Kevin Smith is opening up about receiving psychiatric treatment to heal from past sexual abuse and trauma.
The “Clerks” writer-director revealed that he underwent intensive therapy treatment at the Sierra Tucson center in Arizona in January 2022. Speaking to People magazine, Smith looked back on creating a “larger than life” persona as the comedic “other guy” to cope, and he said he started treatment after suffering from a “complete break from reality.”
“It was scary,” Smith said. “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.'”
Smith, who suffered a life-changing heart attack in 2018, recalled being six years old when an older boy forced him to perform sexual acts on a young girl. Smith convinced himself that the trio were “just playing doctor in an alleyway,” but at the mental health facility, he realized it was sexual abuse.
“When a third party is instructing you to do something against your core values like that, that’s sexual abuse,” Smith said his therapist told him last year.
By age nine, Smith said he was made fun of by his fourth-grade teacher, who shared a joke about the size of his “gut” in front of the whole class.
“I felt disgusting, like I didn’t matter,” Smith said. “That’s when ‘the other guy’ started to appear. I decided to be entertaining and make people love me before they noticed I was fat.”
Smith’s career hinged on that persona, starting with 1994 film “Clerks.”
“I was already a self-loathing mess. ‘The other guy’ became my favorite piece of clothing to wear,” Smith said. “I’d just let him take over.”
At the treatment center, Smith participated in private and group therapy sessions for people grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Smith noted that many of his fellow patients were military veterans.
“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,'” Smith shared. “But I learned that there’s no differentiation [between levels of trauma] to the human nervous system. Internally, trauma is trauma.”
He added, “This was eye-opening to me, because I’d always spent the majority of my time depressed about the past or anxious over the future.”
Smith made changes to his lifestyle, including stopping smoking marijuana and using social media as much.
“I’m really interested in seeing if I can finally be comfortable sitting by myself, and just be alone with my thoughts,” he said.
The filmmaker is also releasing a first-person video account of his mental health journey.
“I’m terrified to see everyone’s reaction to [all of this],” Smith summed up. “But I know there’s somebody out there who doesn’t know this stuff — like I didn’t — who could get something out of this.”