Long before she joined General Hospital as Maxie Jones, Kirsten Storms captivated audiences as Disney’s Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and Belle Black on Days of our Lives. This week she joins co-star Maurice Benard on his video podcast, State Of Mind, to talk about the tempest raging from within.
Maurice Benard and Kirsten Storms: The Importance Of Seeking Help
As co-workers, Benard (Sonny) and Storms have shared a lot of personal stories behind the scenes which led up to her appearance on this particular episode. During the talk, they covered her struggles with mental health and social media, her divorce from actor Brandon Barash (Jake, DAYS; ex-Johnny Zacchara, GH), healthy co-parenting, and more.
Benard started the show with this introduction. “I truly believe that this State Of Mind is going to help a lot of young girls.”
He followed up with a more direct question. “How does anxiety feel for you?”
“I experience anxiety frequently. I have bipolar 1,” Storms revealed. “I easily get frantic about things. I felt flustered, fear, and stressed. I am obsessed with being on time. I don’t know if you noticed, but I was exactly on time when I entered the building. I obsessively worry about that kind of stuff. I have had panic attacks about that kind of stuff. My psychiatrist tried to change one of my medications at one point, and I had an adverse reaction to it.”
The actress continued with what happened next. “It is a pretty popular medication and works well for other people. My bipolar is depression-heavy, so my psychiatrist said, ‘Let’s put you on this depression-heavy medication,'” but that just amplified what she was feeling. “I got really claustrophobic in my apartment. I felt like the walls were just shrinking. I had never experienced that level of anxiety before. I ended up going to a hotel because I felt the physical need to escape from where I was.
“The therapist that I was seeing noticed something in me, I won’t say wrong, but something off, and she discussed with my doctor putting me on an antidepressant, which after a few months wasn’t working,” she shared. Her situation snowballed. “They put me on a higher dose, and it got worse. Then they put me on another medication to boost the antidepressant, and that’s when things hit the fan for me. And it turns out that the booster they gave me was not supposed to be given to people with bipolar 1 because it intensifies their symptoms.”
Being Your Own Advocate
Storms calls fear a great motivator in her life. “I am an instruction manual reader, a review reader, I research things. I Googled online. I Googled a lot of the symptoms that I was feeling and experiencing, and bipolar kept coming up. When I would read the symptoms, I would think ‘That is me. I know it.’ And I was given this test that is pages long. Questions about what I had experienced and felt. I checked the boxes that applied to me. And my psychiatrist ran it through whatever they do and said, ‘We have to take you off the medication you are on immediately.’ They cut me cold turkey because you are not supposed to be on it. I threw up for a week. It was rough.
“I started on the bipolar medication immediately and like within two weeks, and I am going to get emotional right now, my life literally just changed,” Storms admitted. She teared up along with host Benard, who had been through much the same himself. “I felt like a normal person. It is a trip to wake up and want to make the bed in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, start your day, and not be consumed by all the things in your head.”
Kirsten Storms: It Is Brain Surgery
General Hospital fans may remember back in 2021 when Storms shared that she had to have emergency brain surgery for a cyst. She broke it down in detail for fans of State Of Mind. “I was having a lot of neck pain, a stiffness, it was hard turning my head. A weird sensation in my brain when I would move in certain ways that would make me feel disorientated, like I couldn’t see for a second. It would be so brief, like a blink of an eye, and then not happen for hours.”
“I called my chiropractor, freaking out that he needed to go into the office and see me. And he was like, ‘you need to get an X-ray done because something else is wrong.’ So, I went to my orthopedist, and he X-rayed me in his office.” Storms explained how the cyst looked, seeing it for the first time. “At the very top of the X-ray at the bottom of my brain, you could see this gigantic cyst pushing my brain into my spinal cord. He referred me immediately to a neurosurgeon.”
The surgery happened just two weeks later. “They cut a portion of my skull out and removed it and tried to put a drain in the cyst, but it was so full that it ruptured when they put the drain in. Like popping a balloon, basically. Somehow that resulted in me having a couple of titanium plates put in. Now I am here.”
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Storms was candid about her relationship with Barash, her one-time love interest on General Hospital, their long friendship, ensuing marriage and divorce, being proud of their co-parenting skills, and how they make it work. The fan-favorite actress detailed growing up in Florida, being attracted to the spotlight at a very early age, and her dreams of working on daytime television coming true.
The co-stars gave behind-the-scenes accounts of her struggle with her mental health and medical issues, returning to the set after treatment, revealing the importance of seeking help, and discussing how her sharing can help others benefit from their experiences. For the whole episode, click here.
Follow Kirsten Storms on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Maurice Benard on Twitter, Instagram, or State of Mind. If you are suffering from depression or bipolar disorder or know someone that is. You are not alone. Find out how you can get help at NIMH.
General Hospital (GH) 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 General Hospital spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
Kirsten is an inspiration in all that she’s been able to overcome. We have incredible conversation about anxiety + the journey she went through before getting her bipolar diagnosis.https://t.co/2V9TLsHrFA pic.twitter.com/XbKvsSr8vp
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) April 3, 2022