Dan Levy attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. (Getty for Vanity Fair/ Rich Fury/VF20)
Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy has opened up about his struggle with debilitating anxiety, and described how it stopped him from coming out.
In an interview with Bustle, Levy explained that when he was young, his anxiety was so severe that he completely avoided social situations like birthday parties or summer camp.
It even resulted in a physical eye condition, iritis, and doctors said there was a chance that it would eventually take away his vision.
His self-imposed isolation, he said, “came from a deep-rooted fear of knowing that I was gay and not being able to be free”.
Levy continued: “By the time I got to high school, when your brain is starting to catch up to your physical impulses, it led to a very confusing time.
“Because on the one hand, you are now being introduced to things like self-awareness and anxiety. At the same time, you’re becoming more and more savvy when it comes to hiding it.”
Remaining closeted at school, he said he constantly felt a sense of fear: “Fear of being ridiculed. Fear of being othered. Fear of exposing something that I think a lot of high school students at the time didn’t have the tools to process properly, to make it comfortable for me.”
He found some relief through theatre, getting involved in directing, writing and acting in school plays, but he was still being bullied.
“I was starting to develop a sense of confidence by way of being able to entertain people,” he said.
“It was like a decoy version of myself that I was putting out there to not have to live with the reality that when the bullying was happening — if someone was calling me a faggot or whatever it was — they were speaking the truth.”
But this “decoy version” of himself, although effective as a distraction from his anxiety, was doing its own damage.
“Your sense of self gets chipped away,” he said. “You lose sight of your own value.”
Dan Levy explored his coming out in lesbian Christmas film Happiest Season
After years of fear, Dan Levy came out to his family when he was 18, and they wholeheartedly accepted him for who he is.
He explored the moment as the character of John in this year’s lesbian Christmas rom com Happiest Season, starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis.
In a speech that Stewart said felt “historic”, Levy says: “Everybody’s story is different. There’s your version and my version and everything in between.
“But the one thing that all of those stories have in common is that moment right before you say those words when your heart is racing and you don’t know what’s coming next. That moment’s really terrifying.
“And then once you say those words, you can’t unsay them. A chapter has ended and a new one’s begun, and you have to be ready for that.
“You can’t do it for anyone else.”