Nov 16

“Shockaholic”: Carrie Fisher’s Used Electroconvulsive Therapy

Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher‘s new book, became available a couple weeks ago. A recent review by Will Durst states the following:

In her new book, “Shockaholic,” Hollywood’s new poor little rich girl – acknowledging an insatiable fascination with herself – continues her tour down the rabbit hole of Crazy Town, sparking us through brightly lit secret corridors while twisting self-deprecation into an art form.

Durst adds that “Chapter 2 is a love letter to electroconvulsive therapy,” while the rest of Shockaholic covers various other topics, including her adventures with certain pop culture figures such as Michael Jackson and her difficult relationship with her famous father.

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times: “One of the side effects [of electroconvulsive therapy] is memory loss, and this, Fisher tells us, is the impetus for the book — she wants to write things down before she forgets it all. And while she’s writing it down, why not publish it, since people will never tire of celebrity memoirs and Fisher is, at her core, a very good writer who’s able to keep us entertained.”

A pertinent quote from Shockaholic:

You see, even after decades of therapy and workshops and retreats and twelve-steps and meditation and even experiencing a very weird session of rebirthings, even after rappeling down mountains and walking over hot coals and jumping out of airplanes and watching elephant races and climbing the Great Wall of China, and even after floating down the Amazon and taking ayahuasca with an ex-husband and a witch doctor and speaking in tongues and fasting (both nutritional and verbal), I remained pelted and plagued by feelings of uncertainty and despair. Yes, even after sleeping with a senator, and waking up next to a dead friend, and celebrating Michael Jackson’s last Christmas with him and his kids, I still did not feel—how shall I put this?—mentally sound.

Selected Reviews

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times: “Ultimately the book is about being honest with yourself, living with as few regrets as possible and about making peace — with family, friends, and strangers with whom you might have had a grudge. The book is kept aloft with Fisher’s endless dry wit, although there’s a melancholy that permeates the writing…Fisher may be trying to remind us that taking the leap and reaching out might be worth the risk, even without a safety net.”

Peter Conrad, The Guardian: “…Fisher spends the entire book decrying showbusiness as an industry devoted to deceit and a congenital disease, only to decide at the last moment that it’s a true religion and the balmiest and most soul-saving of therapies. She is due, I think, for another spot of self-appraisal in rehab. You can detoxify the body, but it’s harder to rid an addled head of its false values.”

Tasha Robinson, AVClub: “…(T)he real gold of the book comes in Fisher’s ruthlessly self-abnegating sense of humor, which refuses pity, or even much serious focus on her troubles. There’s a sense, at times, of a much larger pain underlying the gags, particularly over her depression-damaged relationship with her daughter, and her reunion with her drug-loving, dying father.”

Oct 07

Carrie Fisher: Fearless In The Face Of Mental Health Stigma

Writer and actress Carrie Fisher has not been one to shy away from disclosing—to the world—her various mental health and substance abuse issues. In fact, by writing and speaking out candidly about her struggles, she has stared down the threat of mental health stigma and has won.

Carrie Fisher’s first novel was the semi-autobiographical Postcards From the Edge (1987) in which the main character, Suzanne, is addicted to drugs. One of her most memorable quotes: “Instant gratification takes too long.” Despite this attitude, Suzanne does eventually wind up in treatment and on the road to recovery.

By the way, the movie adaptation (1990), available on DVD, features Meryl Streep as Suzanne and Shirley MacLaine as her famous-actress mom with an affinity for both booze and the spotlight.

While promoting her 2008 book, Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher spoke with Matt Lauer on The Today Show. Below is a brief clip (unfortunately a bit out of sync) in which she addresses her lack of fear of mental health stigma. Please note: although it may appear that she has no legs, they’re just tucked underneath her.

Fisher has performed her one-woman show of the same title in various U.S. cities, including on Broadway in New York. She’s currently, in fact, on stage in Chicago through October 16th. (The filmed version of the show, which has aired on HBO, has been available on DVD since 2010.)

Hot off the presses, a review in The Chicago Tribune states:

…the real strength of this piece is how well Fisher’s personal stories speak to greater societal and existential truths. ‘Wishful Drinking’ is intended to be fun, and indeed it is, but the real nut of the night is this: ‘If you claim something, it has less power over you…’

The following video clip, representing different parts of her show, illustrates Fisher’s unique approach to her own serious mental health issues:

Although in Wishful Drinking Fisher has already publicly aired her use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), her soon-to-be-released book Shockaholic apparently delves even deeper into this. From the product description on Amazon:

…the electro-convulsive shock therapy she’s been regularly undergoing is threatening to wipe out (what’s left of) her memory.

But get ready for a shock of your own. Not only doesn’t she mind paying the second electric bill, but she loves the high-voltage treatments.

Hence, the implication in the title that ECT may now qualify as her most—brace yourself for another pun intended—“current” addiction.