I am in utter shock. This morning while I was at work I learned that Carrie Fisher had passed away (one article).
This year is truly one of the worst I’ve really been through, to count all those who I’ve looked up to, admired, or been fond of that have passed away.
But Carrie Fisher is a special case in a lot of respects; someone completely different than the others from this year that have passed away, at least in my personal understanding and feeling.
From the time I was little, and had first seen Star Wars, I adored her. Princess Leia was strong, brave–not just some damsel waiting to be rescued; she was a forward-acting princess that fought for what she wanted (and yeah, admittedly, I liked her also because she got to kiss Han Solo). She was the type of role model that a girl could look up to easily. No whining, no crying–just being strong-willed and forward enough to go out for what she wanted. She was a leader of the Rebellion; and those kinds of stories fueled my childhood. Her demeanor was polite, kind, but also tough and she clearly was willing to do what it took to get what she wanted and thought was right.
The very character that she brought to life was inspirational. During a time in my childhood when the only real “role models” that most girls are supposed to have are Disney princesses, or women who play damsel and wait for the prince or some man to come and save them, Princess Leia was totally different. There was a lot about her character that endeared her to me, but above all else it was the independence. She was her own person, something that they kept throughout her character’s arc, even into the new movie from last year. Leia was always her own person, not needing to rely on anyone else without her own hard work.
And behind it all, there was Carrie Fisher, the person.
When I was diagnosed at 21 with bipolar disorder, it felt in a lot of ways like my life was ending. There’s so much stigma against mental illness, against bipolar disorder from skewed media portrayals of people going batshit off their rockers and always manic in the extreme. So I was admittedly terrified and did not want to think that this diagnosis was real; I was in total denial.
The one thing that told me it was okay, that I’d make it, and that I was still human was Carrie Fisher. She was always open about her diagnosis. She spoke about it, made no bones about it…and she was still amazing. I adored her as Princess Leia, and then there she was, open and honest about her struggles with bipolar, with her mental health. That is one of the things that I most respected. Because she showed that I could be smart, active, engaged–a person–all while still having my mental illness.
I felt more comfortable with myself, knowing that one of the people who brought my favorite stories to life was suffering and surviving from/with the same mental illness that I had. If one of my heroes, a person I so much looked up to, was able to get through it and be open about it–well I could certainly fight just as hard to do the same.
It’s inspirational all that she did in the industry, from acting to editing to writing and performing, throughout her career. Through all the struggles that she had, she kept creating, working, and doing everything she could. I continue to admire her for all of this. Not to mention, I adored how she stood up for herself. Calling out media for complaining about how she had aged, while also being fine with the aging of male actors; calling out sexism as well; standing up for mental health and treatment.
This is terrible news. It is sad and painful to have one of your inspirations pass away.∗
Title image is by: MJHiblenART