‘Stranger Things’ Star David Harbour Got Very Candid About Having Bipolar Disorder

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Stranger Things star David Harbour isn't afraid to get into the nitty gritty when it comes to mental health. David Harbour talked about his experience with bipolar disorder, and his words shed a light on what it's been like for him. During a guest appearance on Marc Maron's podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, Harbour talked about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 25, as well as the time he spent in a mental health treatment facility.

In the podcast, Harbour explained to Maron that various spiritual experiences, including his experience with Catholicism, didn't help improve his mental state. He told the podcast host,

"I was sober for like a year and a half, and I was 25, and I actually did have a manic episode, and I was diagnosed as bipolar ... I really had, like, a bit of a break where I thought I was in connection to some sort of God that I wasn’t really in connection to."

When Maron asked Harbour if he thought he was receiving "signals" from a higher power, Harbour said that he did, and he was writing things down that he thought were significant, too. "It was like I had all the answers suddenly," Harbour told Maron of the experience. He also said that at that time, his parents took him to what he refers to as a "mental asylum" for treatment, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Harbour's statements are a good reminder that everyone's experience with mental health is different. While spirituality can help some people who suffer from mental health conditions, that's not always the case. Harbour explained to Maron that while he's found treatment that works for him, including medication, his experiences with spirituality haven't made things better. He said,

"The funny thing about my particular brain, or, like, mental illness, is that every time that I've had an episode like that, it's always coupled with spirituality ... Generally, people are like, 'I need to meditate more. I need to get into yoga.' And I need to like, eat a cheeseburger and just like, smoke cigarettes and hang out."

Harbour added that for him, the desire to know "the answers" has made spirituality a tricky subject for him. "The minute, I get close to that — what I consider a flame — of like, the answers, and the mysticism ... it's like I'm out of my mind," he told Maron. "If I write the self-help book, it's going to be about, like, Sit on the couch. Play some video games."

The Stranger Things actor also addressed the common experience of wanting to go off medications. While many people can go off prescriptions under a doctor's guidance, it's a myth that taking medication is a "weakness," or that it makes people not "themselves." In Harbour's case, he told Maron that he's had "problems going on and off" medication. "You think that you're not the artist that you could be," Harbour said of the temptation to stop taking medication. "You think you're not digging as deeply as you could be."

While the conversation with Maron is quite in-depth, it's not the first time Harbour has spoken out about mental health. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter in December, the Hellboy star brought up the topic when asked about what organizations he's interested in. He told THR,

"I'm very interested in mental illness and in how mentally ill people are perceived. And I think that's one of the dangerous things that's also happening in America. I'm classically defined as mentally ill myself. Mentally ill people 99 percent of the time are the victims of violence, as opposed to the perpetrators, and I believe that neuroatypicality is something that's very unique and wonderful for a society as opposed to something else. So that's a cause of mine that I work with."

No one's mental health experience is exactly the same. But it sounds like Harbour is helping to take the stigma away from talking about mental illness by sharing his own story.