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Alexa Bliss Hopes Sharing Her Mental Health Struggles Can Help Others

Alexa Bliss has made a habit of carving her name into WWE history, and she accomplished that feat again by performing in the opening match at the first-ever empty-arena WrestleMania two weeks ago.

Bliss teamed with Nikki Cross to defeat Asuka and Kairi Sane for the Women’s Tag Team Championship. The match was physical, entertaining, and emotional, particularly for Cross in her most significant WrestleMania moment to date. Though Bliss enjoyed the match, she would much prefer to have her WrestleMania moments in front of fans from around the globe.

“I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities at WrestleMania, including hosting last year,” said Bliss. “I walked in as champ at my first two WrestleManias, but I had a streak of losing my title at WrestleMania. This year I didn’t lose a title, I gained one. I’m looking forward to WrestleMania with all our fans, but opening the show with Nikki was a lot of fun.”

Wrestling in front of an empty arena is a difficult task, as wrestlers react instinctively to the response of the crowd. Despite the difficult circumstances created by the coronavirus, Bliss is grateful for the opportunity, just like she is thankful for every new day—a perspective shaped by two near-death experiences.

Bliss is 28-year-old Lexi Kaufman, and her battles off-screen dwarf even her most compelling ones in the ring. She has fought an eating disorder since her teenage years, a disease with a scope and intensity capable of distorting a person’s entire self-image and, tragically, ending their life.

Bliss’ eating disorder left her in a state of constant anguish. When she was 15 years old, her weight sunk to 80 pounds. With a heart rate of only 28 beats per minute—far below the normal healthy rate of 60–100 beats per minute—she was rushed to the hospital with one goal: to stay alive.

“When I went to the hospital, I almost went into cardiac arrest,” said Bliss. “And I wasn’t allowed to go to sleep—they thought I’d die if I did.”

Bliss experienced another frightening low during her freshman year of college, and she was no longer the healthy, vibrant, competitive soul she once was. There is also history of eating disorders in her family, as both her mother and grandmother have persevered through a similar fight.

“I take it day-by-day,” said Bliss. “Dealing with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression, I’m no stranger to mental illness. Every few years, I deal with a really bad spell of depression. You have to know it doesn’t have to overtake your life.

“Mental illness can dictate someone’s entire life. I put myself in a position to be in the public eye, but I’m doing what I love. I’ve gone to therapy, I’ve done everything I can do to get my brain in a healthy place.”

Bliss is starring on WWE’s new Fight Like A Girl series on Quibi, where a WWE star is paired with a woman for a 10-week training session that encompasses both physical strength and believing in oneself. Bliss worked with 24-year-old Holly Jackson, who like Bliss, is fighting an eating disorder.

“The path she was on was the same path I was on,” said Bliss. “I felt like I was looking at a mirror of myself. Getting to know her, working with her, I was just so proud of her. I’m not an emotional person, I don’t cry, but when we had our reveal at the end of the show, I couldn’t stop crying.”

Developing the Alexa Bliss character has required time, toil, and tears, but Bliss is quick to reveal she did not accomplish her success alone.

“My parents have been supportive of anything and everything I’ve wanted to do since day one,” said Bliss. “I wanted to be a gymnast, so they found me gymnastics classes. My dad coached my softball team. I wanted to cheer, and they supported me there, too. They’ve always been there for me.

“When I signed with WWE, I wanted to give back to them. I bought them a house down the street from me in Florida. They watch all my matches, they were there for the title wins. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

There is no instant cure for mental illness. For Bliss, she counters it with techniques of her own, as well as a loving and persistent support system that includes her coworkers in WWE.

“There are some things I still do—I still wear my t-shirt when I wrestle,” said Bliss. “One, it’s to promote merch because I think it’s cute, and two, because I’m always going to be that self-conscious person. But I don’t let it dictate my life like I used to.

“An eating disorder is something that never leaves you, so having that support system is so important. Up until two years ago, I was terrified of being near gummy bears. There was a night when I was backstage at a show, and there were gummy bears there. I was telling Tyler Breeze how that’s a trigger food for me, and as the weeks went on, he helped me eat gummy bears again. That was a minute little moment, but it was a big deal to me. I need that, and that’s what I tried to do on Fight Like A Girl for Holly. I just reached out to her a week ago, and she’s still doing well.”

Now in her second reign with the tag titles, Bliss wants to wrestle across WWE’s different brands with Cross and elevate the status of the women’s tag division, inspiring her fans to keep moving forward in their own fight. She is looking forward to a time when the world is protected from the coronavirus and people are allowed back at WWE shows, but until then, she is willing to keep performing.

“If we can help people escape reality for a couple minutes, then it’s worth it,” said Bliss. “It’s a very unfortunate situation going on right now in the world, so I’m trying to stay positive. WWE is taking all the precautions to make sure everyone at our shows is safe. For me, it’s also nice that I can spend time at home with my family and my animals. That’s my positive way of looking at it.”

Bliss’s fighting spirit is an integral piece of WWE programming, and she is willing to put her story out into the world for anyone who needs it.

“I’m sharing my story to help others,” said Bliss. “Each year, my character changes a little bit here and there, and hopefully that’s as entertaining for people as I try to make it.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.