This week on his YouTube video podcast, State of Mind, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard was joined by someone he likes to call, “my sister in bipolar,” WWE wrestler AJ Lee, otherwise known as New York Times Best-Selling author and mental health advocate AJ Mendez. You may remember GH’s littlest big fan, Max Tomlin, referring to her in last week’s episode.
AJ Mendez’s Heartfelt Journey Towards Mental Health
Benard laid the foundation for the serious subject matter discussed in the latest episode: Suicide. “I am emotional about this interview because it is the deepest I have ever done. Not just talking about suicide. I feel, and I don’t know about you, but I am open to all of this because if other people see that I am open then they are all right about being open. The only thing that I was afraid of was suicide because back during the pandemic, that is where I was. And I decided that I was going to talk about it. And you know what? It helps me.”
*Trigger warnings: The following content contains talk about suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.
AJ Mendez responded with her story leading up to her bipolar diagnosis, depression, and treatment. “My family and I were mostly homeless throughout my childhood. I think we probably moved like 20 times. We were always getting evicted and then having to squat in empty buildings or a stranger would take us in. We would like sleep in their garage or the porch.
“I would get panic attacks where I would hyperventilate and shake,” she continued. The mental health advocate spoke of some of the early signs. “I would wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack,” she revealed.
“I remember I had my first panic attack in a motel. There were five people, two beds, and a dog in a room so I had to have my panic attack quietly. Be real polite about it and have it real quietly,” she shared. “There was never time to access what I was feeling. I would just think that it was the situation and not my mental health. It took me almost dying to get a diagnosis.
“I look back and think, ‘Whoa! The system failed me,’” she continued. “I overdosed. It was my first suicide attempt. I was released from the hospital. The doctor asked about three or four questions, the ‘are you safe to be released’ questionnaire questions and I just lied and said it was an accident.
“When you survive something like that,” she added, “for me personally, and I don’t know if this is everybody, for me, it is how it stays with you like it is always an option.” Mendez revealed her feelings in that moment: “Your dark side will tell you that it is always an option. So the next time I was having the suicide ideation, I didn’t go through with the attempt, however, I booked a hotel room to die in, because I didn’t want my husband to find me. I didn’t want him to go through that. So, I was just thinking very matter-of-factly.
Finding Her Way To The Light
“From the outside, it looked like I had everything in the whole world!” she explained further. “I was on TV, and I am a champion, dream career, and I got married, a perfect, wonderful year. But a lot of times with bipolar disorder, big life changes throw you off. If it is a high, you are going to hit a low. Nobody knew. This is why I became a mental health advocate. This is why I decided to write the book.”
AJ Mendez discusses her road from homeless in New Jersey, to success as a WWE wrestler for more than a decade, paying to audition, being against type in the wrestling community, being a smaller Puerto Rican girl with a big mouth, and winning over fans, her inspiration for writing her book, and finding a new dream with her own production company, writing features, and television.
To watch the full episode of State of Mind for more of her inspirational journey, click here.
You can follow AJ Mendez on Twitter or purchase her book, “Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules” at booksellers worldwide or check out the official website here.
If you know someone considering suicide or if you need to talk, contact NIMH or call National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Follow Maurice Benard on Twitter, Instagram, and for more episodes of State Of Mind go to the main page of the video podcasts here.
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.
Today on @mbstateofmind I’m joined by AJ Mendez. (@TheAJMendez)
AJ is a bestselling author, mental health advocate and an ambassador for NAMI. You may know her best from her time as a pro-wrestler in the @WWE as AJ Lee.
Watch: https://t.co/o3ZR0n9qA5 pic.twitter.com/EHB2pjBFUg
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) November 21, 2021