Carrie Fisher's battle with bipolar - Horrific reaction to drugs to key factor of 'genius'

Darcy Rafter August 16, 2022
Carrie Fisher's battle with bipolar - Horrific reaction to drugs to key factor of 'genius'
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for US-IRELAND ALLIANCE

Carrie Fisher battled bipolar disorder and substance abuse for 45 years until her death in 2016. The Star Wars actress, popular for her role as Princess Leia, was diagnosed with the condition in her 20s following a drug overdose that left her fighting for her life.

The actress and author was a passionate mental health advocate and spoke openly about her illness. This also meant her addiction became very public as she took her fans along on her personal journey with her.

Many admired Fisher’s honesty and her brother, Todd Fisher, is just the same, as he sat down with General Hospital star Maurice Benard on his video podcast series, State Of Mind.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for US-IRELAND ALLIANCE

Carrie Fisher’s brother talks about her battle with bipolar on SOM

Todd opened up about his sister, Carrie, and her struggles with bipolar disorder whilst talking with Sonny’s portrayer and his wife who is also a veteran soap star, Catherine Hickland.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings which include episodes of mania and depression. These bouts can last for several weeks, months or even years. Carrie was medicated for her illness, but also suffered a lifetime of drug dependence alongside her condition.

Todd said their relationship was “unique”. In Carrie’s first book that she dedicated to him, she says he gave her a “warming presence”. Carrie authored multiple books but two, in particular, Postcards From The Edge and its sequel, The Best Awful, gave readers a real insight into what it’s like to live with bipolar and manic depression.

Carrie Fisher’s horrific ‘reactions to drugs’

In the interview, Todd reveals that doctors initially tried to control Carrie’s mental health with lithium, which Benard also uses to control his bipolar. However, eventually, Fisher needed a lot more to keep her swings at bay.

Therefore, the doctors “tried different drugs on Carrie” but her brother recalls that they “almost killed her” and left her “on the floor vomiting.” Despite all of this, Fisher revealed that the overriding philosophy in their family was that “the show must go on” and Todd reveals that self-medication got her through a lot of her work.

Fisher revealed that “there was no end” to what she would want to take, so he became the regulator of her drugs. Her brother recalls that for decades they thought they would lose Carrie to an overdose but instead, Todd dubs her inability to self-regulate as a focal reason behind her death.

Todd also discussed the doctors’ attempts to help his sister regulate her moods, explaining that for her it wasn’t about trying to get high but instead, to level things out. Fisher opened up about the impact that it had on him, watching his family indulge in drugs and alcohol, saying he became the “designated driver.”

Todd explains why Carrie’s best performance was in the last Star Wars

Talking about one of her most famous roles, Todd says he thinks her best acting was in the last Star Wars because he thought that her connection to Princess Leia was so deep. This is because she was a “strong, intelligent woman who said what was on her mind” and in the middle of that was “suffering with mental illness.”

In fact, Todd even recognizes her mental illness as being a key factor in her “genius” creative flair, mainly because she “saw the world in a whole different way.”

Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

Carrie Fisher’s tragic end

Carrie tragically passed away in 2016 at the age of 60, four days after having a cardiac arrest on a flight destined for LA. The coroner’s report states the actress had alcohol, cocaine, heroin, morphine and ecstasy in her system.

Just a day after Carrie’s death, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, passed away from a stroke at the same hospital. Carrie’s ashes were buried together with Debbie’s coffin.

If you’ve been affected by this story you can contact American Addiction Centers on (877) 686-7688 or Talk To Frank on 0300 123 6600 in the UK.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Darcy is an experienced journalist working on GRV Media’s audience team across The Focus, Reality Titbit, and HITC. Darcy studied Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University and whilst there she completed a work internship with GRV Media. After gaining a first-class BA (Hons) degree, Darcy joined the team full-time. Since then she has become a social media specialist and her expertise lies in tracking trends. With five years of experience in media, she is particularly passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. When she’s not writing about The Kardashians, she’s binge-watching it!