How 'IT: Chapter Two' star Bill Hader helped ease my anxiety

Gillian Wolski
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Actor and funnyman Bill Hader, 41, has opened up about his struggles with anxiety in a candid YouTube video for mental health and learning disorder charity, Child Mind Institute.

In the four-minute piece-to-camera, titled Anxiety and What I Would Tell #MyYoungerSelf, the highly successful actor, comedian, writer, producer, and director revealed his childhood experience with the common mental health disorder.

Bill’s ‘anxiety monster’

The Saturday Night Live icon explained how simple daily tasks such as doing an exam or catching the school bus became near-impossible due to a “little voice in my head telling me all the things that could go wrong”.

That fear followed him into his adult life, and it was only at the age of 31 when it began to affect his job as a performer on live TV that he realised he needed help.

But it wasn’t a case of ‘curing’ his anxiety, as he explained.

“It doesn’t really go away, you manage it,” he said. Bill’s way of coping was to imagine his anxiety to be “a little monster” that would “attack” his face or tug on his ears to get his attention.

Instead of pushing the monster away, he’d invite it to sit on his shoulder and “hang out”.

“Every time I got nervous, I became friends with it,” he said, which helped alleviate the feelings of panic and fear.

“I wish I had done that when I was younger,” he reflected, adding that he believes it would’ve helped him perform better at school and in social situations.

The comments section for the video has since been flooded with fans praising the star for his vulnerability, and his advice.

“Bill gives me so much hope,” wrote one.

“Just realised that this is the closest I will ever get to Bill Hader calming me down on FaceTime and helping me through an anxiety attack,” added another.

My ‘Facetime’ with Bill

Fast-forward three months, and I’m walking into a gleaming white makeshift set in a fancy West Hollywood hotel to interview Bill and his co-star James McAvoy about their latest film, IT: Chapter Two with a racing heart.

Not only was it my first ever on-camera interview, but it was my also my first time on a big, don’t-mess-this-up overseas work trip. It’s a lot to content with when you’re coping with day-to-day generalised anxiety like I do.

As I took my seat facing a pair of mega-stars, I blurted out, “I’m so nervous.” And what happened next was rather unexpected.

“Oh you are?” Bill replied, looking me right in the eyes.

“Don’t be nervous,” he urged, adding, “we’re just so tired” with a small smile. Indeed, the weeks-long promo circuit had left the co-stars a little worn out. So focussed on myself, I’d never thought about how they’d be feeling.

Bill then kindly enquired about my 15 hour flight from Sydney - “you came out just for this?” - and asked what I thought about the film.

Our little chat helped calm my nerves - almost too much, as a minute or two went by before I remembered why I was actually there.

With my allotted five minutes rapidly ticking by, I quickly launched into my pre-prepared questions and watched as both men snapped to attention.

In particular, I noticed as ‘performer’ Bill emerged to take tired, softly-spoken Bill’s place. If he was ‘making friends’ with his ‘anxiety monster’ everyone was none the wiser.

The interview rolled on smoothly from there, largely due to Bill and James’ cheeky shared sense of humour and easy rapport.

And I’ll never forget my personal, real-life ‘Facetime’ with Bill.

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

Online support is available via Beyond Blue.