Kristen Bell has had her ups and downs, but she's never been down and out.
In an essay for TIME's Motto, Bell opened up yet again about her experiences with depression. In doing so, she hopes others in similar situations will find solace and strength. "When I was 18, my mom sat me down and said, 'If there ever comes a time where you feel like a dark cloud is following you, you can get help. You can talk to me, talk to a therapist, talk to doctor. I want you to know that there are options,'" the Good Place star wrote. "I'm so thankful for her openness on this predominantly silent subject because later, when I was in college, that time did come. I felt plagued with a negative attitude and a sense that I was permanently in the shade. I'm normally such a bubbly, positive person, and all of a sudden I stopped feeling like myself."
It's the second time two months that Bell has spoken publicly about how depression has affected her life. She joins a growing number of stars—including Russell Brand, Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Sheryl Crow, Miley Cyrus, Jon Hamm, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and Pete Wentz—who has shared her story to help others in similar situations. "When you try to keep things hidden, they fester and ultimately end up revealing themselves in a far more destructive way than if you approach them with honesty. I didn't speak publicly about my struggles with mental health for the first 15 years of my career. But now I'm at a point where I don't believe anything should be taboo," she said. "So here I am, talking to you about what I've experienced."
Bell realizes not everyone understands what depression feels like. "Here's the thing: For me, depression is not sadness. It's not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure. Now, after seeking help, I can see that those thoughts, of course, couldn't have been more wrong. It's important for me to be candid about this so people in a similar situation can realize that they are not worthless and that they do have something to offer. We all do," she said. Plus, Bell wrote, "Anyone can be affected, despite their level of success or their place on the food chain."
"There's nothing weak about struggling with mental illness. You're just having a harder time living in your brain than other people," the actress wrote. "And I don't want you to feel alone."
Bell believes mental health check-ins should be routine. "You know what happens when I visit my doctor regarding my mental health? He listens. He doesn't downplay my feelings or immediately hand me a pill or tell me what to do. He talks to me about my options," she wrote. "Because when it comes to your brain, there are a lot of different ways to help yourself."
In April, Off Camera host Sam Jones interviewed Bell about the topic, and in May, the black-and-white video went viral. "I'm extremely co-dependent," the Bad Moms star admitted. "I shatter a little bit when I think people don't like me. That's part of why I lead with kindness and I compensate by being very bubbly all the time, because it really hurts my feelings when I know I'm not liked. And I know that's not very healthy, and I fight it all the time." During their chat, Bell revealed she began taking medication for her mental-health issues at a young age. "I still take it today and I have no shame in that, because my mom had said to me, 'If you start to feel this way, talk to your doctor. Talk to a psychologist. See how you want to help yourself.'"
Since seeking professional help, Bell has found the self-confidence and reassurance she needed. "I love my therapist. When I have an issue that I need to work through, going to therapy gives me a bigger toolbox to do so," she told SELF in February 2012. "Talking with friends helps, too. I can say crazy things to my friends, things I'm embarrassed to admit, like, 'I feel so ugly or worthless today.' They say, 'What? You're nuts!' Having good, real friends builds your self-esteem exponentially." Bell echoed those comments in April 2016, telling Live Happy, "The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them. My self-esteem can only come from me, not outside sources. Understanding that was my road to finding a peaceful, happy lifestyle."
While Bell wasn't always so comfortable discussing her depression, she has often touted the benefits of therapy. In fact, it's something she and husband Dax Shepard are both proponents of. "I thought I had this life thing down pat when I met Dax," she recalled to Good Housekeeping in May 2015. "I didn't realize that I needed a much bigger toolbox to have confrontations and disagreements with people. You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don't figure out how to cook without reading a recipe—therapy is not something to be embarrassed about."
As a result of their joint therapy sessions, the actors feel as if they've "earned" each other. "We're very focused on staying together," Bell said. "We've made a choice to love each other, but realize relationships are a lot of work. I think it's responsible to be honest about that."
Responsible, yes, and also helpful. In a survey conducted last year by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 35 percent of adults older than 26 said they believed seeing a mental-health professional was a sign of strength. Among younger people polled, 60 percent agreed that seeing a mental-health professional was the strong thing to do.
Because people tend to mimic the actions and opinions of their favorite stars, Bell's candor only helps to destigmatize depression. "We're all on team human here, and let's be honest—it's not an easy team to be on. It's stressful and taxing and worrisome, but it's also fulfilling and beautiful and bright. In order for all of us to experience the full breadth of team human, we have to communicate. Talking about how you're feeling is the first step to helping yourself," she wrote for TIME's Motto. "Depression is a problem that actually has so many solutions. Let's work together to find those solutions for each other and cast some light on a dark situation."