"I've had really bad anxiety my whole life," he said. "I've dealt with, you know, everything from if I knew there was a big test, to getting on the school bus and doing that by myself, or any of those things... I just didn't think I would be able to do it, and there was always a little voice in my head telling me 'here's all the things that could go wrong.' And as you get older, that sticks around. And so, when I was, boy, in my mid-30s was when I officially tried to do something about it, because it was affecting my job as a performer on live television. Which is, like, for someone with massive anxiety, that's a crazy job to have. But I loved my job, so I was going to figure out how to deal with this."
Hader said that a pivotal moment came when he realised that his anxiety was something he was always going to have, and thinking of it as a part of himself changed the way he would think.
"And what helped me was learning that it doesn't really go away. You manage it. And instead of pushing away your anxiety, and I always imagined my anxiety as this little monster that would attack my face or pull at my ears, you know. And instead of pushing that thing away and trying to fight it, I would just go 'hey, oh hey buddy', like it was a little monkey, and I would just kinda go 'Ok, sit on my shoulder, let's hang out, let's just chill out, there it is.'... And I wish I had done that when I was younger. I think I would've done better in school, I think I would've done a little better in social situations, and I wouldn't have lived life afraid."
Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the United States, affecting approximately 40 million adults, but there remains a social taboo around speaking openly about mental health. Hader hopes that sharing his story will encourage children and teenagers with anxiety to be proactive in looking after their own mental wellbeing.
"And so, not fighting it, you know, that's a big thing," he said. "A lot of people have it.... But you can manage it and you can figure it out. And doing it when you're younger is the best, to have those tools when you're younger is indispensable, and I wish I'd done it. But if I can do it... when I figured it out really was when I was 37, you guys can figure it out."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health