EARNED WISDOM

Carrie Fisher’s last advice column for the Guardian was about living with bipolar disorder

In June, the Guardian US announced that Carrie Fisher would begin writing a regular advice column for the site, on “how to navigate everything from heartbreak to addiction, to mental illness and gender equality.”

In the end, the actress, who died on Dec. 27 at the age of 60, contributed only three pieces. The first, published in June, simply invited readers to write in with their questions, noting:

Hilariously—after all the drug addiction and celebration marriage and mental illness and divorce and shock treatment and heartbreak and motherhood and childhood and neighborhood and hood in general—I’ve turned out to be (at close to 70) a kind of happy person (go figure!). A human who’s had her fair share of challenging and unhappy experiences. Over time, I’ve paid attention, taken notes and forgotten easily half of everything I’ve gone through. But I’ll rifle through the half I recall and lay it at your feet.

Her second piece, in September, advised a woman to follow her instincts to try working things out with a husband who turned out to have been regularly seeing prostitutes over the course of their 30-year marriage.

[T]he lying. It is a big thing. My question to you is—has he lied to you about other things? Can you believe him now when he says he hasn’t?

If you do believe that this is the “only” thing he lied about, then maybe there’s something to be salvaged. Everyone always lies about sex.

She also said the husband needed to send his wife flowers. “If he doesn’t, I will,” wrote Fisher, who noted that she herself had trouble sustaining relationships.

In her final column, published in November, Fisher advised “Alex,” a twenty-something looking for guidance on living with bipolar disorder. Here, the actress was in her element, generous with her own hard-earned wisdom—Fisher was diagnosed as bipolar in her 20s—and offering heaps of encouragement. A sample:

We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic – not “I survived living in Mosul during an attack” heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder. That’s why it’s important to find a community – however small – of other bipolar people to share experiences and find comfort in the similarities

Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about? The truth is, I’ve never done what it sounds like you’re doing: balancing school, home and work. I left home and school. So as difficult as it seems like it can be, you’re ahead of the game. You’re doing more than I did at your age, and that’s courageous.

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