Work had always been her salvation. “I’m a person who fills my schedule with busyness so that I feel less alone or less nervous or less unsettled,” a tearful Reese Witherspoon confessed during an on stage chat with her pal, Tracee Ellis Ross, at Hello Sunshine’s Shine Away event in L.A. on October 21. “About a year ago, I started to realize that isn’t going to work for me. I was a robot, and the robot broke. I cried and cried. It actually makes me feel very vulnerable sharing that with y’all, but it’s important…. Sometimes you are the glue in everybody’s life, whether it’s at work or being a mom or being a partner, but who is holding you together, you know?”

She had secretly fallen apart. “I didn’t feel like I was taking very good care of myself,” admits Reese, who went through a painful divorce from Jim Toth, her husband of nearly 12 years, in March and was named Forbes’ wealthiest self-made female actor in the world two months later. (She’d sold a stake in Hello Sunshine for nearly $1 billion in 2021.) “And I wasn’t asking other people for help.” It wasn’t until she finally did — by reaching out to her tight circle of friends and calling on years of therapy and self-help lessons — that Reese finally put herself back together. “This was the worst year of her life,” a source exclusively tells In Touch. “But she survived and came out of it stronger than ever.” 

Fixing What’s Broken 

The famously type-A actress had been juggling a massive workload for years. “She is one of the most highly productive human beings I’ve ever encountered. I just look at her plate and think, you absolutely exhaust me, just looking at your plate,” Jennifer Aniston said recently. Reese’s other Morning Show co-star Julianna Margulies agreed: “I don’t have it in me to do what she does. Reese somehow manages to compartmentalize.”

Sometimes to the detriment of her mental health. The self-described “high-strung person” has long struggled with anxiety, which she says manifests as depression. “It’s like my brain is like a hamster on a wheel and it won’t come off, and I’ve been managing it my entire life,” says the 47-year-old, who has been in therapy since she was 16. She also suffered from postpartum depression after having two of her three kids (Ava, 24, Deacon, 20, and Tennessee, 11). One of her bouts was so severe, she was heavily medicated, “because I wasn’t thinking straight at all” she recalls, adding that when she stopped breastfeeding Ava, “I felt more depressed than I’d ever felt in my entire life. It was scary. Completely out of control. I just white-knuckled that.”

Ava Elizabeth Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Deacon Reese Phillippe
(Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter)

As a result, she applied her industrious spirit to healing. “I did the work — the hard work — in my early 20s,” she says. “Reading every self-help book and going to therapy and really trying to understand myself and forgive the parts of myself that were broken and the parts of myself where I felt like a failure.” She also surrounded herself with the right people. The Oscar winner credits a close network of women, including Tracee, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Garner, for keeping her “safe and sane,” she says. “My girlfriends have saved my life.” Even her Instagram fans have helped. “To be able to talk to people directly about what’s going on in my life and just share it in the way that I share great professional experiences or personal experiences, it feels much more authentic,” she explains of her decision to tell all to her fans in a series of emotionally raw posts on Instagram both before and after her split from Jim. “And then it became about this wonderful community and relationship that I have with people who are pretty like minded.” 

Ongoing Struggle 

But she still has her off days. She suffered from panic attacks before filming 2014’s Wild and confessed it was a “vulnerable time” after her divorce. “I’ve definitely had a lot of not-sane moments in my life, crying on the kitchen floor and my kids putting their stuffed animals on me going, ‘It’s going to be OK mom,’ ”she admits. “But I feel really fortunate that I am able to get help, that at times that I’ve needed it, I’ve been able to take medicine. I’ve learned coping mechanisms my entire life. Depression is real. There’s nothing embarrassing or shameful about any of this.”

But lately, she’s realized the best remedy for her issues may be the most difficult — stepping away from Hollywood. “I’ve been trying really hard to find balance outside of work,” Reese says. That means learning to delegate more and “dialing down her work hours,” says the source, noting that Reese has already begun spending more time with loved ones, including a recent girls’ trip to Paris with her mom, Betty Reese, and two nieces. “Reese is embracing this new chapter of her life — looking forward to the future, reflecting on everything she’s been through and trying not to judge herself for taking a break when she needs it.” And continuing to find lessons from her failures. “I’ve learned a lot,” she says,“and I reward myself for the hard things that little Reese went through.”

Inside Her Bond With Jen

Reese relies heavily on her support network of women, and that help goes both ways. “I think back to being pregnant. This one [Reese] was sitting next to me. I was going through a very public, very hard moment in my life,” her good friend Jennifer Garner, 51, revealed at the Shine Away event. “She was right there.” The Last Thing He Told Me star, who was expecting son Sam in 2011 when then-husband Ben Affleck, 51, entered rehab, added, “And the way I needed to get through it was dance cardio. And I danced cardio-d so hard, we broke her foot, but she kept going! She was like, ‘I’m going to be there. I’m going to be there.’”

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at