It’s been two years since Ricki Lake lost her ex-husband, but the venerated talk show host and documentary filmmaker has only recently begun to find joy in life once more.
“It’s a miracle, but I truly feel on the other side of it,” Lake, 50, tells PEOPLE.
Though she was no longer married to Christian Evans when he died by suicide in 2017, she was still very close to her ex. “For a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever feel happy again.”
It was two years into their marriage when Evans began exhibiting signs of his bipolar disorder, frightening Lake and her two sons Milo, 21, and Owen, 17 (their dad is Lake’s ex, Rob Sussman).
“It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Lake says. “I wanted to save him, but I couldn’t.”
The couple split in 2015, though “I was still supporting him,” Lake says, “financially and emotionally.”
When she learned of his death, Lake crumbled.
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“I got to experience true depression,” she says. “There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed, and that is a very scary place to be. I’m such a positive person, and to not feel like that was paralyzing.”
With help from therapy and close friends and family, as well as her work with Bring Change to Mind — an organization that aims to alter the stigmas of mental illness — Lake gradually learned how to move forward.
She also felt an even deeper connection to her new documentary, Weed the People, about the medical cannabis world, co-produced by Evans. “This project is his legacy,” she says.
Still, she doesn’t believe it’s possible to ever truly recover.
“I will mourn the loss of Christian’s beautiful soul every day of my life,” she says. “But human beings are resilient. And life is precious.”
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