Mara Wilson is best known for her role as Matilda in the 1996 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic, where she played an extraordinary 6-year-old who stood out from her family and friends.
Now 35 years old, the former child actress appeared on Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown podcast where the two discussed Wilson’s early career on camera. Despite starring in notable films including Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street and Matilda, Wilson recalls the onset of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the death of her mother as the defining parts of her childhood.
Wilson wasn’t aware of what those moments of worry or panic actually meant at the time. She recalled “hearing the word anxiety” but never in conjunction with her behavior.
The panic attacks weren’t the only thing that Wilson was dealing with at that age, but instead only supplemented the rituals that she created with her undiagnosed OCD.
Although Wilson didn’t know what she was struggling with, she had the awareness to speak with her guidance counselor at school.
She did enough research herself to know that as a young girl, she related to descriptions of the disorder.
Wilson also had a studio teacher working with her on a movie set who seemed to validate her struggle.
Wilson shared that it was difficult to get her dad, who was a widow and single father after her mom’s death, to “accept that there was something wrong with me.” She said, “I think parents want to blame themselves for it. And they don’t want to damn their kids with a diagnosis.”
Ultimately, it was starting therapy at about 12 years old and getting an evaluation that changed the course for Wilson going forward.
“I think I was on Zoloft at the time. I’m on Lexapro now and it helps because I could not function without it. And I was diagnosed with severe OCD and I couldn’t have functioned without it,” she said. “That diagnosis saved me.”