Every day is a struggle for Howie Mandel, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The comedian first began to experience the invasive, repetitive thoughts and compulsions of OCD as a child and it has since governed a large chunk of his life. In a candid interview with People, Mandel admitted it felt like he was "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 said.
Mandel, 65, admitted that the pandemic was a massive trigger for him.
"There isn't a waking moment of my life when 'we could die' doesn't come into my psyche," he said. "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."
The "America’s Got Talent" judge tried to poke fun at his condition and how the pandemic was affecting him in 2020 when he arrived on the set of the show in a full hazmat suit and gas mask.
Days prior, he spoke to Entertainment Tonight about the safety measures he was taking amid the coronavirus epidemic and the hazmat suit appeared to be part of his plan.
"I don't shake hands and now I've taken it to another level: I don't inhale. I am not inhaling," he said. "Everybody's watching, everybody's aware. Welcome to Howie's world."
Mandel was officially diagnosed in his 40s but waited until 2006 before going public with the news. Speaking with People, he admitted to harboring fears of stigmatization.
"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 said.
The fears did not come true and Mandel is living a successful life. Looking back, he said comedy was what helped him through the tough times.
"My coping skill is finding the funny," he said. "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."
Now Mandel said his life’s mission is to "remove the stigma" surrounding OCD, and other mental illnesses.
"I'm broken. But this is my reality," he said. "I know there's going to be darkness again - and I cherish every moment of light."
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