VIDEO – Actress Fights Bipolar Disorder Stigma with Comedy

By Amy Chillag, CNN

Updated 5:34 PM ET, Fri January 29, 2016




Naples, Florida (CNN)Victoria Maxwell had her first psychotic episode, ironically enough, after attending a meditation retreat.

“I wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping — there was financial stress, interpersonal things. It was like this perfect storm, and I went into a psychosis,” she recalls.

She says she was “screaming at the top of my lungs with my 61-year-old Dad chasing me, I was yelling, ‘I’m Sam Kinison.’ I was running around a parking lot. ‘I’m Meryl Streep!’ “

Little did Maxwell know that her breakdown would become material for her one-woman shows more than 20 years later.

Her shows seek to educate audiences about what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder, a mood ailment marked by periods of mania, depression and extreme changes in behavior that affects nearly 6 million Americans.

Victoria has bipolar I, the more severe form of the illness that includes hallucinations.

A confessional about living with bipolar disorder

Speaking to an audience that includes families of those living with mental illness, Maxwell describes what happened when her father, scared out of his mind, drove her to the emergency room after that first breakdown.

“I end up lying face down on a gurney. Left wrist locked, leather cuff. Right wrist locked, leather cuff. And my butt, cold as arctic ice, hanging out of what must be the most humiliating piece of clothing ever made, the backless, green hospital gown.”

The audience chuckles.