The Various Reasons Why Kirsten Storms Has Taken Breaks From General Hospital

Actress Kirsten Storms came to fame as a teenager when she starred in the immensely popular Disney Channel movie "Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century." Following the film, Storms' daytime dreams came true when she was cast on "Days of Our Lives" as Belle Black in 1999. She held the role for five years. In 2005, she landed the role of Mariah Maximilliana "Maxie" Jones on "General Hospital," immediately becoming a fan-favorite.

She is the most notable actress to play an adult Maxie, and her ability to bring the character's fiery energy and spunky personality to life has entertained audiences for over fifteen years. Being the daughter of legacy characters Felicia Scorpio and Frisco Jones, it's no surprise that Maxie has a history of stirring up trouble (via SoapCentral). However, through her long-standing friendship with Lulu Spencer, co-parenting with the delightful Damian Spinelli, and her great love with the late Nathan West, Maxie's knack for troublemaking has waned a bit in recent years. Though that's certainly not to say her life is without drama.

One of the most easily recognizable and memorable characters on "GH," Maxie wouldn't be as beloved as she is without the immense talent Storms brought to the role. However, there have been times over the years where she had to temporarily step back from the show, leaving many fans wondering where she was. These are the reasons Storms has taken a break from "GH" over the years.

Kirsten Storms has dealt with endometriosis

In 2011, Kirsten Storms took a leave of absence from "General Hospital," and her role as Maxie Jones was temporarily recast. Actress Jen Lilley, who would later go on to star on "Days of our Lives" for several years, was brought in for the job. According to Soaps in Depth, Storms later revealed that she had been dealing with complications due to endometriosis — a medical condition characterized by tissue growth outside the uterus. The disorder can often cause severe pain, excessive bleeding, abnormal periods, and even infertility in severe cases (via Mayo Clinic).

Due to "GH" fans' undying love of Storms and her character, some had a difficult time accepting a newcomer in the role. Some more aggressive viewers even took to social media to spread hate regarding Lilley's performance, which didn't sit well with Storms. The actress spoke to Michael Fairman TV at the time, staying "I am grateful that ["GH"] brought somebody in who could do such a great job of keeping Maxie on the canvas, and never in a million years would I have wanted her to feel like people were sticking up for me, by saying bad things to her." 

Thankfully, by September 2012 Storms was feeling better and back on set, causing a huge sigh of relief across the fanbase.

Kirsten Storms took maternity leave after the birth of her daughter

A few years later, Kirsten Storms briefly left "General Hospital" again, but this time for a much more exciting reason. On January 7, 2014, she gave birth to her daughter Harper Rose (via Us Weekly). At the time, she was married to fellow soap actor Brandon Barash who had played the role of Johnny Zacchara on "GH" and has since portrayed Stefan DiMera on "Days of Our Lives."

Though Storms and Barash have since divorced, the pair remain close friends. They often post pictures and anecdotes on their social media regarding their little girl, and it's clear to fans how much they care for her. In an interview with Soaps in Depth, Storms talked about co-parenting with her ex-husband and credits much of their success to their desire to provide a peaceful, happy, and supportive childhood for their daughter. Earlier this year, Storms posted a birthday tribute to her now 8-year-old on Instagram. "She's a fierce little female with a mind of her own," she wrote. "She's silly, but also extremely smart ... I love that as the years go by I get to watch her personality continue to grow ... I'm so proud to be her mom."

Luckily Storms was only out on maternity leave for a few months in early 2014, and fans were much more supportive of her absence since she was enjoying time with her new bundle of joy. Plus, they've been rewarded over the years by getting to know Harper through her parents' social media.

Kirsten Storms experienced serious skin issues

In 2016, Storms was forced to take another break from "General Hospital" when she began experiencing significant skin issues, though she later divulged that there was a more serious underlying cause. The actress released a statement at the time, saying, "I am taking a little break from work due to some skin issues I've been having. My doctors say my breakouts are due to stress, but shouldn't take long to get under control" (via Soaps in Depth). Former "Days of Our Lives" star Molly Burnett temporarily took on the role of Maxie Jones when Storms' blemishes became too difficult for the "GH" make-up team to cover up.

However, in a recent conversation with "GH" co-star Maurice Benad on his podcast "State of Mind," Storms revealed that she had been in a "really bad head space" at the time and that her mental health struggles manifested as cystic acne. Not only did she have to remedy her appearance to continue doing her job, but she also had to work with professionals to treat the inner turmoil that was causing it. Thankfully, she was able to accomplish both of those things and returned to work after about a month — just in time for Maxie to walk down the aisle with Nathan West (Ryan Paevey).

Kirsten Storms sought treatment for mental health issues

The underlying mental health issues that Kirsten Storms had been dealing with forced her to take another leave of absence in 2017 (via SoapCentral). Her several-month exit was explained on-screen as an extended business trip, though the reality was that the actress was coping with a new diagnosis. At the time, she posted on social media thanking her fans for their concern and support and explaining that she was suffering from severe depression, according to Soap Opera Digest.

On Maurice Benard's podcast, Storms went into depth about her experience with mental illness, detailing her history of anxiety, depression, and finding out that she had Bipolar I — a diagnosis Benard shares. Though she had gone through some extremely difficult times prior to receiving the correct diagnosis, she credits her continued recovery to finding the right combination of medications to treat her illness, along with therapy and a great support system.

To anyone listening that might be going through a similar experience, she expressed the importance of finding someone to relate to and suggested online support groups or confiding in a loved one. She added, "If you're a friend of someone you think might be going through depression or having a hard time, it's so important to ask them if they're okay ... that little gesture can mean so much."

Kirsten Storms had to undergo brain surgery

In June 2021, Kirsten Storms faced another health-related upheaval when she had to undergo brain surgery (via People). Her break from "General Hospital" was relatively short since her procedure took place while the show was on a break from taping, but it didn't stop her fans from asking questions. It wasn't until after her successful surgery that Storms revealed the truth about her absence.

She explained that she had a large cyst at the bottom of her brain that was pushing into her spinal cord and causing severe pain (via State of Mind). She underwent surgery, which consisted of removing a piece of her skull to access the cyst and resulted in having titanium plates put in her neck. During her 8-week recovery period, Storms took to social media to let her followers know what was going on. She also shared in an Instagram post, "I'm immensely thankful to my family, friends, and incredible 'work family' who have been supportive, kind and loving during a time when I've been feeling a lot of emotions. Work is a great place to be everyday and for the 2 months leading up to my surgery I found a lot of comfort being around the people I've worked beside for so many years."

Following her recovery, Storms' went back to work at full-speed as her character was at the center of a major storyline on "GH" revolving around a secret baby swap scheme. Fans hope to see the actress continue on her journey of health and happiness and bring the feisty Maxie Jones to life for years to come.