Christy Carlson Romano is ready to “throw a wrench” at the image of the picture-perfect girl she grew up playing on TV.
The former child star, who became a staple on the Disney Channel in the early aughts thanks to starring roles in series like “Even Stevens” and “Kim Possible,” opened up about her private battle with depression, drinking and self-harm in a powerful essay for Teen Vogue.
“I have never been perfect or pulled together as my reputation or the success of my young adulthood might suggest,” she wrote in the essay published on Monday. “During a period of time in my life, I grappled with depression, drinking, and more, desperate to find fixes for how I felt.”
Carlson Romano wrote that starring on a television show as a teenager gave her a hollow sense of self-worth, which left her feeling isolated in both the entertainment industry and her real life off-camera. At the height of her fame, she became “intensely jealous” of other kids who didn’t spend their days on set and nights in tutoring sessions.
“I was insecure. I had a swinging confidence in my abilities which pushed me to get on camera, perform, and make money,” Carlson Romano wrote. “My personal value was irrelevant until validated by my most recent accomplishment.”
The Disney Channel alum referenced her “Even Stevens” co-star Shia LaBeouf in the essay, comparing the actor’s more public struggles to her own breakdown. LaBeouf most recently sought treatment for substance abuse after a 2017 arrest for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
After “Even Stevens” ended in 2003, Carlson Romano left Hollywood behind, albeit it temporarily, and sought out the “normal” life at college. But there her “glamorized fantasy of adolescence” met up with the reality that life isn’t a teen movie. She dropped out of school and headed down a dangerous path.
“I became a bit harder-edged, binge-drank more at loud nightclubs, and started to accept the transient natures of love, sex, and friendship,” she wrote, adding that she used to self-harm during this period. “Growing up, I entertained thousands of families only to feel completely lonely.”
For the next decade, Carlson Romano said she “struggled with all of my relationships, alcohol usage, and career path.” Eventually, she returned to college, earning a degree in film studies at Barnard College. That’s also when she met her husband, Brendan Rooney.
The couple, who wed in 2013 in a winter-themed ceremony, now share two young daughters, Isabella and Sophia.
Carlson Romano wrote that she hasn’t touched alcohol since before her first pregnancy and that she’s committed to remaining sober for the sake of her children and her mental health.
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“Anyone reading this, or anyone who decides to go into the entertainment business (including my daughters, should that time come), know this: having a clear understanding of your personal value helps to positively shape everything you do,” she concluded. “If you don’t, if you aren’t careful, you just might end up getting what everyone else wishes for but wondering what you want yourself.”
To read Carlson Romano’s full essay, head over to Teen Vogue.