Famous Depressives #5: Carrie Fisher

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photo by JD Hancock (creative commons)

The actress known for her role as Princess Leia is severely manic depressive (now usually called bipolar disorder). Here’s a glimpse of just how manic she could get, from a Psychology Today piece:

Some years ago, the writer and actress suffered what she calls a “psychotic break.” At the time, she was experiencing a deep depression—just getting out of bed to pick up her then eight-year-old daughter Billie was a major feat. She was also improperly medicated. All of which landed her in the hospital. While there she was riveted to CNN, convinced that she was both the serial killer Andrew Cunanan as well as the police who were seeking him. “I was concerned that when he was caught, I would be caught,” she recalls.

Her brother, filmmaker Todd Fisher, feared that he was going to lose her. “The doctors said she might not come back.” Awake for six days and six nights, she recalls hallucinating that a beautiful golden light was coming out of her head. Yet the confusing thing about her mania, says Todd, is her ability to remain articulate, clever and funny. Todd says she launched into Don Rickles-like diatribes, “ripping everyone who came into her room.”

 

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Famous Depressives #3

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photo by SLR Jester (creative commons)

From A Portrait of the Artist: The Life and Art of Jackson Pollock:

Nor have fans of Pollock ever had any illusions about the artist’s state of mental instability. An abuser of alcohol all his adult life, he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1938 while still living and working in lower Manhattan and was briefly hospitalised for depression. Thereafter, however, there were signs that Pollock’s personal and professional life might achieve some equilibrium. In 1943, Guggenheim gave him his first solo show at her Art of this Century gallery. In 1944, he married Krasner, who was already his long-time lover, and they bought the Springs house together. He was also undergoing intensive psychotherapy at the time – a process that many believe influenced the work of his most productive period in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Famous Depressives #2

Here’s a profile of Spalding Gray by Oliver Sacks that appeared in the New Yorker this April. “The Catastrophe: Spalding Gray’s Brain Injury.” The subtitle is a bit misleading, you might think it deals with neuroscience. What it really chronicles is a slow, but seemingly unavoidable descent toward suicide. It is very dark. Those that recall Spaldings performances during his popularity will recall that he was the essence of life. When he first disappeared I seem to recall the press treated it as if it were a mystery. To hear this recounting is chilling. Highly recommended, if you’re up for it. Not recommended if you’re depressed.