Colton Haynes has all the makings of a heartthrob: a model-turned-actor who took his talents (and chiseled jawline) from campaigns for Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch to scene-stealing turns on fan-favorite shows like MTV's "Teen Wolf" and The CW's "Arrow". But while his career was on the rise, the actor was struggling internally with his own mental health, a battle that would force him to pull back from a career he had worked for since he was 15.
"I asked to step away because I cared more about my mental and physical health than my career at the time," Haynes revealed to Entertainment Weekly. "I've had terminal anxiety my entire life. Physically ill, fainting. I'm 27 years old, and I have an ulcer. I had to step back."
"It was a complete shock. I wasn't ready to be back in the headlines," Haynes said of his cheeky response to a Tumblr post about his "secret gay past." "I should have made a comment or a statement, but I just wasn't ready. I didn't feel like I owed anyone anything. I think in due time, everyone has to make those decisions when they're ready, and I wasn't yet. But I felt like I was letting people down by not coming forward with the rest of what I should have said."
At the time, it was more important for the actor -- who has been out for most of his life to those closest to him -- to take care of himself. Haynes checked into rehab for anxiety and admitted to several stints as he wrestled with both his public persona and internal strife.
"People want you to be that GQ image that you put out, but people don't realize what it's like to act 24 hours a day. I'd go home and I was still acting," he explained. "People who are so judgmental about those who are gay or different don't realize that acting 24 hours a day is the most exhausting thing in the world."
The actor opened up to ET about the incident in February, explaining that he didn't expect the comment to take off like it did. "I have no filter. I don't really follow the stereotypical rules," he said at the time. "I don't feel like it's anyone's business. Just try to live life."
Nowadays, Haynes is "healthier than ever" and back in the biz, guest-starring as Rob Lowe's TV son on "The Grinder", voicing Thor in Marvel's Avengers Academy app, returning to his fashion roots with his own clothing line and setting his eyes on new creative passions like theater, photography, and music. He's also eager to return to his Arsenal role on "Arrow "whenever the DC superhero show comes calling, as they did with a recent season four episode.
"Working for [executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] was the greatest experience of my life, and when he offered me Arrow, it was a new beginning for me," the actor gushed. "I would love to do more. They know I love them. I'd go back in a second."
The actor also stays connected with fans through his somewhat eccentric social media accounts, where he posts throwback modeling shots, selfies with his bestie Serena Williams, and photos of his epic efforts for Halloween and costume parties for his millions of followers to gush over.
"People think there's this working machine behind it all, but the machine is my weird personality," he said with a laugh. "I think I have a good outlook on life, and I like to share that. There's no filter. I mean, a couple of Instagram filters, but not an actual communication filter."
It's been a wild ride, but Haynes is just getting started, putting himself and his mental health first as he moves on to the exciting next phase of his career.
"It took me so long to get to this point, but I'm doing so good," he marveled. "I'm happier than I've ever been, and healthier than I've ever been, and that's what I care about."