Reel Doctor Talk

There's no underwear in space

by Smitha R. Chadaga MD

People say Ginger Rogers had a harder job than Fred Astaire because she had to do what he did backwards and in heels.  And I would argue that Carrie Fisher had a more physically demanding role than her male counter parts in Star Wars since George Lucas wouldn’t let her wear a bra –because as everyone knows, there’s no underwear in space.  Fisher related this hilarious if awkward conversation in her book Wishful Drinking, where she also discussed how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) helped her and her bipolar disease.


Like many aspects of mental health, ECT has been stigmatized and is often thought of as a barbaric procedure (thank you A Clockwork Orange).  But the reality is ECT has evolved and is safely used by a small number of patients who suffer from difficult to treat psychiatric illnesses.  ECT entails a small amount of electricity being applied to the brain causing a seizure and, by mechanisms that are not known, quickly altering the brain’s chemistry thereby improving certain mental health disorders. Patients are placed under anesthesia and closely monitored so as not to suffer any physical effects of the seizure. Granted there are risks involved so ECT is used in specific clinical scenarios including:

1. severe and treatment resistant depression

2. severe mania which can be seen in bipolar disease

3. catatonia which can be seen in schizophrenia


Fisher was an outspoken mental health advocate and helped the lives of many by speaking about her own struggles.  May the force always be with her.