Howie Mandel talked about his private battle with mental illness on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” He explained that people see him as a happy person, but at home, he feels anything but happiness, especially when he’s by himself. His celebrity status doesn’t make it any easier to cope with his mental health issues.

Mandell shared this news with Kelly Clarkson, who was in disbelief. In response, Mandel said “I’m heavily medicated.”

The 65-year-old told PEOPLE that anxiety and OCD have plagued him since he was a child. He said when he was younger, other kids called him “weird” because he didn’t have any friends at school. Now, however, America’s Got Talent judge jokes that he gets paid to be weird—and points out that every day is still a battle.

He stated, “I’m living in a nightmare. I try to anchor myself. I have a beautiful family and I love what I do. But at the same time, I can fall into a dark depression I can’t get out of.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard for Mandel, who has been married to Terry since 1980 and has three children – Alex, 31; Riley 28; and Jackie 36.

He stated, “There isn’t a waking moment of my life when ‘we could die’ doesn’t come into my psyche. But the solace I would get would be the fact that everybody around me was okay. It’s good to latch onto okay. But [during the pandemic] the whole world was not okay. And it was absolute hell.”

Mandel kept his illnesses a secret until 2006, even though he was diagnosed in his forties. This shows how much Mandel struggled with the decision to go public about his health. He explained, “My first thought was that I’ve embarrassed my family. Then I thought, ‘Nobody is going to hire somebody who isn’t stable.’ Those were my fears.”

Just like other comedians, he used humor to get through the darkest moments of his life.

He added, “My coping skill is finding the funny. If I’m not laughing, then I’m crying. And I still haven’t been that open about how dark and ugly it really gets. Comedy saved me in a way. I’m most comfortable onstage. And when I don’t have anything to do, I turn inward — and that’s not good.”

Even though Mandel says he still has extremely bad depression, he knows that the general public may not understand how severe it truly is. He stated, “People see inconsistencies, especially in the media. ‘Oh he hugged someone’ or ‘he shook someone’s hand. ’ I can shake your hand. But then I’d think I didn’t wash it well enough. And I’d go back and forth in a loop washing my hands for hours. I understand the funny in that. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly painful. And I don’t want to defend my mental health. I just want to maintain it. ”

Mandel stated the importance of speaking up about his mental health in order to remove any negativity or taboo associated with it. He realizes that the journey ahead is not going to be easy, but he hopes that through sharing his story, others will feel less alone and more importantly, understand that there is light at the end of the tunnel.