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6

January


Thank you and Farewell to a Duke And the Princess. Friday January 6, 2017

Last year the world lost two talented actresses who touched my life as they bared their lives in public so they could help others.

When I was nine I loved the Patty Duke show with the two characters played by the one person - back in the 1960s. I identified with the well-meaning but often reckless Patty rather than the conservative cousin Cathy. This year I read that Sydney Sheldon the producer had made the two characters as he had seen the two sides to Patty's character.

Fast forward to 1990 when I had 3 young children and was being pressured to go on medication. I was still in denial about my bipolar diagnosis some 14 years earlier. A friend lent me a book that she "hoped would help me". I usually would smile and say thanks then never look at the book, but this time I was curious as it was written by Patty Duke. Call Me Anna, was the title because as a child she lived with guardians who managed her acting career and they changed her name. She was told Anna Marie is dead, you are now Patty.

I started to cry and read and nod and smile and cry.

I even wrote a letter to Anna that I never posted but I felt she would understand me.

Anna(Patty) had written a memoir where she admitted to having manic depressive (bipolar) and wrote so honestly about her behaviours when manic and depressed. My life was so different I was not a famous film star I had not had the pressures she had. I couldn't even tell my neighbours I had bipolar but she told the world.

I did not hear about Carrie Fisher until someone in the mid 2000's gave me her book the Best Awful. (This will sound unbelievable to many Star Wars fans but I have never watched a Star Wars movie!)

I really liked her honesty and sense of humour. She said in the show, Wishful Drinking "Having waited my entire life to get an award for something anything... I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. How tragic would it be to be runner-up for bipolar woman of the year?"

Sadly Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds died a day after her daughter. They had a difficult relationship all acted out in public. Todd, Carrie's brother said his mum cared a lot for Carrie over the years when she was unwell.

Both Anna(the Duke) and Carrie (the princess) experienced addiction and mental illness. They both chose to use their celebrity status to be honest about their struggles and to give hope to others.

I realised that having every second of your life scrutinised and recorded would put a person under so much pressure. I admired Anna and Carrie for choosing to be open.

Were you touched in some way by these 2 women? In what way?

Do you think it is harder for a celebrity to be honest about their mental illness or do you think it would be same for anyone?

Leah
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Mary Wednesday Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 7:21am

What a thought-provoking post, Leah. I had not heard of Patty Duke, and Carrie Fisher's mental health issues had not really come to my attention until her death. The person to whom I will be forever grateful is the immensely talented Stephen Fry who was courageous enough to make an entirely documentary devoted to his bipolar. I remember watching it with a friend who had known me for 30 years and who also suffers from depression. At the end of it I turned to her and said, "Well, thank goodness *we* don't have bipolar." There was a slight pause before she replied, "I don't have bipolar. I have known that you do since we were thirteen years old!" It was that programme which led to me seeking my own diagnosis and moving forward. As for whether it easier to "come out" as a celebrity? Maybe mental health problems seem more acceptable in the entertainment industry, but I'm sure any entertainer would rather be known for their work rather than their mental health issues. And - as a former accountant, I think it would have been waaaaaay more difficult to be honest than as an Image Consultant working in a company where a close relative of my MD also lives with the condition. My husband also prefers me not to come out to his family and friends (although his parents have had to know as they see me when I am ill). Being honest and being private both have their difficulties. I find being honest less stressful and I want to work towards more public acceptance and understanding of this illness, but I certainly respect the rights of those who wish to deal with it privately.

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:24am

Mary, Thanks for you detailed comment. STephen Fry has done a lot to educate people with his documentzry about bipolar. Patty Duke was doing this before Stephen Fry was a household name. Celebrities are important in educating the public but ordinary poeple also are importnat to tell their story. PS Mary, Carrie Fisher was featured in one of Stephen Fry's documentaries. Thanks again for opening the dialogue.

Mary Wednesday Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:32am

Of course, I remember now. I probably forgot as I too missed the whole Star wars thing.

Orangeblossom Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:28am

Thanks both Leah & Mary for your very honest straight-forward accounts. I have had hints of being on the bipolar spectrum but have never been officially diagnosed. Though I work as a mental health mentor as well as a bereavement supporter.

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:05am

Thanks Orangeblossom, I appreciate your kind comments to me and other moodscopers.

Tutti Frutti Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:46am

Hi Leah
I don't know if it is any harder or easier for celebrities to be open about mental illness but they can certainly have a real influence on public perceptions when they are open. Like Mary, the one I found had the biggest impact for me was Stephen Fry. When I was first diagnosed I remember taking comfort in the fact that you could clearly live a fairly normal life (at times) and still achieve things if Winston Churchill and Stephen Fry were bipolar. And I also saw the Stephen Fry documentary shortly afterwards.

On a personal level I like to try and be open about being bipolar to challenge the prejudice. That said, it is nerve racking every time I tell someone and there are decisions to make about who to tell and not tell. I have a professional level job and I tend to tell colleagues in my immediate team at my level and above, however it can be awkward to tell everyone in times of high turnover. I am also wary of telling those at grades below me in case I freak out someone who has to work for me or be managed by me before they have had a chance to get to know me - and then it can be awkward knowing the appropriate time to tell them having not been open earlier. I also don't want clients to know as they might assume I was less professional.

The other group I am wary of telling are parents of my daughter's friends as any bad reaction (although that has only ever possibly happened once and there were also other issues) would make life awkward for my daughter as well as for me. I have decided that now she is at secondary school and I don't necessarily know all her friends or their parents, it is my daughter's right to decide whether to tell her friends about me rather than my right to decide whether or not to tell their parents. I now realise that I haven't actually discussed this with my daughter, perhaps I ought to.

Love to all TF x

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:04am

TF Thanks for your reply,I like your considered discussions on the pros and cons of telling people.

Another Sally Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:46am

Morning all, in my comment yesterday about not having the 'ups' if you don't have the 'downs', I was referring to 'ordinary' bad days. I feel privileged to have been given some inkling into the extremes of bi-polar from the excellent and honest blogs from Mary. Mary I admire you for your ability to carry on with so much when you are in a down phase.
I know someone with borderline personality disorder / emotional instability and that is a different kettle of fish. Not so much the extremes of bi-polar but emotional swings and negative thinking on a grand scale. They can wake up with grand plans, but it takes very little to knock them off course.
Do any other Moodscopers know of someone with this condition?

Warm hugs to all who need them.
Another Sally

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:01am

Another Sally, Thanks for your comment. Have you ever heard of the book 'stop walking on eggshells.Taking your life back'. It is about Borderline Personality. I knew a lady whose sone had borderline personality and she had to take out a restraining order against him. I have been giving talks to community groups for over ten years as well as writing articles and giving radio interviews about my bipolar.

Tutti Frutti Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 7:19pm

Hi Leah I am very impressed to hear about everything you have been doing to raise awareness about and improve understanding of mental illness. How did you get started? Love TF x

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:02pm

TF Thank you, not impressive I know people who do much more. I dont do as much now as I live in a small town and work 7 days in my shop. About 10 years ago I joined a big organisation and attended a training day. The hardest thing for me was when my first interview in the local paper where I 'came out' for the first time in public about my bipolar. I was worried people would not come into my shop or would thinnk I was crazy. I have come a long way since then. I found if I feel I am helping others it helps me. So I suppose I am a bit selfish opening up to others.xx

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:10am

I am wondering if I am the only moodscoper who remembers Patty Duke and or Carrie Fisher.Maybe Stephen Fry is better known in Uk than Americans. In Australia we are influenced by Americans and people from UK.

I like this quote
Paul Cumming, a longtime advocate in San Diego who works for a company that helps people with mental disorders find housing, said, “The power of celebrity was best shown by Carrie that by being public, and funny, she demystified our diagnosis and showed by example we can live well and thrive.'

Lexi Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 1:24pm

Hi Leah. I'm in the US and grew up on both Patty Duke and Carrie Fisher. I was well aware of Carrie's struggles but only recently heard of Patty Duke's. Reading about her forced name change made me profoundly sad. I think anyone coming out to speak about their struggles with bipolar and depression is extremely brave. I agree with Mary though - I think being a celebrity and coming out is different from being a run of the mill person and coming out. Though how it's different I'm not sure. My close friends and family know I suffer from anxiety and depression but I don't care to have it open to speculation by people who only superficially know me. A celebrity also leaves herself wide open to ridicule though - I have heard people refer to Carrie as a crazy bird. But then I have also seen many many of my friends this week change their FB photos to pictures of Carrie Fisher, and there is a trend starting up to change your FB photo to one of "I have mental illness" or "I have depression". I am not brave enough to do that myself but I fully support my spiritual warrior friends who do.

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 8:08pm

Lexi, Thanks so much for your comment. Can you sing the Patty Duke theme song? I can and when I sing it now it cheers me up!! I call myself a crazy woman as a term of endearment taking away any negative meaning!! I think there was a day on twitter with people talking about mental illness and being open and honest. I think we live in an era where celebrity has power and if they can encourage support and understanding for mental illness that is welcome. As I said before I know as an ordinary person people would not take as much notice of me and I would not get the media awareness that Carrie Fisher did. I still think it is importnat for me in my small way to talk to me. If people see I have bipolar and I run my own business I think that helps in a small way.I am also honest that I have bad days . Thanks so much again.

Jane Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:14am

Thank you for your post Leah.

Jane Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:17am

Maybe you would like to give Star Wars a try? Xx

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:35am

Jane I have never been into science fiction. In fact in my shop I upset customers by putting fantasy and science fiction together!!!

Salt Water Mum Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:37am

Hi Leah,

I am a huge Carrie Fisher Fan! I have watched all the Star Wars movies and have had the joy of re-watching them all with my son. I read Carrie's 'Postcards from the Edge' and it had a big impact on me. Her addiction, the fame, the depression and that relationship with her mother.

I went on to read all her work then and yes, she was so funny, so brave. The most prefect princess role model - she was no damsel in distress, she was feisty and sassy. She did indeed take the mystery out of mental illness. She made it seem another part of life and she added in a humour that makes it far more palatable to those who don't understand it or are scared of it. (Ruby Wax indeed does something similar).

'Postcards from the Edge' was made into a fabulous movie - with Meryl Streep and Shirley McClaine.
Sorry, I'm babbling! I'm a big fan. And I was so sad to hear she died. She was 60, full of life and had just been on the Graham Norton show (very funny) talking about her autobiography (there's the book for me to buy with my Xmas book token!)

I am taking my kids to see the newest Star Wars movie today - Rogue One. My son and I are very excited! My daughter, not so much!
Carrie will always be Princess Leia to me. A princess with attitude !

SWM x

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 9:44am

SWM Thank you for your wonderful tribute to Carrie. I loved Postcards from the Edge, and her book The Best Awful which I think is a great description of mania. Her one woman show and book wishful drinking is entertaining and informative, She had a great talent for amazing titles. Thanks again for sharing your memories.

Sally Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 10:47am

These famous people are very brave baring their souls because there is a lot of stigmatising out there. I didn't know either women, but feel it must have been hard for Carrie Fisher to be the daughter of the beautiful Debbie Reynolds. Living in the shadow of a famous person is never easy. I wonder if the bipolar is nature or nurture? Or a mixture of both?
I have never been very brave and hide my real feelings a lot. I can't begin to think how it would be to tell the world about something so personal.
Stephen Fry's documentary was very informative and honest... I could identify with some of it but to a lesser extent .
Thank you Leah, for an interesting blog. And for stirring the grey matter!

Leah Fri, Jan 6th 2017 @ 11:07am

Sally Thanks for your comment. I gave up ages ago wondering where by my bipolar came from. It is what it is. I think nowadays it is easier for celebrities to be honest beacsue Anna and Carrie paved the way. I feel empowered when I talk to a group od people about bipolar. I dont feel brave . I am passionate to educate people and to make people less afraid. Thanks again Sally.

Eva Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 9:07am

Hi Leah, I think it is great to have folk like Patty and Carrie and Stephen and I believe also Robbie Williams oh and Robin Williams (and many others I am sure) speak about their experience in public, it raises awareness in a way that I could not possibly do. I don't keep my ups and downs secret, I don't broadcast them though either, I speak about what I am going through or my past when it fits the situation /circumstances... Essentially if it comes up in conversation I will go there, not so much with people I don't know well but not exclusively with folk I know well. I think for me it's important not to hide, or to have to hide and also I am able to help and share tools that way. I commend you on your work, maybe one day when I have more free time I'll look to do something similar.

Leah Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 9:37am

Thanks for your reply Eva. I am sure when the time is right you will do what you feel comfortable with.

Eva Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 9:09am

Oh, I was a massive star wars fan, so Carrie has always (since I was 4) been my rebel princess and a guiding star.

Leah Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 9:38am

Eva I dont understand Star Wars but I know there are trillions of fans.

Eva Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 10:42am

Have you watched it?

Leah Sat, Jan 7th 2017 @ 9:14pm

Eva I have only watched the short excerps they show on the news when Carrie died. I have also never seen Jaws, ET, Jurassic Park or read Lord of the Rings. Sad but true!!

Jul Sun, Jan 8th 2017 @ 4:49pm

Hi Leah. Posting late, I didn't really know either actress but lately of course I heard about Carrie Fisher and her mental health problems. George Michael also suffered from mental health problems but was not bi polar as far as we know. I think many stars do find themselves troubled with the pressure to perform their best in public. However it's a profession they chose and sadly in order to progress with an acting/ singing career, one needs public attention and recognition. It's sad that such talent is not managed properly. So many stars fall by the wayside but for whatever reason continue to push themselves to perform. I felt terribly sorry to hear about George Michael although many of his problems had been well documented so what I read in the papers following his death came as no surprise. I don't know if it's harder for a star to be honest about his or her mental issues but sooner or later it will come out in the media. I still find it impossible to admit to anything to my family apart from my husband despite having to leave my job because of such issues. I guess it must be up to the individual, star or mere mortal. Jul xx

Leah Sun, Jan 8th 2017 @ 9:25pm

Jul Thanks for your insightful comment. It is an individual thing whether one chooses to tell people about one's illness but with a star as you say sooner or later the media will find out. Thanks so much for replying. Leah xx

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