“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ―Carrie Fisher, April 2013, in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
On December 27th 2016, the whole world over wept for the monumental loss of actress Carrie Fisher, taken from us at the age of 60. She had suffered from heart complications four days prior before passing away. And then, in a cruel twist of fate, her mother Debbie Reynolds – iconic for Singin in the Rain – suffered a severe stroke and died a day later. The loss of mother and daughter will surely be felt for generations to come.
For many of us – myself included – Carrie Fisher will be remembered for her iconic role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga. Indeed, while she helped shape the face of modern cinema, Fisher was an influential figure in other circles that will undoubtedly resonate with people; more specifically, those with bipolar.
Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 24, but, by her own admission, she was unable to acknowledge this to herself until four years later. This made it difficult for her to engage in groups of people also diagnosed with bipolar. This will resonate with those of us with conditions who have been tight-lipped about saying, “I have…”, or being associated with a particular label. Conditions like bipolar can easily bend our lives out of shape without the right support.
Fisher was well aware of the challenges her condition would bring her, and even though over the years she struggled with addition in the forms of drugs and alcohol, she fought those challenges head on, refusing to let her bipolar prevent her from leading a fulfilling life, continuing her work as an actress while also becoming a successful author of several semi-autobiographical novels. And overtime, she showed little to no shame in her condition. Instead, she felt that it gave us a chance to be heroic. “An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share her disorder.” I think it would be an understatement to say she was that and then some, always on hand to provide advice to people sharing the diagnosis, always working in her own brand of self-deprecating humour.
And that was one of the most memorable aspects of Fisher’s character that will be missed is her dry wit. Even when struggling through alcoholism, drug addition and bipolar, she was never afraid to . Even when she died, her ashes were gathered in a giant novelty Prozac pill she’d bought years earlier. Self-deprecating to the very end, she showed those of us with conditions that at times, even when things are their most downbeat, we are our own best source of comedy. A side to ourselves that we aren’t always able to see, but if we can, our lives will feel a lot less despondent.
Carrie Fisher may be gone, but the legacy she has forged, the drive she inspires, they will all live on. And maybe the next time we feel a little doom and gloom about our conditions, we try to find the funny side of being us, and by doing that, we honour this remarkable woman.
R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, October 21st, 1956-December 27th, 2016