Even Superheroes Need Help Sometimes

It’s easy to get lost in the sheer amount of craziness that came out of 2016, but the debut of Deadpool had no problem standing out. The revolutionary film featuring a morally-ambiguous superhero broke box office records. It is the highest grossing rated R movie of all time as well as the highest grossing X-Men movie of all time, and it forced filmmakers to rethink the superhero movie genre. And in the center of it all is Ryan Reynolds, leading actor and co-writer, who had been waiting 11 years to see his dream come to the big screen.

After all of the success and critical acclaim Reynolds has enjoyed, it might not seem obvious that making the film had costs other than the budget. In an interview with GQ, Reynolds opens up about the toll the film took on his mental health, “When it finally ended, I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I literally had the shakes. I went to go see a doctor because I felt like I was suffering from a neurological problem or something. And every doctor I saw said, ‘You have anxiety’.

Reynold’s doctor was not referring to those feelings of anxiousness and doubt we all have from time to time, but rather a serious medical condition that affects 18.1% of americans 18 years or older. The National Institute of Mental Health states that a person suffering from this condition has “anxiety [that] does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.”

To the outside world it appeared as if Reynolds was having the time of his life goofing off in a red suit, but underneath that effortless facade was intense stress and pressure. Starting out with an already small budget compared to other superhero movies (Deadpool was made with $58 million, compared the less successful Man of Steel’s budget of $225 million), the filmmakers had to cut $7 million from the budget last minute, writer Rhett Reese told io9. Reynolds explained they often had to improvise under the strains of a modest budget, “there's two moments of the movie where I forget my ammo bag. That's not because Deadpool's forgetful. That's because we couldn't afford the guns that we were about to use in the scene….I felt like I was on some schooner in the middle of a white squall the whole time. It just never stopped.” Coupled with financial stress was the pressure of living up to the high expectations fans had for the movie. Reynolds confessed “the attention is hard on your nervous system—that might be why I live out in the woods. And I was banging the loudest drum for Deadpool. I wasn't just trying to open it; I was trying to make a cultural phenomenon.” The pressure to exceed and financial constraints are problems people from all walks of life deal with.

It can be easy, even automatic to forget celebrities are real people too. Their public lives are like people's Instagram; it is only a projection of a person instead of the real deal. Reynolds nods to this illusion in his twitter bio: “Introducing people to the version of myself tested highest in focus groups”, a funny yet important reminder that people don’t know what other’s lives are like, or what they might be struggling with. Reynolds opening up about his mental health struggles helps to bridge this gap between fantasy and reality. Trying to be strong and perfect all the time is an impossible and draining task. Reynolds acknowledges this important truth when explaining how he is learning to cope with anxiety, “I never wanted to reveal too much... I used to just shut down...But I've embraced the fact that I'm smart. I've embraced the fact that I'm an idiot. I've embraced the fact that I'm funny... It's all human life. Take it or leave it.” It’s a lesson that we should all take to heart. The character Deadpool easily has more faults than any other superhero on the big screen yet fans love him anyway, so why shouldn’t you allow the same for yourself?