In a candid interview for the January 28th edition of The Washington Post Katherine Heigl opened up about the mental challenges of being unfairly labeled in Hollywood.

Discussion began with Heigl’s sometimes fractious relationship with Hollywood, in which past opinions and actions had painted a misleading picture of her in the minds of some observers. “I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to ‘she’s ungrateful,’ then that escalated to ‘she’s difficult,’ and that escalated to ‘she’s unprofessional,’ ” Katherine said. “What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don’t like? Now, I’m 42, and that shit pisses me off.”

Katherine was referring to comments made more than a decade ago, where she referred to her hit comedy Knocked Up as “a little sexist” and her decision, one year after winning an Emmy for her role as Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, to abstain from awards consideration because she did not feel that the material she was given was strong enough to warrant it.

Writer Ashley Spencer noted that there was now a growing realization, as the years have passed and the world has changed, that the backlash Katherine received for simply speaking her mind far outweighed her crimes.  “At the time, I was just quickly told to shut the fuck up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it,” Heigl explained. “The more terrified and scared I was of doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong.”

“She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn’t back down from letting you know if she feels like she’s been wronged in any way,” said James Marsden, her 27 Dresses co-star and friend. “I’ve always seen that as just strength of character. I can see how that can get construed as being difficult or ungrateful or whatever. But if you know Katie, it’s simply because she has the courage to stand behind something she believes.”

During the onslaught of backlash that followed, the anxiety Katherine had struggled with since her teenage years began to spiral and as the public narrative continued to spin out, Heigl couldn’t escape her thoughts. “I think my family, my mother, my husband, my friends were scared. And I regret deeply that I scared them like that. But I just couldn’t control it. I had no tools,” she said, adding that mental health issues were rarely discussed in her family. Her husband, singer-songwriter Josh Kelley, recalled being “very worried” despite Heigl’s thick skin and outwardly confident persona. “I can’t imagine what all of that pressure did to her over the years, dealing with celebrity, dealing with people saying things about her that are not true,” he said. “It would be hard for anybody to process that, especially when it’s unjust and a lot of it’s negative.”

Katherine continued, “I asked my mom and my husband to find me somewhere to go that could help me because I felt like I would rather be dead. I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was living with until I got so bad that I had to really seek help. You can do a lot of inner soul work, but I’m a big fan of Zoloft.”

She has since helped to maintain her balance by staying firmly rooted in rural Utah, far away from the goldfish bowl of Los Angeles, revealing that she now felt more in control of her life and happier than when she was in her 30s and 20s.  “I think she has found the person that she truly is, and she’s found her way to be that person with the world,” Kelley explained. “She just seems more at ease with family, career, and life itself, and I’m really super proud of her for that.” Heigl concurs. “I’ve grown into accepting that ambition is not a dirty word, and that it doesn’t make me less of a feminine, loving, nurturing woman to be ambitious and have big dreams and big goals. It’s easier to be happy because I have a little more gentleness for myself.”

To read Katherine’s extensive interview in full, which also includes discussion of her new projects Firefly LaneFear Of Rain and Woodhull, visit the Washington Post website.