Alan Ritchson faced bipolar diagnosis with courage, leaned into his faith

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By Dahlia Gonzalez –

Heartthrob Alan Ritchson is so highly self-critical and self-demanding that he drove himself into a midlife crisis and nearly took his life at age 36.

“Thank God I was not successful,” he told The Christian Post. “I went up to my attic and hung myself. It was the saddest lie, but I thought I was doing my family and my community a favor because I was such a mess mentally.”

His scrape with suicide eventually brought Alan Ritchson – who stars as Jack Reacher on the much-loved Amazon Prime series – back to the God he had walked away from as a child.

Alan Ritchson and his wife

Born in 1982 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Alan moved to Illinois and then Florida, where he graduated from Niceville High School. He briefly studied singing before modeling. He caught attention through the Ambercrombie & Fitch catalog and later as a contestant on American Idol.

He played Aquaman in Smallville and a smattering of other small roles. His first leading role was Thad Castle in Spike TV’s Blue Mountain States in 2010. He featured in the D.C. Universe as Hawkeye, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Raphael and the 2013 Hunger Games as Gloss.

The demands of a burgeoning career put a strain on his marriage. With his wife, Catherine, he has three sons.

“Keeping my marriage together was very difficult as my career was accelerating,” Alan says on Michael Rosenbaum’s YouTube channel Inside of You. “I was working on bigger films with bigger stars. Not everybody you work with cares that you’re married. There was a lot of friction and then you’re like, ‘maybe I shouldn’t be married.’ I was very open with my wife: ‘I don’t know if the life I chose is the life I want right now.’”

But after questioning his marriage, Alan got slammed with guilt and shame. He was experiencing great success, acting, directing, and writing, but driving himself “manic” to “service every monster” project he had created.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was my business partner… gave me an ultimatum that if I didn’t provide a quid pro quo relationship thing that she was going to destroy my reputation and our business,” he says. She wanted favors “in her hotel room,” Alan says, and if he denied her, she threatened to slander him on TMZ, he says.

After years of working with her on a strictly business basis, Alan was floored. He flew home, lawyered up and contemplated suicide.

“I think it would be better if I weren’t here,” he told his wife.

“Please don’t do anything crazy,” she responded.

Thankfully, the business partner never carried out her threats, Alan says, but he was left devastated and depressed.

“I couldn’t get up in the morning. All I wanted to do was sleep all the time,” he says. “I felt like I was just a burden to my family. My kids are seeing me like this, and I can’t let them see me like this. I was this shell of myself. Nobody tells you that when you get to the top (of your career), there’s nothing there.”

He had made loads of money that year. He was an acknowledged Hollywood A-lister. And it was meaningless. His partner threatened to bring it all down. What was life for anyhow?

After days of despairing and not being able to “get it together,” he decided finally to march up to his attic, string an extension cord over the crossbeam and hang himself.

Instantly, the cord tightened around his neck depriving him of oxygen. As he hung there, his life about to ebb away, a vision of his children as adults flashed through his mind.

“Please don’t do this,” they said to him, surprisingly, with calmness.

Alan, who developed huge muscles for his acting and modeling careers, pulled himself up and out of the noose.

“Thank God I work out, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have had the strength,” he says.

Within the hour, he called a psychiatrist and said he urgently needed to talk.

At the psychiatrist’s office, he took a simple test. The results? He was bipolar.

But Alan was in no mood to receive such a diagnosis and he lashed out at the doctor.

“F–k you!” he said. “You wanna put me in a box? Especially in a category of like basket cases? F–k you! I’m healthy.”

He stormed out of the office.

Down in the parking lot, he was sweating and angry.

At length, he gathered himself together and went back up to talk to the doctor. “I knew he was right.”

He relented and took medication. He still takes it today.

Alan also began researching everything he could find about bipolar. He’s accepted the diagnosis and reaches out to people with mental health issues to remove the stigma and encourage them to seek help. He uses his YouTube channel InstaChurch to spread the Word of God and the word of mental health.

“You don’t feel like a freak or a psycho,” he says.

He’s now Jack Outreacher.

He simplified his life, sold off his fancy cars and the extra house. He stopped calling his work “building my empire.” He started giving back to the community through charities, having an others focus.

“That kind of altruism has a meaningful impact on our state of well-being,” he says. “Heaven is a cycle of love of always giving away.”

The Ritchsons with their sons.

He rediscovered God in his process of going back to the gym and reclaiming his life.

“Faith was a big part of it for me,” he says. “I had to find what meaning and purpose look like after that, and it looked like serving others and having a real relationship with God.

“I’ve had the most trouble in the times where I am on my own, a slave to my own ambition,” he adds. “Realizing there’s really nothing there at the top when you’re just grinding away at building your own empire — I don’t belong in that camp. I belong in God’s camp.”

Since January 2022, he’s voiced God values over his YouTube channel InstaChurch. And he’s appeared in faith-friendly films like Ordinary Angels. “God continually shows up in our world in a way that kind of boggles our mind,” he says.

“God chooses heroes to do His work. It’s the broken and the dysfunctional that God proves His power and strength through,” Alan adds. “It’s important that we remember that those who may be struggling to follow the rules, who don’t look like the perfect Christians, who are the broken, are the people that God has a funny way of expressing Himself through. And that story is very much told in Ordinary Angels.”

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

About the writer of this article: Dahlia Gonzalez lives in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

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