Carrie Fisher, or Princess Leia, as some of us know her, has battled with bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) all her life. Daughter of two Hollywood stars, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Carrie had a lot of hopes pinned on her. After her parents divorced, she joined her mother’s stage act, and was diagnosed with the condition in her early teens.
Despite this, Fisher’s career went from strength to strength until it culminated in her 1977 role in Star Wars, which turned her into an iconic figure. It was also around this time that the actress began using cocaine, which she became addicted to. This was coupled with alcoholism in the early 80s and eventually a drug overdose, which sent her to rehab. This experience inspired Fisher to write her first book – Postcards from the Edge, which was later made into a film.
In 1997 she was hospitalized once more, apparently in order to rebalance her bipolar medication, and in 1998 she checked into another drug treatment programme. At the time, her publicist said: “The combination of the prescribed medication required for manic depression and the pain medication prescribed to her recently from getting dental implants caused her to recognize the problem early on and act immediately.”
In a Times interview following the release of her 2004 comic novel The Best Awful, Fisher joked: “When I was in hospital there were two gangs: the dually diagnosed — people like me who had drug and drink problems as well as manic depression — and those who were ‘just bipolar’. We were the cool crazies. I went to a just bipolar evening a while back. It was deadly.”
She admits there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the illness and many people fail to seek help. That is one of the reasons she published this book.
“A lot of people in Hollywood are manic depressive and don’t talk about it,” she said. “I tried to illustrate the condition comedically but give you an idea of what it is like. I think there’s a point to that rather than it just being some dittery confessional.”
But Fisher also adds that the reception she received upon revealing that she was suffering from bipolar was not altogether negative: “Most of my friends have been positive, though some are at the concern/pity stage. They look at you with their head on one side and say, ‘How are you?’ There is still a certain amount of concern in the back of people’s heads that I might blow up again.”
Now, the actress and writer dedicated a lot of her time to raising awareness about the condition and helping others affected by it. She says that, perhaps due to her openness, she has become somewhat of a resource if someone’s in trouble. She jokes that it is always more fun to have a celebrity rescue that one from a doctor.
[adsense]Never lacking in humour, she talks about her work helping other bipolar sufferers: “There is a place in LA that treats children with manic depression, which I help with. They said they wanted help getting a drama teacher. That’s the last thing they need!”
About 1% of the population suffers from bipolar disorder.