Kerry Washington is opening up about her most personal struggles with her mental health ahead of the release of her new memoir.
In a promo for her 20/20 special with Robin Roberts, the journalist asks, “You actually contemplated suicide?’
Washington, 46, responds, “Yeah.”
Roberts, 62, quotes her book to her, saying, “You said, ‘I was using alcohol and sometimes food and sometimes weed and sometimes sex to alter my brain chemistry and allow me a dangerously destructive escape.'”
The Scandal alum will open up more when 20/20‘s “Kerry Washington: Thicker Than Water – A Conversation with Robin Roberts” airs on ABC Sunday, September 24 — two days before her book Thicker Than Water hits shelves.
“As a young child, I would lie in bed and listen for signs of how serious each battle was and when it might come to an end,” Washington writes. “Sometimes the entire ‘fight’ would consist of my mother slamming a door to signal that she was done. But sometimes the yelling carried on. I developed panic attacks at night.”
She took it upon herself to be the perfect child, hoping that her good behavior would calm the ever-present tension at home. “After all, I was their dream come true,” she continues. “If their personal failures had made it impossible for them to love themselves and each other, then I would be perfect enough so that they could experience whatever love they needed through me.”
The autobiography is expected to explore her life so far, from her childhood trauma into her Hollywood career and her passion for political advocacy.
This isn’t the first time Washington has spoken out about mental health. Washington has previously opened up about binge eating and compulsive overexercising.
“I used food as a way to cope,” she told Essence in October 2020 while reflecting on her college days. “It was my best friend.”
She added that she would eat “sometimes until I passed out. But then, because I had this personality that was driven toward perfectionism, I would tell people I was at the library, but instead go to the gym and exercise for hours and hours and hours. Keeping my behavior a secret was painful and isolating. There was a lot of guilt and a lot of shame.”
Eventually, Washington acknowledged she needed help and sought out a mental health treatment.
“I started therapy, which I still do today,” Washington said at the time. “I also see a nutritionist and I meditate. Learning how to love myself and my body is a lifelong process. But I definitely don’t struggle the way I used to. Therapy helped me realize that maybe it’s okay for me to communicate my feelings. Instead of literally stuffing them down with food, maybe it’s OK for me to express myself.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.