Kristen Bell talks couples therapy, how Dax Shepard helps her through mental health struggles

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USA TODAY 03 May, 2021 - 11:00am 14 views

Kristen Bell shared how her husband Dax Shepard has helped her navigate mental health struggles prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Kristen Bell says her husband Dax Shepard is "doing really great" following his recent relapse after 16 years of sobriety. USA TODAY

Kristen Bell, who has been a vocal advocate for mental health awareness, is drawing back the curtain to share how she and husband Dax Shepard have been helping each other through difficult times during the pandemic. 

“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” Bell, 40, told Self in an interview published Monday. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it. … I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.’”

Bell said she has dealt with anxiety and depression since she was 18, exacerbated by the challenges of COVID-19. 

“I have trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else’s emotions, and that’s not a compliment to myself. That’s a very dangerous thing to toy with,” she said, noting that the deluge of bad news prompted a “mental zone that wasn’t healthy for my family to be around.”

Enter: Shepard, who gave her some tough love that was initially difficult to take: " 'Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?' " she recalled him saying. " 'Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.' "

"How dare you?" she said at first, but knew it was was ultimately what she needed to hear. The conversation prompted her to donate to No Kid Hungry and give blood to the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center.

Bell tipped her hat to Shepard as someone who "elevates vulnerability to an obsessive level." The two enrolled in couples therapy in early 2020 after feeling like they were "just at each other’s throats," and faced hardships again last fall when Shepard, who had been sober from alcohol and cocaine for 16 years, relapsed with prescription pain pills following a motorcycle accident. 

Shepard has since been open about his dedication to getting back on track and his openness about sharing what happened with the public and with his and Bell's young daughters, 8-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Delta.

"If we’re going to talk about who’s forced who to grow, I will give him the credit,” Bell said of her husband. “He’s just good at trying, and that’s all you can ask of anyone. No one’s perfect. He's proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth.” 

For others who may be struggling, mental health experts suggest everyone should perform regular mental health checks to assess their own well-being – no need to wait until things get bad. Below are some ways you can check in with your own mental health:

People should do these check-ins even when they aren't struggling. It's much easier to prevent a crisis then it is to climb out of one. 

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Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have to schedule sex

Toronto Sun 03 May, 2021 - 07:25pm

Married actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have to schedule sex in their calendar to make sure they have time for intimacy.

The Frozen II star fears the couple, parents to daughters Lincoln, eight, and Delta, six, will go weeks without getting physical if she doesn’t make a point to pencil in bedroom dates, because their lives are so hectic.

However, Kristen admits it doesn’t take much for her to get turned on by Dax because she finds his sense of humour so sexy.

She added: “The stupid s**t he does just by being him is so attractive to me. The beautiful thing about him is he finds the comedy in everything.”

Elsewhere in her interview, the actress discussed her decision to be open about the ups and downs of the stars’ romance.

She explained: “I don’t want any young person feeling like there’s a fantasy out there that they just have to find the right person. That’s not how humans work. People change. People grow… Relationships aren’t a puzzle. You cannot pick them up and put them down.”

Kristen went on to share the advice she gives her own daughters, as she makes sure they understand their privileged upbringing.

She said: “I say to them all the time, ‘I’m not saying you can’t complain. You’re allowed to have any feeling you want, and you’re allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you’re done, I just need you to remember we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard.’”

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Kristen Bell recalls Dax Shepard confronting her about her mental health

msnNOW 03 May, 2021 - 07:00pm

Like many Americans, Kristen Bell found herself glued to the TV as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold in 2020.

“I have trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else’s emotions, and that’s not a compliment to myself. That’s a very dangerous thing to toy with,” Bell told Self in a story published on Monday.

The news cycle took Bell, 40, to such a dark place, that her husband, Dax Shepard, had to intervene. Shepard, 46, was concerned about how Bell's mental health was affecting their daughters, Lincoln, 8, and Delta, 6.

“‘Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?’” Bell remembered Shepard saying. “Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.’”

Initially, the “Frozen” star was outraged. Then, she realized Shepard had a point.

Bell, a longtime mental health advocate, first started taking medication to deal with her anxiety and depression while studying at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“I wasn’t suicidal…. It was just a generalized dark cloud over me. I felt like my real personality was in a tiny cage inside my body,” she revealed.

In addition to a daily selective serotonin inhibitor (SSRI), Bell uses exercise to boost her endorphins. Earlier this year, she shared a photo of herself after completing a cardio workout.

“I’ve been struggling the last 2 weeks, for who-knows-why-slash-ALL-the-reasons,” Bell wrote at the time. “Today I finally got back on the treadmill, figuratively and literally. And I’m proud. To anyone who’s been feeling the same, you can do it.”

Bell has also found that knitting and working on jigsaw puzzles help to clear her mind and keep her off her phone.

“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” she explained while speaking with Self. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it… I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to be; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.”

Bell has been working for years to help end the stigma around mental health.

“It occurred to me that I was showing this very bubbly, bright persona, and that it was unauthentic. Because it wasn’t telling the whole story,” Bell told TODAY Parents in 2018. “I had a pit in my stomach for almost feeling ashamed that I had hidden it for so long, because it could’ve helped people before if I had talked about it.”

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Kristen Bell Says Her 'Mental Zone' During COVID Hasn't Always Been 'Healthy for My Family'

PEOPLE 03 May, 2021 - 01:15pm

In the cover story for Self's May issue, which coincides with mental health awareness month, the actress, 40, spoke about her journey with anxiety and depression, which she has experienced since she was a teenager.

"I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools," she said. "But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, 'No, I'm staying right here. Nothing's worth it…. I'm just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.' "

Over the course of the pandemic, the mother of two said that she has sometimes had "trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else's emotions, and that's not a compliment to myself. That's a very dangerous thing to toy with." 

She says she was at times in a "mental zone that wasn't healthy for my family to be around." 

"'Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?' " she recalled him saying to her at one point. "'Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.' " 

Afterwards, she said she remembered thinking, "'How dare you?' But also, 'You're right.' "

Taking her husband's advice, she went on to give blood to the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center and also donated to No Kid Hungry.

Fortunately, Bell said she has some "good tools" to help her get through any struggles: exercise and meditation. 

As far as her personal mantra, the actress said she tells herself to "do the right thing" which often means "get your ass up and go walk around the block." 

In order to unwind and unplug, the actress has also been doing a lot of puzzles recently. 

"I puzzle a lot because I find it to be the best way to get people to stop talking to you," she said, adding that it's also refreshing knowing that "there's a place for each piece."

How to Actually Cultivate Gratitude and Joy—And Why You Might Want to Try

Self 03 May, 2021 - 01:09pm

Our listener question this week comes from Jenna, who has the incredibly relatable feeling that the world is, well, a terrible place in so many ways. There's a vicious pandemic and relentless instances of racist violence, not to mention anything that might be going on in your personal or work life (which current events can also obviously impact). So, with that in mind, it's hard to know how to go about feeling even a little bit better. 

Ideally, our country would have a network of affordable, accessible mental health care aimed at helping us all cope. That kind of care should be available to us all—and I mean really available, not just theoretically. But even if you do have an excellent, affordable therapist, you might understandably feel pretty awful about the state of things right now. And while I certainly can't promise that gratitude and joy will “fix” anything, they do help a lot of people feel at least a little bit better. 

To explore how such seemingly simple feelings can support our mental health, for this Checking In episode, I first chat with Mariel Buqué, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, holistic mental health practitioner, and sound-bath meditation healer. Dr. Buqué sings the praises of cultivating gratitude and looking for joyful moments for better mental health, and also offers up some concrete strategies for actually doing this in your day-to-day life. Then I speak with actor and mental health advocate Kristen Bell, who is also SELF's May digital cover star. Bell happens to be a big fan of gratitude and finding contentment in quiet moments. In this episode, Bell discusses how seeking out this kind of peace has helped her anxiety and depression; how her husband, Dax Shepard, helps her look out for her mental well-being; and more.

You can follow Kristen Bell on Instagram @kristenanniebell and on Twitter @KristenBell. And here’s SELF’s May digital cover, featuring Bell discussing mental health, parenting in a pandemic, exactly why she's still so in love with Dax, and beyond.

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SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

Dax Shepard keeps drug tests at home following recent relapse

Page Six 03 May, 2021 - 12:41pm

May 3, 2021 | 1:41pm

Dax Shepard keeps drug tests at home so Kristen Bell can test him whenever she sees fit.

Following his recent relapse after 16 years of sobriety, the “Good Place” actress said her husband immediately admitted he needed help.

“[He said,] ‘You can drug-test me whenever you want. I’m going to buy some tests. I’m going to have them in the house. If you ever feel nervous, I want you to have access to this and I’ll do it, no questions asked,'” she revealed in a new interview with Self magazine.

Bell — who wed Shepard in 2013 — added, that she has yet to ask him to take an impromptu test.

“He’s just good at trying, and that’s all you can ask of anyone. No one’s perfect,” she continued. “He’s proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth.”

Shepard, 46, first shared the news of his relapse in September 2020. He revealed that he was taking pills daily following several motorcycle injuries and became “shadier and shadier” about the pill intake.

“I’m lying to other people and I know I have to quit,” he said on his podcast at the time.

Bell, 40, also addressed the relapse on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in October, saying, “He is actually doing really great. I mean look, everybody’s up against their own demons. Sometimes it’s anxiety and depression, sometimes it’s substance abuse and the thing I love most about Dax is a) he was able to tell me and tell us and say we need a different plan.”

Despite the relapse, Bell and Shepard — who share daughters Lincoln, 8, and Delta, 6 — are still going strong.

In her interview, Bell revealed that they re-entered therapy in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and her husband’s relapse to make sure they “didn’t kill each other.”

Kristen Bell praises husband Dax Shepard after drug relapse

Daily Mail 03 May, 2021 - 10:05am

By Carly Stern For Dailymail.com

Kristen Bell says that when her husband, Dax Shepard, relapsed after 16 years of sobriety last summer, he was quick to admit he was 'going down a bad road' — and gave Kristen 'full privilege' to hold him accountable, even if that meant random drug testing.

The 40-year-old actress spoke candidly about Dax's relapse, their marriage, and her own mental health struggles in the May issue of Self, which is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month.

She said that after admitting that he was battling a dependence on painkillers, Dax, 46, gave her 'full privilege ... to call him out on anything,' telling her: 'You can drug-test me whenever you want. I'm going to buy them. I'm going to have them in the house. If you ever feel nervous, I want you to have access to this and I'll do it, no questions asked.'

Cover girl: Kristen Bell, 40, covers the May issue of Self, which is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month

Opening up: She spoke candidly about her husband Dax Shepard's relapse, their marriage, and her own mental health struggles

Partners: When Dax relapsed after 16 years of sobriety, she said, he was quick to admit he was 'going down a bad road'  and gave Kristen 'full privilege' to hold him accountable

Dax had publicly revealed his relapse last September in an episode of his podcast, Armchair Expert, admitting that his problems had started around six months before when he injured his hand and shoulder, and then were exacerbated by a motorcycle accident.

He was prescribed painkillers, but eventually came to buy oxycontin when he ran out. He said he noticed he started 'getting shadier and shadier,' and 'felt so terrible about the lying.'

'And I'm lying to other people and I know I have to quit,' he confessed. 'And I start getting really scared, and I'm starting to feel really lonely. And I just have this enormous secret.'

Though he admitted to 'gaslighting' his wife and his co-host, Monica Padman, at the time, Kristen told Self he came clean 'so quickly.' 

'It was like, "I did something that I don’t want to do. I’m going down a bad road. I want help. I want your help," she recalled. 

Though he encouraged Kristen to drug-test him if she wanted, she says she hasn't resorted to that yet. 

Sticking to it: Though he encouraged Kristen to drug-test him if she wanted, she says she hasn't resorted to that yet

'He's just good at trying, and that's all you can ask of anyone. No one's perfect. He's proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth,' she said

Committed couple: The pair have decided that they ' want to be on the porch with someone when you’re 80?' so they are willing to work for that

'He's just good at trying, and that's all you can ask of anyone. No one's perfect. He's proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth,' she said.

Kristen added that it helps their marriage that they regularly go for couples therapy — something she readily admits so fans don't get fooled into thinking there is some 'fantasy' of a perfect relationship.

'I don't want any young person feeling like there's a fantasy out there that they just have to find the right person,' she said. 'That's not how humans work. People change. People grow… Relationships aren't a puzzle. You cannot pick them up and put them down.'

The pair have decided that they 'want to be on the porch with someone when you’re 80?' so they are willing to work for that — which means, among other things, sharing openly and honestly, even about finding other people attractive.

In fact, when they watched Friday Night Lights together, they were both 'moments away from picking up the phone and asking both Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch if they wanted to join our marriage.'

'He can tell me someone he finds attractive, female or male, ’cause he pauses the Olympics on a lot of runners,' Kristen said

When they watched Friday Night Lights, they were both 'moments away from picking up the phone and asking both Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch if they wanted to join our marriage'

Kristen has also been candid about her own mental health, and has spoken out on numerous occasions about suffering from depression and anxiety.  

'I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,' she told Shape.

'But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, "No, I'm staying right here. Nothing's worth it… I'm just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable."' 

She said that this past year, in particular, has been rough because of so much serious news, and she has, on occasion, needed Dax to help pull her out of it. 

Dax appears to take a logical, tough love approach, and Kristen recalls one moment he came into the bedroom and asked, 'Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?'

He told her: 'Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.'

Honesty: Kristen has also been candid about her own mental health, and has spoken out on numerous occasions about suffering from depression and anxiety

Treasured: The actors also make a point to teach their children, six-year-old Delta and seven-year-old Lincoln, not to take their privilege for granted

Kristen said her immediate response was to be indignant, but she realized he was right, and it motivated her to get up, donate blood to the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center, and give money to No Kid Hungry.

Early in the pandemic, TMZ reported that Kristen and Dax waived rent for tenants in at least two residential buildings that they own. 

The actors also make a point to teach their children, six-year-old Delta and seven-year-old Lincoln, not to take their privilege for granted. 

'I say to them all the time, "I'm not saying you can't complain. You're allowed to have any feeling you want, and you're allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you're done, I just need you to remember we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard,"' she said.

Last month, Dax revealed how he and Kristen talked to their kids about his relapse.

'They knew when I relapsed,' he said on the In Fact with Chelsea Clinton podcast. 'We explained, "Well, Daddy was on these pills for his surgery and then Daddy was a bad boy and he started getting his own pills." Yeah, we tell them the whole thing.'    

'One of the cuter moments was, I wanna say my oldest daughter was three, back when my daughters wanted to be with me 24 hours a day,' the Parenthood actor said. 'She said, "Where are you going?" I said, "I’m going to AA." 

Real talk: Last month, Dax revealed how he and Kristen talked to their kids about his relapse

Funny moments: Dax shared how one of his daughters once asked to go with him to an AA meeting

'She said, "Why do you have to go?" I said, "Because I’m an alcoholic and if I don’t go there, then I’ll drink and then I’ll be a terrible dad."'

Dax said that his daughter asked him if she could go with him, and he told her that she had 'to be an alcoholic' to go. 

'And she goes, "I’m gonna be an alcoholic." I said, "You might become one. The odds are not in your favor, but you’re not there yet,"' he said.

Dax also described the heavy emotion he experienced when he had to go back to a meeting.

'I had to go to my f***ing meeting I’ve been going to for 16 years … it was terrible,' he said. 'Weirdly, it was terrible leading up to it, because I had built this whole identity in my head around having 16 years.

'I loved having 16 years. I was holding onto that so much, I was really scared of not having that ... eventually, I couldn't do it and I had to tell on myself.' 

Kristen, meanwhile, told Ellen DeGeneres in October, that she and Dax were 'going back to therapy.'

'He's addicted to evolving,' she said. 'He was like, "I don't want to risk this family and I did, so let's put new things in place to make sure it doesn't happen again." 

'I will continue to stand by him because he's very, very worth it,' she added.  

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Kristen Bell Says Dax Shepard Bought Himself Drug Tests After Relapse

Entertainment Tonight 03 May, 2021 - 09:42am

"We realized, 'OK, our math wasn’t working.' I mean, he admitted it so quickly. It was like, 'I did something that I don’t want to do. I’m going down a bad road. I want help. I want your help,'" she recalls. "And I looked at him and I said, 'OK, you come up with the new math.'"

Part of their new normal was Shepard giving Bell "full privilege to call him on anything," and offering to be drug tested at any time.

"[He said,] 'You can drug-test me whenever you want. I’m going to buy some tests. I’m going to have them in the house. If you ever feel nervous, I want you to have access to this and I’ll do it, no questions asked,'" she shares. 

While Bell didn't completely write off the idea of drug testing her husband, she's yet to do so.

"He’s just good at trying, and that’s all you can ask of anyone. No one’s perfect," she explains. "He's proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth."

Shepard's relapse came amid quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time Bell and Shepard reentered therapy because they were "just at each other’s throats." The decision to seek help, Bell says, made it so they "didn't kill each other."

"It’s so obvious now, that every two years, you have to go back," she says of therapy.

Being open about seeking marital help is just one example of Bell and Shepard's unfiltered presentation of their lives and relationship to the public, even with The Good Place actress' "desire, this knee-jerk, to present perfection."

"If we’re going to talk about who’s forced who to grow, I will give him the credit. [He] elevates vulnerability to an obsessive level," Bell says of Shepard, whom she also praises for encouraging her to speak out about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

As for why Shepard believes in being so candid with their followers and fans, Bell notes that her husband doesn't "want any young person feeling like there’s a fantasy out there that they just have to find the right person. That’s not how humans work. People change. People grow."

Through both the happy moments and the challenges, Bell says that she and Shepard are determined to make their marriage last.

"Do you want to be on the porch with someone when you’re 80?" she asks. "We both want that."

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Kristen Bell on Seeking Peace, Parenting Her Kids, and Still Being So Damn in Love With Dax

Self 03 May, 2021 - 05:00am

How is Bell, actor, producer, and the somewhat rare not-annoying mom influencer/purveyor of CBD skin-care? “I am currently fulfilled,” she replies with a nod from the set of her new Netflix miniseries, the dark comedy-thriller The Woman in the House. Bell is eating a sandwich in her trailer (6:15 p.m. is lunch when you film until the wee hours) and wearing a caramel-colored bang hairpiece. “Going back to work was a little nerve-wracking,” Bell tells me, but it was necessary for her sense of balance—a word she hates but that seems unavoidable when talking about mothers and their careers. Like millions of parents across the country, “I was in my house for one year with a six- and a seven-year-old”—her daughters Delta and Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard (as everyone who tracks their life like a reality show well knows).

But Bell isn’t one to leave it at that, allowing any reader of this story to think she’s a perfectly cute super celebrity, the actor behind Veronica Mars, Sarah Marshall, Gossip Girl, and the unmistakably chipper Anna from Frozen. Bell acknowledges she had the privilege of sheltering in a luxurious space. “I say to [my kids] all the time, ‘I’m not saying you can’t complain. You’re allowed to have any feeling you want, and you’re allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you’re done, I just need you to remember,’” she says, “‘we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard.’” But she is also one of the millions of people for whom the pandemic, in all of its uncertainty and tragedy, exacerbated existing mental health issues.

“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” she tells me. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it…. I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.’”

Bell, who turns 41 in July, has experienced anxiety and depression since age 18, when she left her native Michigan to study acting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “Why do I feel terrible and exhausted every day?” she asked herself then. “I wasn’t suicidal…. It was just a generalized dark cloud over me. I felt like my real personality was in a tiny cage inside my body.” Her mom, Lorelei, a registered nurse, had already pulled her aside to tell her about a hereditary component: Both Lorelei and Bell’s grandmother experienced anxiety and depression too. Lorelei dispelled any sense of shame or stigma, including about medication, asking Bell to consider why she was denying herself medication that could truly help her. (Bell has spoken about taking daily SSRI medications.)

Exercise is also chief among the aforementioned “good tools” that get Bell through, ever since college, when she started walking around New York City. She says exercising helps keep her patient and happy. In January she shared a slightly sweaty, makeup-free pic of herself on Instagram: “I’ve been struggling the last 2 weeks, for who-knows-why-slash-ALL-the-reasons. Today I finally got back on the treadmill, figuratively and literally. And I’m proud,” she wrote. “To anyone who’s been feeling the same, you can do it.”

Bell makes her days feel more manageable with a meditation borrowed from Anna, her Frozen alter ego: “Do the next right thing.” Often that means telling herself, “Get your ass up and go walk around the block.” Relatably, she goes through workout phases: L.A.-based studio Metamorphosis, a Pilates and circuit training mashup, is a favorite. During quarantine Bell relied on trainer Charlie Curtis (conveniently, he’s a friend and a member of her pandemic pod) and Indoorphins, his at-home nonintimidating yet high-intensity classes. Bell also employs the grand-millennial coping tactics of knitting and puzzling. “I puzzle a lot because I find it to be the best way to get people to stop talking to you,” she says matter-of-factly. It gives the multihyphenate and multitasker a much-needed mental break from said pod (which also includes Ryan Hansen, who played the fratty Dick Casablancas on Veronica Mars), on top of acting, producing, and hatching Happy Dance, her CBD product line. If you crave theories on the broad appeal of puzzling in the pandemic, Bell is happy to oblige: You don’t look at your phone, there’s no deadline, stakes, or room for creativity. Most of all, puzzles bring a semblance of order to a world of chaos: “There’s a place for each piece.”

Bell comes off like a natural sharer. She is a woman who once divulged on The Talk that her kids walked in on her and Shepard having sex. Shepard’s gassiness also comes up in the course of our Zoom session. Still, I think aloud that she doesn’t have to post her low moments to Instagram, or air them with me, an ostensible stranger. She could just let fans and followers believe the sprightly, superficial version of her. “You do, though,” Bell disagrees. “You have a responsibility…to try and make the world a safer, better place for other human beings.” Sometimes, Bell admits, “I still have this desire, this knee-jerk, to present perfection.” Enter Shepard, who consistently checks her, asking: “Are you being honest? Are you telling the whole story?”

Bell laughs and tells me it’s not entirely wrong. She herself once told Esquire that “you couldn’t find two more extremes,” adding, “I don’t know if I’ve even seen cocaine at a party, let alone done it.” But that was back in 2012, the year before Bell and Shepard got married in a $142 ceremony at a Beverly Hills courthouse; they’d been together for five years but didn’t want to marry until their partnered same-sex friends gained the same legal right.

Seven years later, “if we’re going to talk about who’s forced who to grow, I will give him the credit,” Bell tells me. Shepard “elevates vulnerability to an obsessive level.” He is the one who first urged Bell to speak publicly about her mental health issues, and about the fact that, although like Barack and Michelle Obama, they are hailed as #relationshipgoals—they do face masks together in bed! He once gifted her a birthday visit from a sloth, her favorite animal!—they also do stints in couples therapy and have gotten into at least one fight so bad they both “blacked out,” she said on the podcast Life Is Short With Justin Long. “I don’t want any young person feeling like there’s a fantasy out there that they just have to find the right person,” she says as she sums up Shepard’s philosophy, continuing to describe his takeaways: “That’s not how humans work. People change. People grow.” Marriage is much more complicated than “‘I just haven’t found my perfect piece,’” Bell says, “because relationships aren’t a puzzle. You cannot pick them up and put them down. Are you loving this puzzle through line?"

Shepard subsequently gave Bell “full... control’s not the right word,” she says. “Full privilege, maybe, to call him on anything.” After relapsing, Bell says, Shepard told her: “You can drug-test me whenever you want. I’m going to buy some tests. I’m going to have them in the house. If you ever feel nervous, I want you to have access to this and I’ll do it, no questions asked.” According to Bell, Shepard wanted the safety net of knowing that, at any moment, he could be tested. Bell didn’t balk. Her response: “Maybe, some day. Why not?” When I ask her about the impact of being married to someone with substance-use issues—she has in the past been skewered online for smoking weed around Shepard—Bell praises Shepard. “He’s just good at trying, and that’s all you can ask of anyone. No one’s perfect,” she adds. “He's proven to me that he is committed to evolving and he loves personal growth.” As she told Ellen DeGeneres of Shepard’s relapse last October: “Everybody’s up against their own demons. Sometimes it’s anxiety and depression, sometimes it’s substance abuse.”

The pandemic dealt a blow to many couples’ sex lives, but Bell and Shepard aren’t among them. They still regularly schedule sex: “There are some times when it’s in the calendar. You're like, ‘I know you’re tired, but it’s been two weeks, so we really got to get to it.” Bell says she remains turned on by Shepard’s sense of humor, whether he’s filling his cooling mattress pad with water “because he runs hot, like a silverback, at night,” or buying a safe for his toiletries, ranting (in a kind of cute way) about how his family members steal his nail clippers. “The stupid shit he does just by being him is so attractive to me,” says Bell, who has a deliciously blunt, sometimes blue, streak. “The beautiful thing about him is he finds the comedy in everything.”

Both Bell’s and Shepard’s parents are divorced—many times on each side, she says—but the couple is determined to have a different outcome. “Do you want to be on the porch with someone when you’re 80?” Bell asks. “We both want that.” And so they don’t just share openly with the world, but with each other, too. “He can tell me someone he finds attractive, female or male, ’cause he pauses the Olympics on a lot of runners,” Bell says, “but it doesn’t make me feel like he’s going to leave me for that person because I’m not allowing my self-esteem to be affected. I know there are people on Planet Earth that are more attractive than me, and well, we’re not dead. I have to acknowledge we’re monkeys.” When Bell and Shepard were watching Friday Night Lights, for instance: “We were moments away from picking up the phone and asking both Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch if they wanted to join our marriage.”

As white parents, Bell and Shepard are united in a mission to raise socially conscious, antiracist kids in the privileged bubble of Hollywood. Over the past year she and Shepard showed their daughters pictures of Black Lives Matter uprisings in L.A. and anti-mask riots in Michigan, then asked them to notice the differences. They’ve renamed the game of hangman at their home after Bell explained what lynching is, “and that is terrible,’” she said to them, “‘and that’s one of the reasons that the Black Lives Matter movement exists and is important.’” Instead they call the game “Full-man.” When it comes to how they give their children perspective on their privilege in the world, Bell’s stance is clear: “Be super fucking honest with them.”

Being the breadwinner as a woman still defies the societal and marital norm, but Bell doesn’t really “have the desire to walk [Shepard] through his feelings about it,” she says, showcasing some of the bite that pops up in her onscreen roles. “He can get over it.” Providing for her family is a source of self-esteem, but Bell says she doesn’t think about it often: “I got a lot of opportunity, you’re sharing in it, we’re able to provide for a ton of our family members who may or may not be struggling,” she says, as if addressing Shepard. Plus, she doesn’t divvy up the money in her head—nor does the couple have a prenup: “I don’t look at it like, ‘This is mine and this is yours.’ I’m like, ‘This is ours. Get over it.’”

Bell backpedals a smidge. Of course, “I would talk to him about it if he felt emasculated, but… certainly, it’s not on my list to be like, ‘Let me make sure he’s okay.’” As Bell sums up her career: “I have had a shit ton of opportunity. I’ve also worked my ass off.”

Bell has been a name since her breakout role on Veronica Mars in 2004, a cult series that wormed its way deep into fans’ hearts. So deep that the so-called Marshmallows crowdfunded the $5.7 million budget for the 2014 film adaptation. She maintains she’d play Veronica forever. “I never want to say her journey’s over. I would play her until she’s Murder She Wrote, and we do some cool twists where you realize she’s been killing everybody and I’m the only one left,” Bell says. “If people are really like, ‘We want Veronica back,’ then, great, I’ll totally do it. But that’s going to have to come from them, and we will patiently wait, biting our nails.” Even so, evolving the fictional world of Neptune, California, has already posed creative challenges. “There’s only so long you can play out a love affair…and let me tell you, people were angry that we killed Logan,” Bell says. “I’m still proud of the way that we did it. I thought we matured it. Same thing with Frozen II.”

Thirteen years after first lending her tart soprano’s voice to Gossip Girl’s now iconic voiceovers, she will return for the forthcoming HBO Max reboot. “I’m a loyal friend. It’s silly, but it is true. I have a sincere respect for the things that helped me get where I am,” she says. “I could have said no, but the reality is, it’s a pretty easy job.”

She’s reached the age when women actors see leading roles start to dwindle, but Bell marvels: “I feel so grateful for the place I am now. I have bigger opportunities that I never thought I’d have in my life,” including the freedom to choose her projects instead of waiting for whatever she gets, or “hammering auditions.” But Bell still reads for things, and she’s determined to never take her career “so seriously that I think it deserves to be mine, because I think that’s the moment it will go away.” She loves a Twitter bio she saw at some point that read, “Everything deserves to be loved and everything deserves to be made fun of.” It’s not just Shepard who checks her; she’s been known to poke at her ego, telling herself: “Careful, you’re not curing cancer.’”

But the pandemic also infused Bell with a newfound respect for the role of entertainment, as people stuck at home, isolated and perhaps struggling like she was, found sparks of joy in bingeing Veronica Mars or The Good Place or therapeutically belting the Frozen II soundtrack at top volume. “I’ve been a part of some fluff, and it’s awesome,” she said, but that so-called fluff has perhaps never been more meaningful. Just as exercise and puzzling helped her cope, Bell’s sparkly canon helped people through the darkest of times. “Hearing that,” she said, “made my heart grow 10 sizes.”

Kristen Bell

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