“I did have those friends who were lovely and I really appreciate when they were like, ‘Come on! Let’s go to Disneyland!’ and I was like, ‘No, not today. Having a panic attack today,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively. “But the ones who would show up and brought groceries, sat down with me and just wanted to be there, those people made a huge difference.”
On days she would wake up and be having a “hard morning,” certain friends would show up — occasionally armed with “mimosas and eggs” — and “just want to talk,” recalls Williams, 27. “They helped enormously in making me open up to people so I didn’t keep it all in and kind of get to a place of going, ‘This will never not have happened.’ You have to move forward without trying to push it aside, ’cause that doesn’t help.”
The actress — who is helping to promote beauty brand Philosophy’s Hope & Grace Initiative (which supports women living with mental-health issues) and its “How Are You, Really?” campaign that encourages deeper conversations about mental health — also threw herself into writing, setting aside several hours a day to work on scripts and poems.
For more on Zelda Williams’ journey to healing after losing her dad — and her plans for the future — pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
“Put aside the hours whenever everyone else is asleep because a lot of times, especially if you’re depressed, you aren’t going to be sleeping anyhow,” she says. “I’ll write until four in the morning because it actively makes me happy and tires out my brain so I don’t go to sleep overthinking things other than potentially my own plot points from whatever I was writing that night.”
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“I don’t think your skin ever gets any thicker,” she explains. “I’ve never stopped letting people in, sometimes to my detriment. I’m an actress, and I think if I grew a thick skin … and kept the world out, I wouldn’t be very good at my job. I’ve just grown a different sense of humor. Trolling and bullying, especially when it comes to online, can be damaging, but it also has as much power as you give it.”