General Hospital castmate Chauntal Lewis’s life was on target until an accident derailed her plans, and PTSD sent her spiraling into anxiety and depression. Maurice Benard invited her on his video podcast, State Of Mind, to share how she found her way back from the darkness.
Maurice Benard And Chauntal Lewis: Rose-Colored Glasses
Her life read like a dream come true. Actress Chauntal Lewis was living in Santa Monica, following her passion for acting, recently winning a 2008 FIATA award for Best Supporting Actress for the horror film Seance. But in 2009, a tragic accident changed everything, and Benard (Sonny Corinthos) wanted her to share her story.
The host gave her a warm welcome. “I am with somebody today who has an incredible story. An incredible story. She has been recurring on the hit show General Hospital since 2015 [Nurse Stephanie 2015, Nurse Tara 2016 – 2019, and Nurse Chanel since March 2020]. She’s great.”
Lewis spoke a bit about her beginnings. “I grew up in the Oxnard area,” she remembered. “A little beach baby, born and raised. I have a sister and a half-brother. He is much younger [Ricky Lewis, race car driver]. He’s 23. My sister [Riawna Capri] is a very successful hairstylist. She owns a salon in West Hollywood.”
The two sisters decided to move to Hollywood to follow their dreams. “My sister was like, ‘I’m going to be a hairstylist for the stars,’ and I am like, ‘Okay, cool. I’m going to be this actress,'” she continued. “We found a little spot in Santa Monica. And went on our journey. I’m doing my thing, and she’s doing her thing.”
Shock To The System
On March 18, 2009, a day like many others filled with a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, sending prayers to the heavens on a rock in Temescal Canyon, and an evening watching the movie Across the Universe with a friend before heading home. “I worked at a small little hair salon at the time, at the front desk and I had work in the morning. I just got into my car, on Wilshire in L.A. Just me. Driving by myself on Wilshire.”
*Trigger Warning: The following content may be disturbing.
Next, the accident that changed everything. She described the moment of impact. “There was a huge semi-truck parked in the middle of the road. The light was green. Like when they are delivering food, and I am like, ‘Oh sh*t, this truck isn’t moving,’ and I go to get in the right lane, and there was a Yellow Taxicab that just kind of shifted in front of me, and threw me into the semi-truck. I lost my left hand on impact.
“It’s bizarre. A total out-of-body experience,” Lewis revealed, explaining how close she came to losing her life. “It literally cut off the left side of my driver’s seat. Had I not been strapped in or if I had been [leans left], it would have [makes a cutting sound on the left side]. We wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
At the hospital, a doctor explained her new reality. “I remember the doctor looking into my eyes, with tears in her eyes, and saying, ‘I am so sorry. I am so sorry. For the rest of your life, you are going to have one hand.’ And I remember saying, ‘Okay. That’s okay.’ Nothing else happened. Just the hand. Gone in an instant.”
Chauntal Lewis: The Rock Bottom Moment
A short time later, the actress found a new lease on life, disguised as love. “Wildly enough, I met someone three or four months after my accident, and we fall head over heels. I was 25 at the time. Young. It was wild. I was experiencing this euphoria of, ‘Oh my god, I have never fallen in love like this,’ to ‘I am going through the most traumatic thing in my entire life.’ He was an angel at that time. It lasted almost 10 years.”
When that relationship abruptly ended is when PTSD kicked in. “I am living in my sister’s guest house, and she says, ‘Chauntal, just get out of Santa Monica and all of the triggers of him.'” Lewis recalled her triggers, “He had this new girl, and it is all over Instagram, and I couldn’t stop myself. I was just torturing myself by saying, ‘Maybe if I just see them getting married and having a baby, maybe my heart will just stop.’ I thought, ‘These are really dark thoughts.'”
She recalled knowing something more was going on. “It was so much bigger than this man leaving me. I met him three months after my accident, so I don’t think I ever dealt with that [points to left arm]. It was hard. I couldn’t see the light. I couldn’t wake up. I felt sick all of the time.”
Lewis experienced very physical reactions not uncommon for PTSD. “I would wake up with my heart pounding and think, now I have Covid. Oh, I just have Covid, and now I am going to die. I just spiraled.”
The rock bottom moment came in the frame of a 5150 [a mental illness check for 72 hours of hospitalization]. “My sister is such a problem fixer and very much like, ‘Let’s fix the situation.’ And calls the first thing she Googles, and I have people knocking at my door. Thinking it was a therapy session. And I am like, ‘Clearly, I don’t want to take my life. Look at my place! I have my yoga mat, my crystals, Gaia on the wall, doing all the things the books say,’ And they took me away on a 5150. The scariest thing I have ever experienced.”
A Brand New Day
Chauntal Lewis revealed so much more of her harrowing journey on Benard’s State Of Mind. Find out how running changed her life and helped land a Nike campaign in November 2010. Discover how her mother, a General Hospital fan, had a conversation with executive producer Frank Valentini that landed Lewis’s audition for GH. And find out the actress’s connection with another recent guest and GH alum Ronnie Marmo. Hear the story of how Benard and Lewis discovered they shared the loss of their fathers around the same time and had similar extraordinary experiences after their loss.
Lewis recalled the dark moments during her 72-hour stay under observation that made her fully embrace living. Both castmates were visibly moved by the actress’s story and pondered how many people might benefit from her sharing it on the podcast. Benard was able to bring it home for the audience from his own experiences. Watch the powerful episode here.
General Hospital (G.H.) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on G.H. spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
For more about what’s happening on your favorite soaps, join the conversation over on our Facebook Page, check out our Twitter feed, or look for an update on our Instagram stories. See you over there!
Today on @mbstateofmind I’m joined by Chauntal Lewis (@ChauntalLewis) who opens up about the car accident that resulted in the loss of her left hand, overcoming PTSD and Depression and how she used her passion, drive & determination to move forward
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) July 31, 2022