Coming Forward With Bipolar Disorder: An Interview with ‘Supergirl’ Actress Chyler Leigh

Written by Hannah Blum

Chyler Leigh West is an American actress best known for her role as Alex Danvers on CW’s superhero series, Supergirl. She has been acting since childhood making a name for herself in the spotlight. You may recognize her from the comedy, Not Another Teen Movie, or when she played Lexi Grey on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. However, the role she is stepping into now is one of advocating for mental health. Chyler is partnering with Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health and opening up about her diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder, but it was a long road leading up to this point. I received the opportunity to interview Chyler and was blown away by her ability to persevere through the obstacles she faced along her journey. 

Chyler had to grow up at a very young age. Her mother suffered from manic depression, but it was not spoken of, which only made things more difficult to handle. The pressure to heal her mother consumed Chyler. She felt that her pain didn’t matter, which is why she kept quiet for so long about the battles she was facing internally. Chyler told me during the interview,

“My mother would go into a manic episode and lose consciousness. The first time I saw it happen, I was 11 years old. I had no idea what was going on. At the time, no one spoke about mental illness. My mother was suicidal at one point, and I was her source of happiness.”

Chyler continued acting despite the struggles she faced at home, but the longer she ignored what was going on inside, the worse things got. Chyler went and sought help at a mental hospital voluntarily, going under an alias being she is a well-known actress. As much as Chyler wanted to open up, she felt that she couldn’t in fear that other patients would recognize her. It also brought up pain from the past when Chyler’s mother was hospitalized.

“I felt like my mother, and it reminded me of visiting her at the hospital.” Chyler was going through consistent and debilitating lows. She felt disconnected from herself. It was not just the internal pain, but the pain from her childhood and the fear of being judged. 

At 19 years old, Chyler married the love of her life, Nathan West. She became a mother at 21 years old, but Chyler still felt the need to hide, and after her first child was born, the fear of failing as a mother caused her to self medicate. At one point, Chyler realized that she was heading down the wrong path and needed to do something about it, which she did.

Just from our short conversation, I could hear Chyler’s love for her children and how much she values her family. Her husband, Nathan West, has been her rock, and the couple has been married for over a decade. Their three beautiful children are growing up and expressing their individuality. The family has confronted various challenges outside of Chyler’s diagnosis of bipolar. Her children all live with separate conditions as well. Her youngest lives with epilepsy, the middle child has high-functioning autism, and her oldest is diagnosed with Aspergers. Although these disorders are present, Chyler wants her children to know that they are not defined by it, just as she is not defined by bipolar disorder.

Fast forward to now, Chyler is working on some big projects in her acting career and advocating for mental health by teaming up with Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health. She is motivated to help normalize the conversation around mental illness and reduce the stigma. Chyler opened up publicly about her diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder and told me in the interview that it was a relief. She wants people to know that they are not alone.

Although she grew up facing many battles in life, Chyler saw the significance of openness and honesty. The way that hiding your truth due to shame and fear can take a person down a dark road.

Chyler uses her fame and platform as a way to spread mental health awareness, which reveals the beauty of who she truly is. Thank you Chyler, for coming forward about your diagnosis and opening up to me. 

New Book Release! The Truth About Broken by Hannah Blum

At the age of 20, Hannah Blum went from Prom Queen to a mental patient in the blink of an eye, but what she believed would be the end was only just the beginning. In her first book, The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love, Hannah Blum redefines what it means to love yourself and takes readers on an unforgettable journey towards embracing what makes them different.

Image Sources Used in Coming Forward With Bipolar Disorder: An Interview with ‘Supergirl’ Actress Chyler Leigh: Header Image, Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4