“I just didn't want to live after that accident. That's what it came down to. I couldn't handle it at all. So I spent about a year just trying to kill myself, basically, by doing every self-destructive thing a person can do,” Gayheart, 47, said on “The Only One In The Room” podcast, letting out a nervous laugh.
During her talk, she spoke about the 2001 incident in which she struck 9-year-old Jorge Cruz Jr. with her car in Los Angeles, and he died of his injuries a day later.
"I had a very terrible accident happen,” she said. “I still have trouble talking about it, obviously, so if I get emotional, I apologize. And that, you know, changed me. And, luckily, I came out the other side and really positive things have happened in my life since then, but I do still struggle with it.”
She said that even 18 years later, she still has difficulty accepting the facts.
“I struggle with the 'Why?' still; I still replay it in my head of, 'Had I stopped at the gas station, maybe I wouldn't have been on that street.' You know, those things never go away — they stay with you forever and I did not cope very well after,” she said.
Thinking that her life was over after the boy’ death, she let her life get out of hand.
“I just didn't understand; I didn't understand any of it, like, I had led, you know, sort of a charmed life up until then, even though I grew up dirt poor and, you know, I had a loving family,” the Beverly Hills: 90210 actress said.
She explained that her life in New York was going great, she had amazing friends and a successful career, but when the accident occurred it all went downhill, fast.
“It just turned my world upside down and I lost faith in everything, like, I questioned God, like, 'Why me? Why Jorge? Why that- Why did something like this have to happen?' And I still have those questions -- but, today, I am able to ponder those questions and still realize that I deserve to be happy and that I am meant to be on this planet and that I have a purpose and I'm making, living amends for that, even though it was an accident,” she said.
In 2002 Gayheart settled a wrongful death suit filed by the boy’s parents, Silvia Martinez and Jorge Cruz. She paid for his medical expenses after the crash, and when he was pronounced dead, she paid for his funeral.