I have to start this out with total transparency: I never got into Star Wars. I know, that’s practically sacrilegious. If you want to throw vegetables my way with your pitchforks on layaway, I’d understand! I’m the weird one here, I get it.
I once had sex with a guy who liked having the soundtrack play in the background. So CLEARLY it made a huge impact. One that I wish didn’t follow me into the bedroom, but I digress.
As a result of not really watching the films, whenever I thought of Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia wasn’t who came to mind. I thought of Carrie Fisher, the talented writer and actress with the kind of unflinching honesty I always aspired to achieve. She spoke openly about weight gain, aging, how women are treated in Hollywood, and did it all with such sass and wit. Carrie was hilarious. She could make you laugh your ass off with the smallest quip or retort, and I loved seeing that in someone who I shared similarities with.
I live with bipolar II disorder. The quickest snapshot: I experience elevated highs and lows. They run beyond the scope of “normal” human emotions. It’s not just being happy and sad, it’s being manic-can’t-sleep-think-I-can-do-like-25-projects-at-once followed by a deep, swallowing depression. Though my episodes are fairly manageable and I take an antidepressant that works miracles on my brain, I still struggle.
I still have moments when I wake up on the bad days and am mad I even woke up at all.
Or, moments when I make poor decisions. The thing people don’t like to admit is just how fun being manic is…until you realize the things you did. Until you realize how impaired your judgement was and you have to live with the consequences.
Carrie Fisher has said about bipolar disorder, “It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.”
You have to make this weird kind of peace with it. Maybe peace isn’t the right word. Peace is so far removed from bipolar disorder. But I guess, you cope. You figure out what helps and works and gives you the tools to survive the healthiest way you can. Carrie was never afraid to talk about it. She didn’t shy away from her disease, despite being in the limelight.
Carrie Fisher was my beacon. Not because she was some fake pseudo-guru Tony Robbins type spouting empty inspirational phrases. And not because she existed as a perfect human who never fucked up. No, she was my beacon because she was real and told her truth. She told her truth.
Whenever she spoke of addiction, mental illness, prescription medications, it was always done so genuinely. I saw her as someone I could be: a writer who didn’t pretend to be anyone other than exactly who they were. And when I feel I’ve failed, I ask myself that very question. Was I being my authentic self?
Carrie was a force. She was unapologetic, real, quick and funny as hell.
Whenever she described her experience living with bipolar disorder, I felt understood. It was hugely influential to me, to see this brilliant and dynamic woman who, like me, had bipolar disorder and struggled with very human things.
So while I didn’t really know her as Princess Leia, I did know her as Carrie Fisher – someone I desperately wanted to meet to thank one day.
Carrie, you’re a big reason I don’t see myself as a freak of nature. You normalized something that I will live with for the rest of my days. Thank you. Thank you for being exactly who I, and millions of others, needed. And will continue to need. You will not be forgotten, both on and off screen.