Gillian Anderson On Her Past Mental Health Struggles

By Victoria Kim 03/15/17

“There were times when it was really bad. There have been times in my life where I haven’t wanted to leave the house.”

Gillian Anderson

In high school, Gillian Anderson was voted most likely to get arrested. She was a self-described “fuck-up,” a punk who did drugs and was put in therapy at age 14.

She did get arrested—on the night of graduation. Anderson was caught trespassing at her high school, which she’d broken into in an attempt to glue the locks shut. 

Now, Anderson is on a more even keel, and has come out with a new book she co-wrote with journalist Jennifer Nadel, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere. 

The Guardian writer, Decca Aitkenhead, says Manifesto resembles a self-help book and even has “enough 12-step style advice to make me think addiction issues went beyond teenage experimentation.” But Anderson declined to elaborate on that. 

The actress, best known for playing the effortlessly cool and stony-faced Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files, told Aitkenhead that her mental health was harder to deal with when she was younger.

“There were times when it was really bad,” said Anderson. “There have been times in my life where I haven’t wanted to leave the house.”

She recalled being overly critical of herself. It's a place she refuses to return to. “I simply will not allow it anymore,” she said. “Because the things that we might be critical of ourselves about actually don’t matter. The only thing that really matters in terms of our peace of mind is our peace of mind itself, and how we react to things.”

She tries to meditate often, which allows her to go “beyond the physical.” 

In a 2015 interview with the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone, Anderson talked about what it was about her adolescence that made her so angsty. Her family moved around a lot. She lived in north London until age 11 before they relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she suddenly found herself feeling like the outcast in her "small Republican town."

Anderson did “all that stuff that rebellious teenagers do”—shaved the sides of her head, wore a nose ring, and did “every [drug] there was to do.” 

She says starting therapy at 14 wasn’t her choice, but that it ultimately helped channel her energy to a more positive place. “[T]hat started a different path for me,” she told writer Hattenstone, “and all the energy I was putting into self-destruction and ‘poor me, and nobody understands me,’ I started to funnel into what I was going to do with my life.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr