For the very first time, Chyler Leigh opened up about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder.
The Grey’s Anatomy alum and Supergirl actress, who was diagnosed with the disorder 10 years ago, spoke candidly about her struggles for the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health campaign.
Leigh mentioned that she’s in a “good place” right now, but she had to endure a “very, very difficult journey” managing her disorder.
“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?’”
The actress also noticed similarities in her children, “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.”
Leigh added, “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.”
Even after she sought help from “a couple different psychiatrists and psychologists,” she had multiple different prescriptions.
“Some of them were countering each other — but it made me feel nothing, and that to me was more important than feeling happy or feeling sad,” Leigh said. “But, that being the case, I withdrew and I shut down. Having such little kids and my husband who [was] dealing with so much with that, I just didn’t know how else to function. And so I lied about a lot, I hid a lot. I kept to myself. And that caused an incredible amount of chaos and just destruction in the family.”
In 2011, the actress reached a “pretty severe breaking point,” and was hospitalized for several days. “I hit mania so high that I couldn’t sleep. They gave me medication particularly for not sleeping and it would not work,” she said.
Now, the actress is encouraging others to talk about their disorder. “It’s okay to not be okay. And it’s incredibly important to reach out. Be willing to let your guard down a little bit to be able to find that community.”