Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Must Stay Sane for My Daughter's Sake; Carrie Fisher Has Spent Her Life Battling with Drink, Drugs and Now Depression. as Her Latest Novel Is Published, She Reveals How She Has Found a New Stability

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Must Stay Sane for My Daughter's Sake; Carrie Fisher Has Spent Her Life Battling with Drink, Drugs and Now Depression. as Her Latest Novel Is Published, She Reveals How She Has Found a New Stability

Article excerpt

Byline: LUCY CAVENDISH

WHEN I first met Carrie Fisher, five years ago, at her rambling house in the Hol lywood Hills, I thought something was going on. We spent an evening together during the course of which she ordered a huge amount of takeaway food which she didn't eat. Instead she leapt up and down from the dining table at regular intervals. She ate mouthloads of pills, talked on the telephone off and on most of the night and generally acted like someone who wasn't having a particularly good time in her life.

At the time, she claimed to be perfectly fine. Her now ex-husband, Hollywood talent agent Bryan Lourd, had recently run off with another man - it was someone who moved in the same circles as Michael Jackson. She said that, yes, it was horribly humiliating, but that she was coping.

"Someone I knew vaguely said, 'At least he ran off with a man. If he'd run off with another woman then you would've felt very rejected.' Now, why didn't I manage to see it like that?" she joshed. And her father, former crooner Eddie Fisher, had just written an autobiography that she hated. "It was rude about my mother. It was like one big diary of who he'd shagged." But then she said she didn't even really mind that as she'd always thought he was a bit of a schmuck. "I'm fine," she said. She pointed at her then sixyearold daughter (with Lourd), Billie, who was sleeping beatifically on her bed.

"I have her," she said and that was that.

But now, here we are in the Savoy Hotel in London, and it turns out that, of course, Carrie Fisher wasn't at all fine.

"Did I say it was all great then?" she asks, looking vaguely horrified and amused at the same time. "I can't remember. I really can't." Then again, she says, she can't remember anything very much about vast chunks of her life. "I have spent a lot of my life not really being that aware of what I am doing," she says, "and I can't bear to keep calling people up and saying, 'Do you remember what happened to me in the late 1990s, because I can't.'" The problem - well, this most recent and pressing problem because, believe me, there's a whole heap of them before this - is that, five years ago, Fisher was recovering from a severe mental breakdown. "I had a total freakout," she says. "I'd been awake for six days on the trot and then I'd taken these pills to put me to sleep and they didn't work, so I read the instructions and thought maybe I should take some more, so I did and ..."

Essentially, she overdosed, ended up in hospital and, after physically recovering, found she had quite lost her mind. I ask her how she knew. I mean, if you're mad, how do you know you're mad?

"I don't think I did know at first," she says. "But I saw people looking at me with excruciating pain and sadness in their eyes and I knew I had caused it. For a while I wasn't sure what had happened. I was in such a drugged-up state that everything seemed very muffled. I didn't seem to have any sense of reality."

After she was discharged from hospital she went to a care home. "It's for mentally insane people!" she says. "When the people who run it came to interview me, they said I wasn't mad enough to be admitted.

Luckily I got worse and then they took me in."

All this would be fine, amusing even, the way she tells it, if she didn't have her daughter. She obviously adores Billie. She talks about her all the time - how she goes to a private school in Beverly Hills and is so good at science and maths, and how she is so together and sensible.

"I feel so protective of my daughter," she says. "I always wanted her not to grow up in LA and have this type of life but her father is here. Billie is very cool. She has plans. She's going to Harvard." Was Billie aware of what was going on? "Of course she was," says Fisher. "Children always are. It was terrifying for her, I'm sure. She went to stay with her father and came to see me when I wasn't in the middle of being psychotic. …

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