In February, GH sent Maxie off to Portland to give portrayer Kirsten Storms time off for personal reasons. Now, both character and actress are back. “It’s been quite a journey,” she says.
Soap Opera Digest: What does it mean to you to get the love you did from fans at fan club weekend?
Kirsten Storms: It’s awesome. I love fan club weekend anyway, but to have the weekend happen kind of right after my return was really cool because even though I’ve played Maxie now going on, like, 13 years, I still have doubt as to whether or not I’m going to do a good enough job, and the welcome I got and hearing everybody be so excited was just great. My boyfriend, Wes, was joking that every person that came up was like, “You look so great! I’m so happy you’re back!” It just was so repetitive, like a line of them with a hug and a, “I’m so happy you’re back, you look wonderful!” That was really nice.
Digest: How has it been to be back?
Storms: Awesome and weird at the same time. I took a good amount of time out to better myself just because I had things going on in my life and stuff that I needed to deal with that I hadn’t experienced before. So, to renormalize myself and get back into the schedule of GENERAL HOSPITAL, I was really worried about it at first. Super-excited, but also worried. Frank [Valentini, executive producer] has just been beyond amazing during this whole process. He wrote me letters while I was off, encouraging me. He genuinely cares about the show and about the people that work there, and I felt that while I was gone, which I needed, because it was like a boost of confidence. They sort of eased me back into working with the layovers and stuff like that [that had Maxie dipping her toes back into Port Charles], and then it came up that Ryan Paevey [Nathan] had to leave town [to film a movie], so we had to preshoot a bunch of stuff. That’s when it was like I was back right in it, because one day we had four episodes to do, and I think I started looking at those lines maybe a week before, which is abnormal for me. But I feel like I get up there and I get that same, like, excitement and rush. That’s not gone away, so it’s been awesome. That place feels like home to me; the people, the hair and makeup department, are, like, all my moms. So, it’s good. And I got that same sort of welcome that I did with the fans when I came back, so it’s a lot of positive energy for me, which is great.
Digest: How does it feel, on a personal level, to be able to know you can handle even a challenging, four-episode day at work?
Storms: It feels great. When I first posted the comment on my Instagram about my depression … I know lots of people deal with it. I dealt with it on a very severe level, and when you’re in the middle of that, you don’t really realize that you’re in it. You’re just there. Brandon [Barash, ex-Johnny, her ex-husband] actually was one of the people that came to me and said, “You need to get some help for this,” because he saw some changes in me. You don’t know when you’re in the middle of having, like, a breakdown, that you’re having a breakdown. You just think that everything is falling apart, nothing is good, so now, being on the other side of it, it’s crazy for me to think about that time period of my life. I feel incredibly thankful for the process that I went through. I feel thankful to work for giving me time to be able to do that, and I’m proud of myself for coming back like they wanted me to. It’s been quite a journey, and everything’s a learning lesson. I wouldn’t look back at it and be ashamed, like, “I can’t believe this happened to me, I’m so embarrassed.” Lots of people deal with this, I just happen to be in a more public space, and I didn’t want people assuming I was gone because I was, like, doing drugs or whatever the case may be. I wanted people to know that there are other serious things out there that affect people. Like, Maurice [Benard, Sonny] and his bipolar [disorder]. I’ve spoken with him about that, just how amazing I think it is that he’s so open with it, and that helped me acknowledge what I’m going through, because what I deal with is very similar to Maurice’s case, and it’s possible to get through it. It’s possible to manage your life. I think with what happened to me and going through that, I’m going to live a better life now — and that’s worth it.
Digest: It’s very easy, if you’re on the path of not dealing with your issues, to continue not dealing with your issues. How motivating for you to try to make a positive change was your 3-year-old daughter, Harper?
Storms: Yeah, I mean, my depression was so bad I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t eating, I was ignoring me and focusing on things in my head that were negative constantly, and it consumed me. I had, like, kind of a rough year before. I think that’s what kind of jump-started [the severe depression] for me, and I want, for myself and also for my daughter, to be the type of person that is the best parent and role model I can be. And that means taking care of myself and showing her, like, what healthy is. And I would never want her to look at me when I was 85 pounds and think that’s the norm, because I don’t want her growing up with any sort of image issues or anything like that.
Digest: Work aside, how are you feeling these days?
Storms: I just feel really good. It’s hard to explain to people. I just feel like a person again. Work was hard for me. During that time, I would not want to go to work. I wouldn’t want to do anything. And now I’m excited to get out and do my thing, have a day and run errands and stuff like that, so it’s good. It’s made me thankful for everything that I have — and maybe that’s something I needed to go through.
Digest: Do you want to say something to the fans who have had your back and been rooting for you?
Storms: Yeah, I just want to say that especially with social media, you can think that just because an actor doesn’t respond, they’re not seeing tweets or posts on Instagram. I read all of it, I’m just less active on social media than I used to be back in the day. I just want to thank people for the positive messages that they sent me, because telling me you can relate to me because you go through that issue makes me feel more comfortable with what happened. They may not know that they’re giving me what they say I gave them, but that’s happened for me, so I really appreciate the support and I hope I’m making everybody proud with my work on GH.