On the Dec. 13 episode of Maurice Benard‘s State Of Mind series, the bipolar actor who plays GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sonny sat down with his co-star Risa Dorken (Amy) to discuss their mental health and experiences with mental illness. Dorken revealed in April that she’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During her chat with Benard, she bravely opened up about her manic episode and what led up to it. “You’re like my sister now, because we’re in the same club,” the GH star told his guest.
As she described her childhood, Dorken told Benard that she’d always been an anxious person. “I don’t even think I dealt with depression,” she confessed. “I was a very neurotic girl. I thought that that was normal, to be so stressed out and anxious that you black out and you don’t remember things. Or I need an hour to rev myself up to go out in public sometimes.”
It wasn’t until her break with reality earlier this year that Dorken realized that her feelings weren’t normal. “I didn’t know the level of stress and anxiety I was dealing with day to day until I got medicated after my episode,” she revealed. “I thought that it was all tied to my career and just being a nervous person. I would never snap and get angry. It would manifest itself as throwing up or being terrified all the time.”
When Benard asked if Dorken’s husband, Bo Clark, noticed anything off about her behavior, the actress admitted that it wasn’t until recently that her better half suspected that something might be wrong as he just thought “that I didn’t handle stress well sometimes.” In the weeks leading up to her 30th birthday on Feb. 4, however, everything changed. “He kind of saw the transition for me,” Dorken said. “He’s my savior.”
As Dorken went on to explain, leading up to her birthday, she was already feeling stressed out as an aging woman in the entertainment industry. “And I was interested in psychics and crystals and astrology. And it got to a point where I was so obsessive about this alternative lifestyle that I was creating that I just slowly lost my mind, within a week,” she recalled.
Feeling that something was off, Dorken went to her doctor, thinking she had a parasite, but was told nothing was wrong. “I just slowly started sleeping less, to the point where I didn’t need to sleep… and slowly I just lose my touch with reality. What the psychics were telling me, I was becoming real. I was becoming terrified. I thought I was going to be murdered. And I got extreme paranoia. I thought there were cameras everywhere in my house.”
While her husband supported her “conspiracy theories” at first, Clark quickly realized that there was something seriously wrong with his wife. “My husband drove me to the emergency room because I was not making sense,” she shared. “I became obsessed about myself. I thought I wrote music that Taylor Swift wrote. I thought the Oscars were about me. I watched a movie and I thought it was a movie about my life.”
The actress was eventually admitted to a psychiatric hospital on a 5150 hold — a California law that allows an individual to be involuntarily held for 72 hours. “I stayed there for 2 days, and that was not a good place,” Dorken shared, explaining that she was strapped down at times “for hours, it seemed like to me.”
Less than a week after “lying to the doctors” in order to be released, Dorken was placed on a second 5150 hold when her concerned husband called the National Alliance on Mental Health hotline. While that hospital stay was just mildly better for the actress, she was later thankfully able to receive the help she so desperately needed. “I’ve only experienced [a manic episode] once, and I hope to never experience it again,” Dorken told Benard.
The actress also thanked the Emmy-winning actor and mental health advocate for reaching out to her after she came forward with her diagnosis. “I lost a lot of friends during my episode, so having you as an inspiration has been a lot of help,” she told her GH co-star.
You can watch Benard and Dorken’s full conversation below. And please join us in wishing Benard and Dorken all the best as they continue to share their struggles in the hopes of helping others and ending the stigma of mental illness.