In his 20s, Maurice Benard was diagnosed as manic-depressive. "What's happening inside of you, you almost feel like you want to explode. You have so much emotion. So much energy. Almost like a drug. The high you get from it." For Maurice, the manic highs are always followed by deep, paralyzing depression. "It's just an enormous, enormous amount of pain."
When Maurice met the love of his life Paula, he was honest about his condition and on medication to control it, but Paula had no idea what to expect. Then, in 1993, a few years after they were married, Maurice took a risk and stopped taking his medication. Soon, he landed the role of Sonny on General Hospital. Just three weeks into his new job, Maurice plunged into a dark mania. Rapidly losing control, Maurice couldn't distinguish what was real from what was on TV. He began talking to Paula with his character's lines. "It was probably about a week's time that I saw the transformation," said Paula. "It wasn't just, like, one moment or one day that it happened. But, literally you see someone becoming a totally different person."
Then, one frightening night, Paula witnessed Maurice's final breakdown. While Paula's nieces were sleeping over, Maurice drank half a bottle of wine and threatened Paula's life. "I said, 'Don't cry. If you cry, I'm going to kill you. And I'm gonna kill your nieces,'" Maurice explains. "I put my hand on one of the girls. That was just to scare her. The dark side wants to just…it's a game. Always pushing, pushing, pushing."