Jan 09

Bipolar Disorder: Public Faces Reduce Stigma

Among the notables who died this past year are two talented women, Carrie Fisher and Patty Duke, who’d made public their experiences of bipolar disorder, thus serving to decrease mental health stigma.

CARRIE FISHER (1956-2016)

One of my own best memories of Carrie Fisher involves having seen her live one-person show called “Wishful Drinking,” which also was filmed for HBO (2010) and which earlier had been published as a book as well. Fisher, who’d struggled with alcohol and drug addiction in the past—common for those with as-yet-unidentified bipolar disorder—was open about both this and her mental health in Wishful Drinking.

Below, a few of the best quotes from the book version:

If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.

One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

Oh! This’ll impress you – I’m actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I’m a PEZ dispenser and I’m in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can’t have it all?

Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything…I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. It’s better than being bad at being insane, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?

Happy is one of the many things I’m likely to be over the course of a day and certainly over the course of a lifetime. But I think if you have the expectation that you’re going to be happy throughout your life–more to the point, if you have a need to be comfortable all the time–well, among other things, you have the makings of a classic drug addict or alcoholic.

In 2011 Fisher published Shockaholic, which is partly about her love of electro-convulsive shock treatment. Washington Post: “…[This] follow-up to her successful autobiography and one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, is similarly witty, ramshackle, and outrageous.”

PATTY DUKE (1946-2016)

Rex Reed’s (New York Observer) recent description of Patty Duke: “an abused child star with a sunny all-American image who enchanted critics and audiences while masking manic depression…[that] she kept private for years until, as an adult, she became an outspoken advocate for mental health issues.”

Following her death, son Sean Astin started a Crowdrise fundraiser for the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative. “She became a voice for the voiceless,” said Astin, “a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need…Her greatest achievement was confronting her mental illness and making her story public…My mom took her place as a mental health advocate in the greatest tradition of noble leadership.”

Her books were Call Me Anna, a 1987 autobiography, and Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness (1992). (Now more commonly known as bipolar disorder.)