Why We Owe Carrie Fisher a Debt of Gratitude
Carrie Fisher's openness about bipolar disorder and addiction saved lives.
Posted Dec 27, 2016
There have been many well-known people who have passed away in 2016, but one death that hit me harder than others was the death of Carrie Fisher, who passed away today, December 27th.
It wasn't just Ms. Fisher's turn as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, her brilliantly written Postcards from the Edge, her hilarious portrayal of a group therapy leader in Austin Powers, her appearance in the one-woman show Wishful Drinking...and many other contributions to stage and screen that touched many of us in the mental health community. It was the fact that she spoke out about having bipolar disorder and being a recovering addict when not many public figures were doing so.
Ms. Fisher was so open about having bipolar disorder that she even spoke about her family's mental health history in her stage show Wishful Drinking, complete with a blackboard chart of all her family members and a pointer stick.
She had this to say about her life:
"If my life wasn't funny, it would just be true. And that is completely unacceptable...From a certain slant maybe it's tragic, maybe even a little bit shocking. And then time passes, and you go to the funny slant. And now that very same thing can no longer do you any harm."
In 2013, after she was hospitalized for issues with bipolar disorder. She explained her hospitalization on the Graham Norton Show, very matter-of-factly:
"My medication had a little problem with itself. You have problems with medication..it's a balance issue. Which I went out of balance in public."
It was refreshing hearing a public figure speak about her psychotropic medication the way it should be spoken about - openly and plainly. People take medication for brain issues just like they take medication for diabetes and high blood pressure. Why should psychotropic medication be treated about any differently than other medications?
She also appeared on "Stephen Fry:Secret Life of the Manic Depressive", describing mania as:
"Then you start going way too fast...you're faster than anyone you're around, and that's not fun...nothing is going fast enough for you."
On the same show, she was also very clear about the allure of mania, which some are hesitant to talk about:
"Even if it's not true that you're more talented when you're manic, you feel like you are."
Ms. Fisher made it acceptable to talk about mental health issues, and even embrace them as part of you. Her talent as a writer helped many have words for what they were and are experiencing.
Ms. Fisher was a survivor. She owned her bipolar disorder and addiction issues - and the mental health community is better off for it. Rest in peace, Ms. Fisher. My condolences to her family.
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