Jenifer Lewis is opening up about her secrets in The Mother of Black Hollywood, her new memoir.
According to an excerpt previewed by People, the Black-ish star opened up about her struggles with mental illness in her 20’s and the way that she was self-medicating through sex and alcohol.
Although Lewis resisted help and medication, she did eventually go to a therapist, who told her that she had bipolar disorder.
“Had she said, ‘you’re crazy,’ I would have agreed. I had been crazy all my life,” she wrote.
When she said, ‘mental illness,’ I thought, ‘b—-, you crazy.’ I associated mental illness with people who couldn’t function, with straitjackets. I certainly knew what a depressive mood was, but this other ‘manic’ part was new. When Rachel explained the details, I gasped. You mean, there is a name for describing why I talk fast and walk fast and rage, create drama, and speed when I drive a car? Compulsive, you say? The doodling, the braiding and unbraiding my hair? The arguing with people and storming off ? Kicking s—, throwing s—? Yeah, okay, I guess all of that describes me.
Lewis also admitted that her therapist, Rachel, helped her come to terms with her sex addiction.
“Just as alcoholism isn’t really about the liquor, my addiction wasn’t really about the sex. It was about the unresolved psychological problems that caused me pain. Sex was simply my painkiller,” she recalled.
When Lewis was 50, she opened up about her struggles in the show Bipolar, Bath and Beyond, and she also spoke out on an episode of Oprah. She hopes that by continuing to share her story, she can help to fight the stigma of mental illness.
“I saw the show as an opportunity to perhaps help someone with bipolar disorder find their way out of the darkness,” she wrote. “I felt it was my responsibility. Stigma, fear, and just plain ignorance about mental illness, particularly among African Americans, has taken a terrible toll on our families and communities.”