Alessandra Torresani is an actress who has starred on TV shows including The Big Bang Theory, Caprica, American Horror Story, Malcolm in The Middle, and more. She’s also a mental health advocate and podcast host and spoke with me about how she was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 1 in her early twenties after feeling lost and that something wasn’t right for most of her life.
She talks about how she’s brought more awareness to those with Bi-Polar 1 and how she wants to continue helping people feel not so alone.
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1AND1: When were you diagnosed with Bi-Polar 1?
Alessandra: I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar at 21 years old after being misdiagnosed when I was younger. After countless doctor’s visits, I was dismissed, and they chalked it up to it just being hormones. It was actually an acupuncturist I was working with when I was shooting a show called Caprica, and he asked me, “Has anyone ever told you that you might be living with a disorder?” Because when I was explaining my symptoms of anxiety, stress, and mania, they matched the traits of someone who has Bi-Polar 1.
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1AND1: What was that like when you found out you were diagnosed? Did it affect your day-to-day being an actress?
Alessandra: I finally felt relieved when I was diagnosed because I finally understood what was happening instead of feeling like something was constantly wrong with me. After being diagnosed, I felt better because I knew more about how to get help and find the proper medication to help me. Not pinpointing it was very frustrating and hard because people just labeled me as crazy, but I knew there had to be a reason why I felt the way I did, and I could now identify it.
But I was told by people in the entertainment industry and business that I shouldn’t share about my mental illness. They said it wouldn’t be a good look.
1AND1: How did that make you feel?
Alessandra: Well, I finally reached the point of being over it. After almost 30 years, I was ready to discuss it properly in open and honest conversations. I was hearing other people’s stories, and I thought if someone could help me, maybe I could help someone else. And that’s how it all kind of happened. Then I talked more about my mental illness and bringing that to light and my struggles with maternal mental health. Right before I got pregnant and announced my pregnancy, I did an article with People Magazine about the importance of maternal mental health because that is not discussed.
1AND1: Did you feel that outside of the business, you had a community to support you?
Alessandra: It was about 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 1. No one was talking about it, you know? So it was very taboo, and in my previous relationships, people would use that against me as if I was the problem and say, “Well, oh, you’re crazy!” So that made me not want to open up, and I turned inwards. There were no communities, and I didn’t know anyone who lived with Bi-Polar disorder. The only person I had heard of was actress Carrie Fisher, who I was obsessed with. But there were no groups or anyone to give me a manual to get through it. I just had to discover what to do and find support over the years.
1AND1: Do you have a solid support system now?
Alessandra: Yes! My husband and mother are so supportive. They help me with so much, and they are also extremely supportive. I have a daughter to live with for now, so when I need extra help, my mom and husband are there. I always use the analogy of if I was on a plane with multiple people. I have to put my oxygen mask on first, you know if I’m feeling on edge or if a manic episode is coming on.
When I feel that way, I tap into tools I’ve discovered over the years to help me re-center. Whether that be me starting a meditation or something grounding, I call my mom or husband and say I need you to watch her for me for just an hour or so. I need to zone out for a bit and ensure that I’m doing things that make me calm and that I’m also getting a proper nutritious diet.
I’m very lucky, in a sense, to have experienced living with Bi-Polar 1 for so long that I am more aware of my emotions. I no longer have the disillusions I might have had when I was younger. And with the help of my mom or husband, they also saw when I needed to take a break when I often couldn’t. They encourage me to take a breath or call my doctor to help get me back on track. I’m thankful for that, and I’m super blessed for having that support system and for them holding me accountable. It shows that the right people will be in your corner.
1AND1: With your podcast EmotionAL Support, do you use this as a way to create a safe space for other people?
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Alessandra: Yes! And it’s been the most incredible thing in the world. I couldn’t find anything on bipolar disorder and pregnancy anywhere. Hearing other women’s stories like that or having people write to me or share their stories of them going through something similar has been so touching and fulfilling to know that I’m making a difference in someone’s life.
My pregnancy was a full journey and, and learning curve. And so, I hope that everything I went through is a story I can share with others to help those who went through similar experiences.
The more we talk about this, the better. It’s really fun to connect with people this way, and I love to talk – that’s my way of getting closer to people. And I’m so grateful I get to do it through this medium. Even with the negative messages I receive or the awful things people say to me, I say, “Well, you’re listening still, so I must be doing something right.” And that keeps me going – I’m content as long as I reach people and continue bringing people to the show to connect with others. This truly makes me happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.