themighty logo

'Grey's Anatomy' Actress Chyler Leigh Reveals She Has Bipolar Disorder

On Tuesday, actress Chyler Leigh, known for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Supergirl” shared for the first time she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 years ago.

Leigh spoke about her experience with mental illness during a social media and mental health panel as part of the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health campaign. She told the audience she decided to speak out about living with bipolar disorder because she wanted to use her platform to support others in the mental health community. The decision scared her at first, she said.

“Yesterday was the first time that I actually spoke openly about having bipolar disorder,” Leigh said, according to Refinery 29. She added:

It’s something that’s terrified me for a long time because it feels like I’m admitting some sort of secret, or some sort of way that people are going to look at me differently or judge me but I’ve been met with nothing but acceptance and love and support, which is just amazing.

The “Grey’s” star said right before she was diagnosed, she felt like she was “drowning.” She sought help from psychotherapists and psychiatrists and ended up on six different medications that she said made her feel nothing.

“[They] made me feel nothing, and that to me was more important than feeling happy or feeling sad,” Leigh told People. “I withdrew and I shut down. … 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.”

All three of Leigh’s children (now ages 10, 13 and 16) are also neurodiverse — they’re either on the autism spectrum or have ADHD.

Eventually Leigh reached a “pretty severe breaking point,” which led to a hospitalization. “I hit mania so high that I couldn’t sleep. They gave me medication particularly for not sleeping and it would not work,” Leigh told People.

Leigh also shared that mental illness runs in her family. Her mom was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When Leigh received the same diagnosis, she said it initially felt like the end for her.

“My mother was diagnosed with — at the time they were calling it manic depression — and I saw such an extreme version,” Leigh told People, adding:

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?’

Though the journey to recovery was “very, very difficult,” Leigh said she is in a good place now thanks to a better medication regimen that keeps her moods balanced.

“I did find a medication that works that I still take, which keeps me very level, much more even,” Leigh said. “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.’”

Actor and advocate Chyler Leigh, who currently stars in CW’s ‘Supergirl,’ is speaking out for the first time about…

Posted by Chyler Leigh Online. on Monday, December 9, 2019

She joins other celebrities who have spoken up about living with bipolar disorder, including Halsey, Demi Lovato, Bebe Rexha and Mariah Carey. Leigh shared she was hesitant to reveal her bipolar diagnosis because she was afraid of being followed by negative stereotypes about mental illness and bipolar disorder.

“[I was] afraid of having my story out there and being labeled as anything because there is very often such a negative stigma about it,” Leigh said. “That fear of judgment and ‘Oh, if people see me this way, that means that I’m not good enough or I’m not well enough to be able to take care of myself’ or whatever it might be.”

Now, Leigh teamed up with the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health movement to advocate for mental health awareness and acceptance. She said she felt ready to use her platform to support others living with mental illness and advocate for the mental health community.

“We have an incredible opportunity to change the narrative and change the conversation, and lead people to places that can encourage them and really take them where they need to go,” Leigh said. She continued:

It’s OK to not be OK. 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. And also know that if you’re really struggling that there are so many resources.

Header image via Chyler Leigh’s Facebook page