Carrie Fisher, the actress best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, has passed away at age 60. She has also written books in addition to acting.
She suffered from bipolar disorder and was an advocate for mental health. She wrote of her experience in a home with famous parents in her first book, Postcards from the Edge. She treated her bipolar disorder with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). She took LSD, alcohol, cocaine, and Percodan.
She was diagnosed bipolar in her 20s. In her last column, Ask Carrie Fisher, she was advising a 20-something named Alex about living bipolar. She said:
"You’re lucky to have been diagnosed as bipolar and accepted that diagnosis at such a young age. I was told that I was bipolar when I was 24 but was unable to accept that diagnosis until I was 28 when I overdosed and finally got sober. Only then was I able to see nothing else could explain away my behavior."
Carrie Fisher was fighting the stigma back before it was cool. Here is one quote:
”Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
It is very hard to live with a mental illness. It is a constant fight with your mind everday. It is because of people like Fisher that we are able to talk about it today. She was an amazing, strong woman and she will be missed.
Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are similar serious mental illnesses. People haven't really heard of schizoaffective disorder. I usuaully say either "bipolar disorder" or "schizophrenia." That is partially true; schizoaffective disorder is a mix of the two.
Here are the main differences:
1. Mood Symptoms
People with schizoaffective disorder have mood symptoms (depression or mania) in addition to the psychotic symptoms. To be diagnosed schizoaffective, we have to have mood symptoms for 50 percent of the duration of the illness.
Schizophrenia patients can have some mood symptoms, but they don't last long.
2. Psychotic Symptoms
The psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia, etc) don't last as long for schizoaffective patients. They also tend to come and go. With schizophrenia patients, the psychotic symptoms tend to persist. In schizoaffective disorder, the psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms don't generally mix.
Schizophrenic patients mostly rely on anti-psychotic medicines. With schizoaffective disorder, we may require anti-depressants and/or mood stabilizers to deal with the mood symptoms of the illness.
Those of us who have serious mental illnesses struggle against our own minds every day. In addition to medication and therapy, there are many ways to help fight symptoms.
A new study shows that having pets can greatly benefit people with mental illnesses. Our fur babies provide love and comfort when life gets rough.
One study participant who has two dogs and two cats said:
"When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days. They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it."
The study particpants were given a diagram with three circles. They were asked to write down the people and things that were most important to them.
The center circle was the most important, then the outer circles were less important. Sixty percent of participants put their pets in that inner circle.
Many of us end up losing friends and feeling alone. Having a pet can really combat that depression and loneliness. Enjoy your fur babies and feel better, everyone!