Wishful Drinking: A Book Review
“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. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” Carrie Fisher
On this frosty Saturday, wishing all a happy healthy start to the New Year!
Fyi, this review drastically diverges from previous books I have read and written about. If you prefer to not read profanity or descriptions of sexual content, most likely you would not enjoy this book. Whether you read this book or choose to refrain, I encourage us all to be open to the many lessons we can learn from the successes and stumbles of anyone’s life, especially if their path differs from our own.
Since I tend to have a warped sarcastic sense of humor, I thoroughly enjoyed Fisher’s personal narrative. I admittedly am one of those who read Wishful Drinking after Carrie’s untimely passing. I knew her name was synonymous with the Star Wars franchise and often read about her advocacy regarding removing stigma and changing perceptions of mental health diagnosis’s and treatment, but I was not familiar with her complete story. Since anyone can read on Wikipedia about her star-studded sorted past, I am not going to focus on the family drama which surrounded her celebrity status, rather my goal is to capture my take on the person she put forth in this quick read along with realizations I have been able to relate to my life journey.
This is a wonderfully real, Whitty, raw account of Fisher’s unique experiences fighting the battles of bipolar disorder and substance abuse, which are often stigmatized by our society. She was a tireless activist who put an authentic face to what it is to live despite a DSM diagnosis. As someone who struggles with eating disorder relapse and recovery along with bipolar II, I could relate to her emotional roller coaster ride of highs and lows. While everyone has a different story, for Carrie sobriety was not just a once and done deal; she had to regularly and willingly work a program even after setbacks.
Accepting the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and what it took for her to be well also was not an easy road. Although it is not always the best approach, her story is a reminder that as humans we are stubborn self-reliant creatures who at times must learn best by doing rather than following advice or input from others.
Just to clarify, in an ideal world I know I would take my medications as prescribed, follow my doctor’s orders, and flawlessly follow my meal plan, however, I know putting forward this false facade would not be true to my flaws and tendencies. However, saying this does not preclude me from changing, trying and learning from my missteps and meanderings. We are all works in progress who undergo transformations of learning and letting go.
As an aside, the HBO one-woman show of Wishful Drinking is hilarious, but there is content included in the book that wasn’t covered during her stand-up performance. For instance, imagining the below quote cracked me up. I am learning instead of being overly stuffy and super serious all the time about my struggles humor keeps me going; it helps make the big and small battles worthwhile.
“I thought I would inaugurate a Bipolar Pride Day. You know, with floats and parades and stuff! On the floats we would get the depressives, and they wouldn’t even have to leave their beds – we’d just roll their beds out of their houses, and they could continue staring off miserably into space. And then for the manics, we’d have the manic marching band, with manics laughing and talking and shopping and fucking and making bad judgment calls.” Carrie Fisher
While Fisher was a celebrity who grew up in the constant watchful eye of Hollywood, her life story is proof addiction, mental illness, relapse, recovery, treatment, family conflict/drama, loss, pain and the myriad of ups and downs does not exclude those who our society deems as untouchable.
shows that even in death what she stood for was represented: her quirky sense of humor and her final resting place is a lasting tribute to normalizing the importance of mental healthcare which is just as important as taking care of our body and spirit.
Whether you have a mental health diagnosis, or are an ally, since we have one spin on this earthly merry-go-round, let’s do our best to not only live through the good and not-so-good days we are dealt, but also use our experiences to advocate for inclusion, acceptance and education about overall wellness.
Until next time, be well