The original Hairspray star shared the sad news about Christian Evans' death on social media last month (Feb17), revealing he "succumbed to his life long struggle with bipolar disorder".

The 48-year-old is still reeling from the tragedy, but she's determined to move forward and speak out about the condition that caused her ex so much pain.

"I have to spread the word about recognising this disorder and getting treatment as soon as possible," she tells People magazine. "Christian didn't want to be labelled as bipolar, but he admitted he was in the note he left. That was him finally owning it. That was him giving me permission to tell his story."

Ricki admits she knew about Christian's mental health issues from the start of their relationship in 2010, but she was still convinced they were destined to be together because she understood him.

"I felt like the luckiest girl that he chose me," she says. "He was the funniest person. He was so charismatic. He had a lot of self-esteem issues and a lot of demons. But I understood him, and he was someone that I think a lot of people misunderstood."

The couple wed in 2012 and settled into family life.

"We never fought, we never had an argument," she continues. "He showed up for my kids. He was this quiet force that was just all about love and goodness and wanting to help people."

However, in 2014, Christian's issues came to the forefront when he had a manic episode.

"I didn't know what the hell hit me, because I didn't know what it looked like, so I didn't see it coming," she adds. "For me, someone who has lived with him for four years and seen how hard it was for him to get out of bed and be excited for things, I saw him starting to be happy. It presented initially as him being motivated."

But his episode progressed and Christian started to believe he could fly and "cure cancer with his hands".

"It was horrific," Lake adds. "He just wasn't the person I had been with for four years."

Ricki filed for divorce a month later on the advice of a therapist and Christian was placed on a 5150 psychiatric hold. He was also admitted to a treatment facility.

"He didn't want to be there, and he didn't want to be medicated, but he did it to appease me," she says.

After Christian's release the couple moved back in together and continued to work on their relationship, but he was still struggling.

"He wasn't stable, and he was so fragile, but I was still in love with him, so there was something romantic about it," she continues. "I wanted to save him."

The couple's divorce was finalised in 2015, but they continued to live together until Christian suffered another manic episode in September (16).

Last month, Lake received a text from Christian's sister informing her he had emailed her a suicide note, while she was working in London.

"I knew right then that he was gone," she continues. "Everybody thought he was missing, but I knew. The struggle was just too much for him. He did the best he could."

And now she wants to honour his memory by living a positive life.

"I don't know what's in store for me, but I'm an optimist," she says. "I never stopped loving that man. I'm so lucky I got these beautiful years with him."