The New Year is shaping up to be Lisa Riley's best yet. The 42-year-old star is happier than ever and in just a week's time she will make her comeback on hit ITV soap Emmerdale. But preparing to reprise her role as Mandy hasn't been easy, with the star revealing she's had to overcome a lot to make it possible.
Speaking to The Mirror, Lisa has opened up about the reasons behind her leaving the soap 17 years ago.
"It was a hard time for me, terrible. I couldn't deal with fame, I couldn't cope with it. I had the most chronic anxiety and panic attacks, I just couldn't come up for air. I had to leave – I would've gone crazy," she told the publication.
Thankfully, the former Strictly Come Dancing star is back and feeling better than ever. The star credits taking a long break from the soap, as well as working on other TV projects such as BBC's Three Girls and finding love with her partner Al, as the reason behind her overcoming her demons.
"It has taken 17 years to find Lisa, love Lisa and enjoy being me. Now I have learned to love myself, I can go back and play Mandy and know she isn't going to take over again."
Lisa was just 17 years old when she made her first appearance on Emmerdale during the episode broadcast on 20 July 1995 and left back in 2001.
Revealing what made her come back in the first place, the star told HELLO! and other publications at a Christmas press conference: "I've been asked 'When are you going back to Emmerdale?' since the day I left, and in June I was doing a Q&A event for Strictly and someone asked 'Why won't you go back?' to which I had no answer.
"I'm the type of person that needs an answer, I can't leave anything open-ended, so I thought why not, I've ticked my own boxes career-wise – I've done so much which has been great, and 17 years is a long time so I'm interested to see where Mandy has been – she put me on the map and it was seven wonderful years of my life. The reaction so far has been fantastic."