“Grey’s Anatomy” alum and “Supergirl” actress Chyler Leigh was candid this week when discussing her struggle with bipolar disorder, a condition she was diagnosed with a decade ago but only recently decided to talk about publicly.
Leigh said she had a lot of anxiety following her initial diagnosis, exacerbated by the fact that she saw her mother live with bipolar disorder as well.
“My mother was diagnosed with — at the time they were calling it manic depression — and I saw such an extreme version,” she told People. “Because I saw what happens when you aren’t advocating for yourself or taking care of yourself, when I first got the bipolar diagnosis it was sort of like, ‘Oh my gosh, if that was me, how on Earth am I going to deal with this?’ Am I in the same place? Am I equipped? Do I have what it takes to actually really genuinely take care of myself?’”
Leigh, 37, said she felt like she was “drowning” before receiving the diagnosis, which she noted came after a particularly “intense” time for her and her family.
“We have three kids that are also living with either a mental health condition — we have ADHD, we have Asperger’s, high-functioning autism — that’s all of my three kids,” she said of her children Noah, 16, Taelyn, 13, and Anniston, 10. Leigh is married to the actor Nathan West.
“So that, [and my] career, trying to make [our] marriage work, dealing with all these symptoms and not knowing what to do with it, that’s where I kinda hit my breaking point and I shut down completely,” Leigh said.
In 2011, Leigh said she was briefly hospitalized due to the illness. Around that time, she was taking multiple different medications to manage the condition, but none of them were working for her. Eventually, she found a good fit and noted she still takes the same medication today.
It “keeps me very leveled, much more even,” she told the publication. “There are not really big peaks and valleys. It makes me function as a human being where I feel like, ‘OK, I can manage when things are really hard and I can also really celebrate victories.’”
Leigh said she chose to open up her “very, very difficult journey” with bipolar disorder in light of the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health campaign. Prior to the initiative, the actress said she was hesitant to share her diagnosis with others, partly because she’s always been “a very kind of private person.” She said she was worried she would be subject to judgment from others because of the “negative stigma” around mental illness.
But having a “fantastic platform” to share her story encouraged Leigh to speak out, she said, adding that knowing that her story could meet a “tremendous amount of people” also motivated her to speak out.
“It’s OK to not be OK,” she said.