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20 Questions for Carrie Fisher

The prolific performer talks about her experiences with bipolar disorder and addiction -- plus what it's like to reach a happier middle age.

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Have I gotten past it? I wasn't aware that I had! I am Princess Leia, no matter what. If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn't say I wrote Postcards [From the Edge, her best-selling first novel]. Or, if I'm trying to get someone to take my check and I don't have ID, I wouldn't say: "Have you seen Harry Met Sally?" Princess Leia will be on my tombstone. 

Actor, writer, funny lady, bipolar disorder. Is it unsettling, empowering, or a bit of both to be considered a poster child for this condition?

Well, I am hoping to get the centerfold in Psychology Today. It's a combination of everything. It was out there, anyway; I wanted my version of it out there. Now, it seems every show I watch there's always someone bipolar in it! It's going through the vernacular like "May the force be with you" did. But I define it, rather than it defining me.

You were officially diagnosed at age 29, after initially being told you were an alcoholic and drug addict. Did your addictions mask bipolar behaviors? 

The first time they said the word bipolar to me was when I was 24. The diagnosis when I accepted it? I was 29. But I was still loaded [then]; if you're on drugs, you look bipolar anyway.

And once you first got sober, did these behaviors immediately amp up?

 Everybody I came into rehab with, we hung out, going to meetings that first year. They all calmed down; I went in the other direction. I was a year sober and I was pretty crazy. I thought once I got diagnosed [as] an alcoholic, and that was the problem, that was it. Well, yeah, that was part of it. But it was the solution, not the problem.

Without the leveling effect of medication: are you more manic or depressive?

Mostly mania. When I got older, depression became more of an issue. Mania is not that unpleasant, but … it's a spin of the dial, you don't know what you're going to get. It turned into what they call agitated depression. I would get really impatient. I was going much faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world.

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