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Kevin Smith says he spent a month in a mental health treatment facility last January after having a “complete break from reality” and reveals how therapy helped him understand that childhood interactions he experienced were a form of sexual abuse.
In a new interview with People magazine, the Clerks and Chasing Amy director details his mental health journey over the past several months, which kicked off with waking one night in terror, before he was admitted to Arizona’s Sierra Tucson treatment center. “For the last month, I have been at a mental health facility,” he shared in a 30-minute video. “I had a complete break with reality and became very dissociated.”
Smith said that the experience was “scary,” resulting in him grappling with suicidal thoughts. “At that moment, I wouldn’t have been averse to not being around any longer. I called a friend and said, ‘I’m in a weird, dark place. I need to go somewhere and get help,'” he recalled.
Further into the video, the Fatman Beyond podcast host recounts various traumatic experiences in his life that shaped his adulthood, resulting in body dysmorphia, overworking to the point of burnout, becoming a co-dependent “people pleaser” and, after therapy, the understanding that he had been sexually abused when he was 6.
The Dogma director shared that the abuse took place in his hometown, a place he called a “transient summer” community that saw people come in and out regularly. One day, a 9- or 10-year-old, whom Smith says he has never seen since, instructed him and a 6-year-old unnamed female friend to “put our mouths on each other’s genitals.” Smith says that he and the girl were also instructed to perform acts on the older child but “luckily some adult did walk past the alley and was like, ‘What’s going on?'” Smith recalled.
The older child was ultimately chased away, and Smith went home “scared and humiliated and ashamed.
“I’ve told the story in my life to other people, but always presented it as, ‘Oh, I played doctor when I was a kid,'” Smith shared. But while in treatment, Smith added, his therapist finally identified it as sexual abuse as the two were walking around a fitness track at the Arizona facility. “She goes, ‘Doctor is “I’ll show you mine. You show me yours.” There’s a third party instructing you what to do and it’s against your will. That’s sexual abuse.'”
The Masters of the Universe: Revelation creator went on to recount multiple other traumatic experiences, including one involving a pool slide and another a teacher in fourth grade who bullied him publicly about his weight. That helped fuel the body dysmorphia that he’s experienced much of his life.
“The stuff that happened ties directly into the body dysmorphia I’ve had my entire life,” Smith said. “I have always seen myself, and even now, I see myself as disgusting. I see myself the way my fourth-grade teacher saw me, the way the teenager at the top of the waterslide saw me.”
He shared that all of these forces, and more, shaped his decision to go into directing, a field where he could maintain control and where “nobody’s ever going to do that to me again.
“I’m going to be in charge for the rest of my life,” he added about his reasoning. “Nobody’s ever going to tell me to do something I don’t want to do.”
It also led to him throwing himself into his work — so much so that he began to disappear completely into the public persona he names “the other guy.”
“The other guy went from being something I would pull out and put onstage to being on 24/7,” Smith admitted. “The dumb thing about making yourself your job is that the moment you wake up, you’re working until the moment you go to sleep and I burned out over time.
“Over time, a lifetime of co-dependency professionally, personally, I gave it all and eventually ran dry until there was no sense of me left,” he continued. “I opened up the other guy about a month ago looking for me, for the authentic Kevin, and I was terrified to find out that I wasn’t there. There was nobody running the show. And I was scared beyond belief.”
Realizing how much the “other guy” had taken over his life — and fearful that his authentic self had either been bored with what he’d become or had been “burned” to fuel his persona — was the moment he “realized I needed help.” Since being admitted to the mental health facility, he’s been able to unpack this in addition to making some other major life changes. Smith says he’s reeling in his frenzied work schedule, spending less time on social media and is no longer smoking pot.
In the treatment facility where he’s done group therapy sessions, Smith says he’s also been able to come to terms with the way trauma functions both biologically and emotionally. “In the beginning, it was tough to share when somebody’s talking about watching their friend get killed and I’m like, ‘Well, my fourth-grade teacher told me I was fat,'” he said. “But I learned that there’s no differentiation [between levels of trauma] to the human nervous system. Internally, trauma is trauma.”
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