Former WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee has opened up about her mental health struggles and how her battle with bipolar disorder almost cost Lee her life.
Lee had a stellar career in WWE, rising from the early days of NXT to go on to become at one point the longest-reigning WWE Divas Champion in history. In 2012 AJ Lee was a part of the Raw main event scene as she intertwined herself in a love rectangle story involving Daniel Bryan, Kane, and her now-husband CM Punk. It was also during this time that Lee was named Raw General Manager during the Raw 1000 broadcast.
Since hanging up her Chuck Taylors, AJ Lee – also known as AJ Mendez – has become an author, penning her own autobiography Crazy Is My Superpower, which was released in 2017.
AJ Lee has also become an outspoken advocate for mental health concerns and revealed that she struggles with her own bipolar disorder.
Speaking to General Hospital star Maurice Bernard on State Of Mind, Lee spoke candidly about her battles over the years and detailed a suicide attempt before she entered the world of WWE:
“When I was 19 or 20 when I had overdosed and had my first suicide attempt when I became a suicide survivor for the first time, I didn’t know I just thought it was just my brain, very matter-of-factly saying, ‘There’s a pain and we needed to stop it,’ and that was terrifying to me not understanding what was happening, but just like, ‘Oh, well, this is the solution.’”
“Then when you survive something like that, for me, personally, and I don’t know if it’s like everybody, but for me, the scary thing is how it almost becomes — it stays with you. It’s like always an option. It’s like your darkness will always tell you it’s an option. So that’s something you have to fight constantly. So the next time something scary got to that point, I was having really bad suicidal ideation.”
Still part of WWE during this time, Lee was taking time off to recuperate from injuries and she also married CM Punk – on the day Punk was officially released by WWE:
“I didn’t go through with the attempt, however, I did book a hotel room to die in. Because I didn’t want my husband to find me. You know, I didn’t want him to have to deal with that. So I was just thinking very matter-of-factly. Nobody knew, and this is actually why I became a mental health advocate and why I decided to write the book and write about this, and this I haven’t talked about yet.”
“But, from the outside world, it would have seemed like I have everything in the whole world. I was on TV, I’m a champion, dream career, got married, like, perfect, wonderful year.”
“But a lot of times with bipolar disorder, big life changes, kind of throw you off. With the high, you’re going to hit a low. So in the same year of my life, I moved to a different state. I got married. I got really sick. I had to take time off work for surgeries.”
Lee adds that her wedding to CM Punk came when it did so she could “sneak” it in while having time off for surgeries:
“Actually, during one of the breaks I had, you know how this is because General Hospital has no time off. That’s what wrestling is. No offseason, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. So the only time I ever got time off was surgery. So me and my husband were like, ‘Let’s just sneak a wedding in here.’ That’s how we got married.”
“So, everything’s happening really fast and it’s just like chaos and a tornado of highs and lows and life. But I was really sick and I was scared that I had to have multiple surgeries. So all this stuff is happening. Then, I got hurt in the ring. Then, my husband got sued.”
“It was just all of a sudden that you know, there was stuff in my family. So it’s all this stuff happening in the same year. So my career’s great and everything’s going great and I have my husband, but my bipolar disorder couldn’t handle it.”
“It was too much for me and I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I should. I wasn’t in therapy consistently. I was playing fast and loose with my medication. Because I was being really vain about it because I gained weight when I’m on my medication. So I was, you know, ‘I’m on TV. I can’t —’ I’d rather be alive than have a six-pack.”
AJ Lee then discussed the series of phone calls that saved her life as she called the suicide hotline but was told to call another due to her location:
“So during this chaos, the only solution to me, the only thing I could do was just, I booked a hotel room. That was my plan. I, at some point, realized, ‘Okay, this isn’t my brain. It’s the darkness talking. I called the suicide prevention hotline. The tricky thing about that is my phone number was out of the area code and you have to — they have to route your number by area code, so they can send emergency services if they need to.”
“So once they found out I wasn’t where my area code was, they were like, ‘You have to call this number. This is your local one, you have to do this, please promise you’ll call this number, write this number down.’ I didn’t write it down, just hung up. I was like, ‘That’s the sign. I’m supposed to do this.’”
Thankfully, a call to 311 – the number used to talk to municipal services – ended up saving Lee’s life:
“So I went back to it, and then something else was like, ‘No, no, no, Try again. Try again.’ I was like, I don’t have the number. I don’t have the number. Maybe I should call 311. And ask them for the number.’ So I call this — first of all, only I would have the hilarious suicide attempt, like where it just goes wrong and somebody’s like ‘you have the wrong number’ when you call. Only me.”
“So like, ‘Okay, 311 might help me get the right number.’ The man on the other end of the phone… This man was so patient and so kind. I don’t even understand what happened. But I just started telling him everything. This kind stranger who gets noise complaints, right? This is not his job.”
“I didn’t realize that it was the first time in a long, long time, someone had shown me kindness, and was just like, ‘Oh, that sucks.’ Like, for so long, people just thought I was like, on the top of the world, and I’m the caretaker in my family and what I was providing for everybody. But there wasn’t anyone. Anybody checking in on me.”
“So it’s just — I didn’t realize — I just needed somebody to check in on me. It was this tiny, small act of kindness that literally saved my life. Like, I don’t know his name. I just remember his voice. I can hear his voice right now. He was just kind and patient and he just listened. That was enough for me to go, ‘Okay, I need to go home. This is terrifying.’”
“So that I just thought like, I could handle it on my own. So what I realized from that was that I needed to talk about my diagnosis, because a huge problem was I was hiding it, like the world didn’t know at the time that I was bipolar and never talked about my mental health. So I needed to, like, come out of hiding.”
If you’re in crisis in the US, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or use the Crisis Text Line by texting “NAMI” to 741741.