I was never much into Star Wars as a kid. It was a “boys” thing and I really didn’t have the patience for those kind of things. I was too busy with my Barbie dolls and my play makeup to care about space and some guy who sounded like he was talking through his hands.
Besides that, my Uncle had suggested the movies and he made me watch The Exorcist so there was no way I was listening to anything that was coming out of his mouth. I learned the first time around and I prided myself on that fact that I was smarter than my brother and my sister.
It wasn’t until I was around 19 that I learned who Carrie Fisher really was. Sure, I had seen her face, I had known what the iconic gold bikini was, and the white dress… I understood it. But when I was diagnosed bi-polar, I remember my doctor telling me that some people like Carrie Fisher and Patty Duke had lived productively with the disease.
Carrie Fisher fought a different fight for me. My love for her didn’t start out about being about “the force” – it was about her willingness to end a stigma about mental illness. It was her willingness to speak out for people like me.
She was people like me.
Star Wars – my understanding and love for it came long after Carrie Fisher in it – came long after I knew who she was as a mental health advocate.
“I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple—just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully,” Fisher commented to Diane Sawyer in 1995. “And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive.”
At that point in my life, I had no understanding of the why me. No understanding of how I could look at my brothers and sister and they aren’t affected by the same things that I was. They once told me that I was lucky because the one thing that my manic depression gave me, was the ability to feel deep. I always looked at it as a blessing and a curse, the ability to feel so deeply, but cursed because I couldn’t stop it when it started.
“The world of manic depression is a world of bad judgment calls,” Carrie continued. “Just every kind of bad judgement because it all seems like a good idea at the time. A great idea … So if it’s talking, if it’s shopping, if it’s — the weirdest one for me is sex. That’s only happened twice. But then it’s wow, who are you?”
In a world fully of bad judgments, what people didn’t know was Fisher was always a calming voice for me. She spoke truthfully and didn’t let anyone hold her back. But what made me admire her most is that her bipolar disorder didn’t define her – what did was her strength, words, and her love.
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” she had said.
For me – I have found ways to live with my mental illness. It doesn’t define me. It is just a part of me that I survive everyday and with the help of medication I do it well.
Carrie Fisher is and always has been strength. She will be missed. I may not speak openly about my illness, but I hope one day to be as outspoken as she was on it. I will sit tonight and curl up with one of her books and thank her for the courage she gave to me to come this far.
Hannah Hart may have tweeted it best.
Carrie Fisher spoke openly about her struggles w mental health. To me she was a hero – not only in the stars – but here on Earth as well. ?
— Hannah Hart (@harto) December 27, 2016