Eileen Davidson Y&R
Credit: Howard Wise/JPI

Life in the Abbott family isn’t easy on The Young and the Restless. Heck, it’s not easy for any family in Genoa City, But the Abbotts have felt more than their share of heartbreak, betrayal and pain. It’s been particularly rough for Ashley, from Dina’s Alzheimer’s to learning John wasn’t her father after all. But as crazy as the daytime world can get, sometimes that’s nothing compared to the real-life struggles we face in our own families.

That’s something Eileen Davidson opened up about on a recent episode of State of Mind, the vlog hosted by General Hospital’s Maurice Benard (Sonny). Ashley’s longtime portrayer began by talking about how she realized that she was living in a near constant state of shame. “Just being alive, taking up space,” caused her to feel it, she noted.

And it began, she realizes, as many things do, back in her childhood. Her father, Davidson, explained was, “manic depressive.” It wasn’t diagnosed, but for a time, things got fairly dire.

“His behavior was pretty bizarre,” she began. “And there was so much shame attached to that. It was hard to miss. My father would go in his room and not talk to me — I was 8 years old at the time — for like six months. He would come in the door and literally walk by as if I wasn’t there. At that point, he was arguing with my mother, and I would get pushed into that category of somebody he doesn’t want to deal with.”

Then all of a sudden it was over, and everything was supposed to go back to normal as if nothing happened. But something did happen and for a little kid, especially, it was traumatic. Then there was the shame of all the fighting going on, the neighbors knowing about it, kids coming over knowing about something wasn’t right — all of it.

And to make matters worse, back then, they just didn’t understand what was going on. Davidson’s mom’s theory was that her husband’s fall off a horse as a kid had done something to make him this way.

But it was, as the actress talked about to an understanding Benard, a clear case of bipolar disorder, with all the highs and lows that came with it. Her dad would swing from fighting and shutting the family out, to wanting to take everyone on vacation and buy jewelry and leather cuffs for all the girls and boys in the family.

And if that wasn’t enough for the family, “My mother,” Davidson added, “God bless her, was an incest survivor.” That’s something she hadn’t told anyone until the actress was in her 20s.

“So you’ve got these two people that were so fragile, and they were raising seven children. I used to pray that my father would die. It’s the truth because there was so much chaos in the house, and when he came in, we were other people. When he was gone, we felt more relaxed.”

Imagine how difficult things must have been growing up to pray for something like that. How trapped and scared and confused you must have felt, not understanding what was happening or why. But the beautiful thing is that with understanding, things changed.

Eileen Davidson, Son Jesse P.S. ARTS Express Yourself 2009 with Maria and Bill Bell to Restore Arts Education to Public Schools Barker Hangar Santa Monica 11/15/09 © Jill Johnson/jpistudios.com 310-657-9661

Davidon’s own son Jesse was born in 2003 and working in daytime, she told Benard, allowed her to be there for every milestone of his childhood.

Credit: Jill Johnson/JPI

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“Through realizing and looking back and growing up,” Davidson noted, growing emotional, “I see what a hero my father was. And my mother. Because they didn’t have anywhere to go. They only had their home. And they weren’t big drinkers, they didn’t abuse. I realized that they were dealing with this stuff that was so huge and traumatic. It’s heroic. I love the fact that they were able to raise the kids, there were seven of us, and go to work and support us.”

Her dad died of a heart attack when she was only 22, her mom died while she was on The Real Housewives. Benard shared a few thoughts from his own struggles being bipolar, both actors coming close to tears.

“My father was a hero,” Davidson informed us. “He worked his ass off, 14-hour days. It’s heroic,” she repeated over and over again, her eyes welling up. “And understanding that, I have so much love with my father. It sounds crazy, but I have a better relationship now than I did when he was alive.”

And the timing of this talk was downright amazing. It was, apparently, her father’s birthday on Monday, May 1. And though he’s no longer with her, Davidson still took to Instagram to share a story, wishing a “Happy birthday, Dad. You are my hero!”

Sometimes we can’t ask for anything more than understanding and love and the peace that comes with it. And sometimes kids never realize as deeply as Davidson does just how much their parents struggled and sacrificed to build a life for their children. And that is, in its own way, beautiful.

Take a look at our photo gallery of the Abbott family in all their messy love.