Book Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I thought I’d start writing review for books I’ve read that have a focus on mental illness. First up is Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, a well known sufferer of bipolar disorder.

I love Carrie Fisher, and I’m all for the way she so candidly talks about mental illness but the book itself was kind of disjointed. Maybe in a way that’s fitting, considering the subject matter, or maybe it was the way Carrie wrote as if transcribing from one big monologue, complete with numerous digressions. Later on in the book, she mentions that she’ll now remember her one-woman show because she’s ‘written it down’ and then everything made a lot more sense. This is sort of a written down memoir-based comedy set. It was definitely funny in parts but I think would be a lot more so if performed/spoken aloud.

Despite this, it did have several great quotes, one of them being from the author’s note:

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.
3 out of 5 stars

5 Graphic Novels about Mental Illness

In no particular order:

1. It’s all Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot
Ruby speaks through comedic cartoons about what it’s like to live with mental illness. Her strips cover everything from depression, to anxiety and eating disorders. Ruby herself has been hospitalised for mental health reasons in the past and her battle with recovery is evident throughout. The bits I really resonate with are her sources of comfort and hope (often pets). It’s a wild ride from beginning to end, but that’s fitting when talking about mental illness.

2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Fun home focuses on Alison as she reflects on her life and relationship with her father after his apparent suicide. It’s a relationship fraught with friction and contradictions as she struggles to affirm both her love and frustration for him throughout the years. Other than the issue of suicide, this graphic novel caught my eye because of its depiction of OCD, which Alison first developed as a child. We see her anxieties turn into rituals and those turn in to compulsions. She uses excerpts from her old diaries to demonstrate this to great effect. This is by no means a comedy but it is a raw and true account of life with less than perfect parenting and the inner secrets everyone has in their closets.

3. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
This is one of my all time favourite graphic novels. Hilarious throughout, it’s the perfect solution if you’re looking for a book that can be funny about mental illness. There’s a key turning point in the book where Allie realises her depression made her so apathetic, it could be used almost as a super power. It’s something that comes back to me regularly when I am low.

4. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and me by Ellen Forney
When I was first diagnosed as having Bipolar 1, I sought out several books to help me understand it. The funniest, was this. Ellen Forney’s graphic memoir takes us through her journey of living with and being diagnosed with BP1. Funny, sad, informative and rich in detail, this really cushions the blow after your own diagnosis.

5. Rock Steady by Ellen Forney.
Okay, so I cheated, Ellen Forney is in here twice, but her books are both brilliant and each in here on their own merit. Expanding on some of the more informative elements of “Marbles”, Ellen creates a wonderful handbook that works, not just for bipolar, but across all types of mental illness. Her acronym of “SMEDMERTS” (sleep, meds, eating, meditation, exercise, routine, tools, support system) outlines everything to need to do to give yourself a fighting chance (although, personally, the meditation’s not for me). Plus you get merit badges for each part of the book you can achieve!