds are so powerful, but they’re so easily, so easily hacked if we don’t really say, ‘Oh wait, wait, wait, wait. I do it again. I start to say bad things about myself again. I start being harsh or critical of myself. I start judging where I am in my life.