Rest in Peace, Carrie Fisher

We all grew up with Carrie Fisher. I am sure every girl remembers trying to get their hair to work into those two huge iconic Leia side-buns (and failing), or gaining a new appreciation for their brother’s Nerf guns after rebranding them as a “blasters.” Leia was confident, even defiant; she was an important political player, not a pawn to some King or Prince Organa; and she spoke her mind, for better or worse. Princess Leia kicked ass and showed us that we could kick ass, too—even with whiny Han Solo and baby-faced Luke Skywalker as company.

11-year-old me, thrilled to be Leia for a day with my ill-fitting wig.

11-year-old me, thrilled to be Leia for a day with my ill-fitting wig.

Enough about the fictional character Carrie is best known for portraying (though Carrie once claimed, “I'm a fictional character myself!”)—Carrie Fisher herself was a beautiful, vivacious human who loved and lost and imbibed and laughed and lived. I highly recommend her 2008 memoir based on her standup show, titled Wishful Drinking. I first read it when I was about 13 years old, so shortly after it was published, and I remember it rocking my little world. I was a huge Star Wars fan growing up, and the lives of my favorite actors and musicians have always fascinated me. I had little knowledge about bipolar II and about drug addiction beforehand, and I cannot be more glad that my first exposure was through Carrie’s words. Here are a few choice quotes from Wishful Drinking:

“Oh! This'll impress you - I'm actually in the Abnormal Psychology textbook. Obviously my family is so proud. Keep in mind though, I'm a PEZ dispenser and I'm in the abnormal Psychology textbook. Who says you can't have it all?” 

“I thought I would inaugurate a Bipolar Pride Day. You know, with floats and parades and stuff! On the floats we would get the depressives, and they wouldn’t even have to leave their beds - we’d just roll their beds out of their houses, and they could continue staring off miserably into space. And then for the manics, we’d have the manic marching band, with manics laughing and talking and shopping and fucking and making bad judgment calls.” 

“Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything...I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. It’s better than being bad at being insane, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?”

I had never encountered an account on mental illness whatsoever, so to read about it first from someone who possessed such unabashed humor and who was unapologetic about most everything that had happened to her—well, it impacted me, to say the least. I was (and am) convinced that Carrie Fisher was at least ten times as badass as her movie character who I had loved for so many years. Sure, Princess Leia literally slayed stormtroopers and strangled certified pig Jabba the Hutt—but Carrie Fisher faced real life demons and never lost her soul. Another good quote from Wishful Drinking:

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). 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.

They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Agreed, mama.

Carrie was very vocal about her life with bipolar II. She spoke candidly in her books, in interviews, and perhaps most recently when she penned an advice column response regarding a bipolar disorder diagnosis. In today’s world filled with prejudice against those with mental illnesses, what she did was truly brave. I know that for me, her prevailing sense of humor and her candidness influence how I handle my life and my mental illnesses—perhaps my healthiest and most effective coping mechanism today is to make light of my situation, and to laugh at life rather than being afraid of my demons.

Carrie and her beloved service dog, Gary, on December 3, 2015. Photo by Lou Rocco.

Carrie and her beloved service dog, Gary, on December 3, 2015. Photo by Lou Rocco.

Thank you, Carrie, for teaching me as well as so many others. We’ll miss you, space grandma. May the force be with you.

 

Illustration by Nat.