What do you do when your on-camera life bleeds into your real life? That’s exactly what happened to General Hospital’s Maurice Benard, who shared his experiences with bipolar disorder on a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show.
Benard has lived with the manic-depressive disease for two decades. In fact, he had three nervous breakdowns before he was ever properly diagnosed at the age of 22. Benard told the talk-show host what it feels like to live with bipolar disorder.
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“It feels like being in a nightmare and not being able to wake up. I see it as God and the devil fighting and most of the time, God wins,” he explained to Dr. Oz. “Sometimes God doesn’t win, and that’s what it feels like… you can’t get out of the nightmare.”
This isn’t the first time Benard has talked about his journey. He sat down with Oprah Winfrey back in November 2004 and shared his initial thoughts about living with mental illness.
At the time, Benard found it difficult to leave his scenes as Sonny Corinthos on GH behind him. When his character had a breakdown in the storyline, the actor started bringing those emotions home to his wife, Paula. He was violent and it plunged him into the darkness of suicide.
“I couldn’t leave the character at work, I started bringing him home,” he said to Winfrey in the interview. “One thing led to another and it got worse and worse.”
His wife became increasingly upset and was often crying over his constant manic-depressive mood swings. Benard eventually snapped and threatened to kill her because he couldn’t deal with her sadness over the situation.
Benard has been on lithium for the last 20 years to help manage his mood swings. Patients stop taking the drug because they feel it dulls their creativity after a manic or high spell, but Benard doesn’t worry about the medication’s side effects.
“I’ve been on it straight for 22 years and I think I’ve done pretty well,” he said. “The only drawback in not taking the medication is having a breakdown.”
He explained that you can get addicted to the highs of being bipolar, but the aftermath was costly.
“People love the manics, the highs, the grandiose feeling like you can do anything,” Bernard described. “You feel incredible. For me, the depression that came when I would fall. [sic] I don’t ever want to feel that. So stay on your medication.”
Benard’s honesty has helped many soap fans who also suffer from the disease realize that they are not alone. He was one of the first celebrities to be open about his mental health condition.
For Benard, his work isn’t complete because his current GH storyline focuses on his character’s son, Morgan, suffering from the same disease. Bipolar disorder is a genetic condition, so these medical revelations only help educate the public about mental health.
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