Back in January, Arrow star Stephen Amell had a panic attack while discussing how busy his schedule had become on an episode of Inside of You, a podcast hosted by actor Michael Rosenbaum. Now, Amell returned to the podcast to reveal that he recently had COVID-19—and although enduring the physical symptoms of the virus was tough, Amell said having to isolate and worry about the consequences of him being sick also triggered his anxiety.
Amell, who is currently filming a new Starz show about professional wrestling called Heels, said he was already in isolation when he tested positive because someone else who works on the show had already tested positive. On the first day he experienced symptoms, they were generally mild, he said, and included a plugged ear and feeling hot and cold, although he “never ran a fever.” But over the next two days, he felt much worse.
He received a second positive test to confirm his results, “but, frankly, at that point I didn’t need a second positive test because those first positive days—they just sucked,” he said. “For two nights I was up every couple of hours vacillating between freezing cold and boiling hot. I’d be freezing cold because I would sweat through all [my clothes]. I would get up, dry off, change my clothes, get back into bed, warm up, and then start sweating again and the cycle would just repeat.” Amell also said he felt like he was “in a fog” for those few days, had no appetite, and felt dizzy whenever he tried to get up from the couch too quickly.
But the mental health effects of having COVID-19 and being forced to isolate while feeling so awful also took its toll, too, he said. Although he wasn’t worried about dying, he did feel “a great deal of pressure” and anxiety about potentially putting other people on the show out of work while he recovered. “When it happened and I got the positive test, [my first thought was], Holy fuck, I just destroyed this show because I’m number one on the call sheet and I work every day more or less,” he said. “In my head I’m going, Shit, they’re going to have to shut down the production. Did I just ruin this?”
During the first few days of his illness, Amell said he got a few calls from other people working on the show to check in and reassure him that the project would continue. “That took away the fear and the real anxiety that I’ve gone and cost a lot of people their jobs,” he said, “But it only lasts so long. And then you’re just left with your thoughts.”
Being unable to exercise and to see his family (his daughter had to postpone a trip to visit him), Amell said he really began to feel his anxiety creep up. “There’s a real mental game that goes into that isolation. It’s not a whole heck of a lot of fun. Your mind starts playing tricks on you.”
The pandemic is having all kinds of negative effects on our mental health right now, SELF explained previously. Thanks to the long-term stress of living through this event, experts say it’s not unusual to experience PTSD, depression, and anxiety among those who’ve had COVID-19 and those who haven’t. But the way the symptoms of those conditions manifest will, of course, be unique to each individual. Experts recommend taking advantage of telehealth options right now to access mental health care as well as support groups for people experiencing the same things you are. For instance, online support groups for COVID-19 survivors (like Survivor Corps) are popping up to help people feel less alone in their recovery.
Now, Amell has been recovering in isolation for over three weeks and is cleared to go back to work. Although he felt like he was doing a lot to be safe before getting sick, “in the aftermath of this, I’m going to be even more stringent,” he said, noting that he would be especially diligent about wearing a mask in public.
Amell also took the opportunity to remind everyone that COVID-19 is very real—and can be very serious in some cases. “It doesn’t matter what you feel about COVID. The fact remains is that it’s a real fucking thing and it can get really bad for people,” he said. “You have to think about [your] community and how it might affect other people.”