General Hospital’s Maurice Benard promised a very special episode of his video podcast, State Of Mind, and what he delivered was a very raw look behind the everyday facade that people put up to hide their pain. The actor shared the story behind his own horrific journey with anxiety that gave birth to his widely successful show on the many layers of mental health.
Maurice Benard: Battling The Demons Within
The 2020 pandemic changed life as we knew it. The isolation, economic woes, education shutdown, the job situation, and the fear of getting sick were all major things to the average person, but to the people who struggle daily with their mental health, it was a near-death experience. For Benard (Sonny), who has been very vocal about his dealing with being bipolar, it was literally a struggle between life and death.
*Trigger warning: If you struggle or know someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental health, the following material may cause some distress. Please proceed with caution and know you are not alone.
The three-time Daytime Emmy award-winning actor described how it all began. “Just to get an idea, the panic attack for me started when the pandemic hit, and General Hospital shut down. I wasn’t going on my book tour. My mom and dad moved out of the house.” He also described his physical reaction. “I had this enormous rush come over me, and I was shaking like a leaf. It was really horrific.”
His book, Nothing General About: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital, which would go on to be a New York Times bestseller, was just coming out, and the promotional tour took a huge hit. “I still had to do the book tour, but I had to do it on Zoom,” he said.
Despite battling insomnia, anxiety, and depression, he had to face the press. “It was really terrible because what I really wanted to say to people like Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew, and Charlemagne Tha God was, ‘Please help me because I am dying here.’ Of course, I couldn’t do that, so I had to fake it to make it,” the actor admitted.
It was an uphill battle. “I would get up every morning, and it was horrific. What I try to say to people is if you don’t know what depression or anxiety or manic episodes or any mental illness is, you can’t really understand,” Benard explained. “It’s a feeling of being so uncomfortable in your own body. Your mind is taking over, your thoughts, and you can’t stop it.”
The show was intimately shot on location on Benard’s ranch property with just the actor speaking candidly to the audience, walking them through his day-to-day battle with depression, revealing the actual tree that he thought of ending his life on, setting the scene of his journey to the dark side, and how he came out on the other side.
The General Hospital fan-favorite detailed the friends who reached out, the steps that he took to fight the feelings of impending doom, how being in nature soothed him, and how his family, specifically his wife, Paula, and son, Joshua, inspired him and kept his feelings in check. Ultimately, he disclosed the steps he took to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Most of all, he shared how life has turned out better than ever.
It was raw, personal, and very much a must-see episode. The tough-guy actor had no problem revealing his deeply sensitive side to the audience if it brought a greater understanding of how to deal with a mental health crisis. There is truly something for everyone to identify with, and maybe the information will help you or a friend. That was his inspiration behind starting his YouTube channel, State Of Mind. Experience the full episode here.
If you or someone you know has struggled with thoughts of suicide, or suffered from anxiety or depression, don’t hesitate to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. To follow State Of Mind and subscribe, go to YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Fans can now purchase inspirational merchandise for Benard’s State Of Mind. Check it out.