The actor plays Chief Jim Hopper in the hit Netflix series. He has already been confirmed to return to the show for its third series, which is expected in 2019.
Appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Harbour revealed he had been in a 12 Step programme for alcohol addiction since his early 20s and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 25 years old. “Here’s the interesting thing – something I’ve never truly spoken about publicly,” he said. “I was actually into this Catholicism thing… and I was sober for like a year and a half. I was 25, and I actually did have a manic episode. I was diagnosed as bipolar.”
He continued to say he “had like a bit of a break” during which he thought he was in touch with God. “It was like I had all the answers suddenly,” he said, adding that he wasn’t taking drugs at the time. “But the interesting thing about it was that I realised I don’t really need them. That I have the capacity to see ‘the elves’ in the corners of the room if I really allow myself to go there.”
Harbour then explained his parents took him to a “mental asylum” after the incident. “I have one thing to say about the mental asylum,” he said. “I’ve romanticised two things in my life and both have fallen short. One is being in a mental asylum. Really not as fun as you think it is.
“No, but you do have a romantic idea of it – [like] you’re a genius – and it just ends up being sad and smells like shit,” he explained. “And the other thing was boating. I just recently went out on a ship in open water and I’d read Moby Dick a million times, and it really is not as sexy. It’s very similar to the mental asylum experience.”
Harbour added that he had been “medicated bipolar for a long time” and had struggled with going on and off the drugs. Asked if that was because he “missed the mania”, he replied: “Yeah, or you think that you’re not the artist that you could be. You think you’re not digging as deep as you could be.
“The funny thing about my brain is every time I’ve had an episode like that, it’s coupled with spirituality. Generally, people are like, ‘I need to meditate more’, or ‘I need to get into yoga,'” he continued. “And I need to, like, eat a cheeseburger and just smoke cigarettes and hang out. Because the minute I get close to that – what I consider a flame – of ‘the answers’ and the mysticism, and I’m ‘completely present’, it’s like I’m out of my mind. So if I write the self-help book, it’s going to be like, ‘Sit on the couch and play some video games.'”