Ricki Lake, the popular talk show host and documentary filmmaker has always exuded positivity, but after her ex-husband Christian Evans's battle with bipolar disorder and death by suicide, the star fell into a serious depression and struggled to come out the other side.
Now, in a new interview on "The Dan Wootton Interview" podcast, Lake, who recently appeared on "The Masked Singer," opened up about the challenging time she spent loving, living with and ultimately grieving for her ex-husband.
Evans was Lake's second husband (she was previously married to Rob Sussman from 1994 to 2004 and they share two sons). In 2012, she eloped with Evans, but their marriage ended two years later. Lake continued to live with and support Evans and he was a presence in the life of her children.
The news of his death hit Lake hard and she struggled to cope. Opening up to Wootton, she explained that when she first met Evans she didn't really understand what it meant that he had bipolar disorder, which according to the National Institute of Mental Health is characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy levels. People with the disorder often have manic episodes followed by depressive phases.
"I equated it to a character flaw but it's a destructive, debilitating illness," she said.
The star of "Hairspray" described her ex as her "favorite person."
"I was never happier than when I was with him," said Lake, 51, recalling the early days of their relationship. Even though she and Evans weren't married anymore at the time of his death, she was still greatly affected by it.
"It's a tragedy I don't think I'll ever recover from," she said.
Sharing new details of the experience, Lake tears up recalling finding out about Evans's death while working in London. She said, "I got the call from his sister and then the email I saw, I knew he was gone from reading the email... I felt him leave."
”I don’t know how I got home to LA," she explained, adding: “You have to deal with the coroner and his family and his wishes and funeral arrangements. I don’t know how I did it all."
"And he was my favorite person, if I go there I can really get teary-eyed, but he was literally the best thing to ever happen to me."
"I know in my heart that by sharing my story I'm helping other people."
After taking time to process her grief and heal, Lake surprised herself by finding love again with Jeff Scult, founder of the clothing company, One Golden Thread. She described Scult as "the healthy version of Christian."
"He's someone who truly loves himself," she said, explaining the differences in the men's characters.
Lake doesn't shy away from talking about Evans and she hope that by sharing her story, it will shed light on a subject that is often surrounded by shame for friends and family members.
"I'm such a better person having had him, loved him and lost him," she said of Evans, who was 53 when he died. "This is part of my story."
Lake hopes people will learn that bipolar can be an extremely tough disorder to manage.
"This illness only gets worse when they're not medicated," she said. "In the case of my husband, medication didn't work."
Lake went on to describe the highest of highs and lowest of lows often experienced by people with bipolar disorder.
"He has all these ideas, and doing yoga in the morning and it keeps going higher and higher until he thinks he can fly," she said, talking about one of Evans's episodes.
"Then they crash," she said, explaining the low side of the disorder. "He becomes suicidal. The second time [it happened] I had to save myself."
"I did everything I could," Lake said. "I know in my heart that by sharing my story I'm helping other people."
She hopes that by talking about this difficult topic, Evans's life and suicide — which is a leading cause of death in the United States — will take on new meaning.
"We need to start loving each other, getting rid of the judgement getting rid of the stigma," she said.
"I don't want him to have died in vain. I would love to help others by being honest and transparent."