America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel has shed light about living with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Howie 65, made the revelation in one of PEOPLE’S cover stories.
“I’m living in a nightmare. I try to anchor myself. I have a beautiful family and I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of” He says.
Howie Manuel got married to his wife Terry in 1980. The couple is parents to Alex, 31, and daughters Riley, 28, and Jackie, 36 who also suffers from anxiety and OCD.
In his cover for PEOPLE, Howie explained that the COVID-19 pandemic affected his mental health.
“There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche. But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was okay. It’s good to latch onto okay. But during the pandemic, the whole world was not okay. And it was absolute hell.”
Diagnosed in his 40s, Mandel didn’t open up about his conditions until 2006 and admits he grappled with the decision to do so.
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“My first thought was that I’ve embarrassed my family. Then I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hire somebody who isn’t stable.’ Those were my fears.” he recalls.
Mandel says he’s often used humour to get through the toughest moments. “My coping skill is finding the funny. If I’m not laughing, then I’m crying. And I still haven’t been that open about how dark and ugly it really gets.”
Today, Howie Mandel, says he still deals with bouts of extreme depression and acknowledges that the public might not understand the depths of his condition.
“People see inconsistencies, especially in the media. Oh, he hugged someone’ or ‘he shook someone’s hand.’ I can shake your hand. But then I’d think I didn’t wash it well enough. And I’d go back and forth in a loop washing my hands for hours. I understand the funny in that. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly painful. And I don’t want to defend my mental health. I just want to maintain it.”
Howie says he is speaking up to remove the stigma about his condition: “In speaking up now, “my life’s mission is to remove the stigma. I’m broken. But this is my reality. I know there’s going to be darkness again and I cherish every moment of light.”
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