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Annual Meeting Highlights
Actress Makes Most of Honors for ‘Being Mentally Ill’
Psychiatric News
Volume 45 Number 4 page 2-18

If Carrie Fisher's lecture at APA's Convocation of Fellows at APA's 2010 annual meeting is anything like the life she has led, it is bound to be ... colorful.

To put it mildly. The issue of a tabloid Hollywood marriage (between Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), the actress-turned-novelist-turned-mental-health advocate grew up destined for show business and began appearing in Las Vegas with her mother before she was a teenager. She has played in scores of movies, most notably "Star Wars," for which she gained international notoriety—and culticon status—playing Princess Leia at the age of 19.

Fisher has wrestled with bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Married and divorced from singer-songwriter Paul Simon, she has written about her triumphs and travails in the autobiographical and semi-autobiographical best-selling novels Postcards From the Edge, Surrender the Pink, Wishful Drinking, and The Best Awful There Is.

Fisher will speak at the APA Convocation on Monday, May 24, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Hall A at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Fisher was born in Beverly Hills in 1956. When she was 2, her parents divorced and her father married Elizabeth Taylor. She traveled and performed with her mother as a teenager and in 1973 appeared in the hit Broadway revival "Irene." She enrolled in the London Central School of Speech and Drama and made her movie debut in the 1975 film "Shampoo."

It was "Star Wars" in 1977 that catapulted Fisher into international fame. Playing opposite Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, she played the hard-boiled, sharp-tongued Princess Leia, revealed in "The Return of the Jedi" to be twin sister of Luke Skywalker and a daughter of Darth Vader.

Her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, appeared in 1986. It became a bestseller, and she received the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel. Surrender the Pink was published in 1991, followed by Delusions of Grandma in 1993. The Best Awful There Is" was published in 2004, followed by Wishful Drinking in 2008. The last was made into a one-woman play that has played in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Fisher brings a self-deprecating but sharp-tongued tone to her writing and her speaking style. In Wishful Drinking, she writes, "I am truly a product of Hollywood. I'm a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, something like me is the result. I grew up visiting sets, playing on back lots, and watching movies. In consequence, and for a few other reasons, I find that I don't have a conventional sense of reality. (Not that I've ever had much use for reality—having spent much of what I laughingly refer to as my adult life attempting to wave it away with drug use.)"

Fisher has also become a forceful speaker about the realities of mental illness and addiction, combating stigma and speaking before Congress to advocate for funding of treatment and research. In Wishful Drinking, she had this to say, "Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything (okay fine, not acting, but what about a tiny award for writing? Nope), I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. I'm apparently very good at it and am honored for it regularly.... [I]t's better than being bad at being insane, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?" blacksquare

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