Stephen Colbert shares his struggle with anxiety and why he stopped taking Xanax

Stephen Colbert is opening up about how he's been able to deal with anxiety.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, the 54-year-old Late Show host recalls how he needed to be medicated when he was younger, and that he had a "nervous breakdown" after he got married to his wife, Evelyn, in 1993.

"I was actually medicated," he says. "I mean, in the most common, prosaic way. Xanax was just lovely. Y’know, for a while. And then I realized that the gears were still smoking. I just couldn’t hear them anymore. But I could feel them, I could feel the gearbox heating up and smoke pouring out of me, but I was no longer walking around a couch."

"I had a bit of a nervous breakdown after I got married -- kind of panic attacks," he continues. "My wife would go off to work and she’d come home -- because I worked at night -- and I’d be walking around the couch. And she’s like, 'How was your day?' And I’d say, 'You’re looking at it.' Just tight circles around the couch."

Colbert says he was able to deal with his severe anxiety by performing. 

"I would go to the show, and I would curl up in a ball on the couch backstage and I would wait to hear my cue lines," he remembers. "Then I would uncurl and go onstage and I’d feel fine. Which occurred to me at the time: Like, 'Oh, you feel fine when you’re out here.' And then as soon as I got offstage, I’d just crumble into a ball again. Nobody ever asked me what was wrong! It went on for months."

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Stephen Colbert attends 'Rei Kawakubo/Commes Des Garcons: Art of the In-Between' at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic))
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Stephen Colbert (L) and Evelyn McGee attend the 'Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between' Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images For Entertainment Weekly)
MONTCLAIR, NJ - APRIL 30: Stephen Colbert and John Turturro arrive at Conversation Series Discussion at the Montclair Film Festival 2017 Day Three on April 30, 2017 in Montclair, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Montclair Film Festival)
MONTCLAIR, NJ - APRIL 28: Stephen Colbert and Dolores Huerta arrive at Montclair Film Festival 2017 Opening Night on April 28, 2017 in Montclair, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Montclair Film Festival)
NEW YORK - APRIL 25: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest John Legend, Kelly Osbourne, Dr John during Tuesday's 4/25/20 show. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 17: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert during Monday's 04/17/17 show in New York. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 6: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on *Thursday, April 6, 2017 Special Hybrid Episode: Jessica Lange; Bassem Youssef; Judy Gold. (Photo by Mary Kouw/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Evelyn McGee-Colbert and Stephen Colbert attends 'The Play That Goes Wrong' Broadway Opening Night at the Lyceum Theatre on April 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK - MARCH 27: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Tuesday March 27, 2017 with Lily Tomlin & Jane Fonda; Jay Chandrasekhar; musical performance by Aimee Mann (Photo by Richard Boeth/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 31: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Friday March 31, 2017 with Susan Sarandon, Joey McIntyre, Robert Klein. (Photo by Richard Boeth/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 21: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 with guest Ryan Reynolds (Photo by Mary Kouw/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 14: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Tuesday, March 14, 2017 with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Todd Barry. (Photo by Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 13: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, interviews with Ewan McGregor, Finn Wittrock and musical performance by The Shins on Monday's taping in New York. Pictured left to right: Finn Wittrock and Stephen Colbert. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 6: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Monday, March 6, 2017 with Judd Apatow. (Photo by Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 6: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Monday, March 6, 2017 with Anderson Cooper, Judd Apatow and musical performance by Jidenna. (Photo by Timothy Kuratek/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 28: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing Tuesday February 28, 2017 with Lisa Kudrow; former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest; comedian Tony Rock. (Photo by Richard Boeth/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 17: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 with guests Julie Andrews; Christina Hendricks (Photo by Mary Kouw/CBS via Getty Images)
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The comedian explains his decision to quickly stop taking Xanax, a medication commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders.

"I stopped the Xanax after, like, nine days," he reveals. "I went, 'This isn’t helping.' So I just suffered through it. I’d sometimes hold the bottle, to go like, 'I could stop this feeling if I wanted, but I’m not going to. Because I know if I stop the feeling, somehow I’m not working through it, like I have got to go through the tunnel with the spiders in it.' And then one morning I woke up and my skin wasn’t on fire, and it took me a while to figure out what it was. I wake up the next morning, I’m perfectly fine, to the point where my body’s still humming. I’m a bell that’s been rung so hard that I can still feel myself vibrating. But the actual sound was gone [because] I was starting rehearsal that day to create a new show. And then I went, 'Oh, my God, I can never stop performing.'" 

"Creating something is what helped me from just spinning apart like an unweighted flywheel," he notes. "And I haven’t stopped since. Even when I was a writer I always had to be in front of a camera a little bit. I have to perform."

During the candid interview, Colbert also came to the defense of fellow late night host Jimmy Fallon, who faced criticism after interviewing Donald Trump in September 2016 before he became president. Fallon was accused of being too playful with Trump -- at one point, running his hand through his hair -- and not asking him any difficult questions.

"I think that’s a completely unfair critique of Jimmy Fallon’s show," Colbert comments. "You do not go to Jimmy Fallon’s show for political satire or even political discussion. He’s an entertainer and he’s brilliant. People blame his ratings on that. But I think people just have a different appetite right now for political comedy. I think it’s highly overblown, that hair-ruffling thing."

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