The Truth About Chyler Leigh's Difficult Past

Chyler Leigh has enjoyed a long career in Hollywood, stretching back to her teen years spent starring in 7th Heaven and Not Another Teen Movie. But Leigh's most popular role to date is arguably her stint as Lexie Grey on Grey's Anatomy, a role she held from 2007 to 2012, before her peppy character was killed off after a plane crash. We bring up Lexie Grey — Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) younger half-sister — because the character came from a happy upbringing, even nabbing the titles of prom queen and class valedictorian. This fictional life is in contrast to Leigh's tumultuous childhood, which involved no shortage of lows and a few difficult relationships.

Unfortunately for the star, who scored a lead role on Supergirl in 2015, her early 20s weren't any easier. Leigh has described this time in her life as going through a "complete obliteration," a fitting term considering what she endured. But amid all the drama, Leigh experienced a major up when she met her husband, Nathan West, on the set of the failed pilot Saving Graces. The couple wed in 2002 and have since welcomed three children, Noah, Anniston, and Taelyn. 

Although Leigh enjoyed great happiness after meeting West and growing her family, it wasn't all smooth sailing. The star was diagnosed with a health condition she struggled with privately before bravely sharing her experiences with the world. We can't say for certain, but we have a feeling you'll come to admire Chyler Leigh after learning more about her difficult past.

Chyler Leigh's childhood was complicated

Grey's Anatomy character Meredith Grey described her half-sister Lexie Grey as someone who was "raised right, with parents and rules and smiley-face posters on her wall." This characterization sounds different from Leigh's actual childhood growing up in Virginia, which included enduring her parents' business going bankrupt at age 8, and at 12 navigating the consequences of their divorce, per People. The actor then moved to Florida with her mom, who got back together with her first husband. Leigh was estranged from her dad during this time, although it's not clear exactly why. The two have since reunited, but as of 2008, the Supergirl star wasn't on speaking terms with her mom. "As a mother, I feel sorry for her because I know how much I love my kids," she told People at the time. "And I know how much she loves me."

Leigh's family dynamics might be complicated, but the upside is that she has Nathan West by her side. "It's been a long long road but he still makes me smile this big," the actor captioned a throwback photo of the couple in July 2019. "Even though I have a few more wrinkles since this pic was taken, he makes me feel beautiful and cherished. 20 years together is incredibly rare (especially in this business) so I don't take a single moment for granted and I count my blessings every day." Aww.

Chyler Leigh overcame drug addiction

It can take a lot to open up about something tough, so we commend Chyler Leigh for sharing her experiences battling drug addiction in her early 20s. Leigh and her husband, Nathan West, "did everything but LSD and shooting up," as the actor revealed to People. "We were both so broken," she elaborated. "[Drugs] put us in a false sense of reality — everything's fine, sweep it under the rug. Then you get sober, and you're like, I can't live like this. I don't want to live sober because then I have to actually feel something."

Due to the drug use, Leigh admitted to Women's Health that she wasn't eating enough, and her lack of appetite led to a "really scary" time. "I've always had problems with digestion, but when I was 19, doing drugs and drinking, I ended up getting really sick," she confessed to the outlet. "I couldn't hold food in my body. You could see my bones everywhere."

Leigh and West were able to overcome their drug addictions by finding support at a nondenominational Christian church. "I realized there was so much more to life," she shared with People. "It was like when the light switches on; you can't see something the same way again. We made the decision to quit everything."

Chyler Leigh has struggled with mental illness

Little did fans know at the time, but Chyler Leigh dealt with intense ups and downs during the height of Grey's Anatomy's popularity. "I was experiencing such a high version of mania and irritability that I couldn't sleep or eat, and I was angry and reckless," she explained to Prevention in December 2019. "I would go to work and use that adrenaline and expend my energy and feelings there, and then I would come home exhausted." After visiting a therapist, Leigh went on a "cocktail of prescriptions" that numbed her to everything and "completely obliterated [her] ability to manage" the life she created. This continued up until age 29, when the actor suffered a breakdown and admitted herself into a hospital for treatment. She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, a condition she had tried to ignore for way too long. "I was constantly hiding layers of myself, trying to come off as pretty and palatable," she told Prevention.

What's sad about Leigh's case is that she knew from an early age something wasn't right. "When I would try to talk about how I was feeling, I don't think my parents were in a position to really listen," she told Healthday, explaining how her mom was diagnosed as bipolar later in life. Now that Leigh has found help, she's doing better than ever.  

Of course, Leigh isn't the only star who has struggled with mental health issues, and the decision to discuss them publicly is always a brave one.