Benard's story is in some ways identical to that of others who have bipolar I. Following a major breakdown, he was diagnosed at 22, finally coming to terms with the condition that had plagued him since adolescence, without his knowing that the condition had a name, a diagnosis, and a treatment.
"If you think back, you see signs," Benard says, in his dressing room at the GH studio in east Hollywood. "I was brought up to never cry. I had to hold that in, because it's not macho, it's 'weak.' So I'm sure that didn't help. I was drinking a lot in my teens. I was fighting a lot. So you take the drinking, the self-medicating, and the fighting—to release whatever was inside of me—you add that up and I think I just blew up. I remember that, in the hospital, I was crying all the time, probably letting it all out."
And the incident that led to his hospitalization?
"Oh, man…" Benard begins, in a mock-sorrowful tone that makes this writer laugh, which in turn makes Benard laugh.
"It goes on forever," he says. "I pretty much attacked my mother one night and told my mom and dad I was the devil. They called the cops and it was crazy. I asked my mom, 'Who's that?'—I heard her on the phone downstairs—and she said, 'It's the doctor.' I replied, 'It better not be the cops …' and the doorbell rings. And it's the cops. I looked at her the way Sonny Corleone looked in The Godfather."
The police officers came into the house; one was an old friend of Benard's from high school. "There was nothing they could do because I wasn't violent at that time, so they just left. And the next morning, my mom and dad took me to the hospital."
Benard's parents—Humberto, from Nicaragua, and Martha, from El Salvador—were raising their two sons in Martinez, California, which is about 40 miles from San Francisco. It was there that the younger of their children, named Mauricio Jose Morales, at age 21 had become interested in acting—taking classes, acting in plays—yet was growing increasingly intemperate.
"I just became obsessed with being an actor," Benard says. "I was staying up all night, memorizing monologues, which led to me being sick with a 103, 104 degree temperature. After that came the thing I just talked about"—the clash with his parents.