carrie fisher

How Carrie Fisher Helped Me Through My Bipolar Diagnosis

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Three or four months ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I have gone back and forth in my head about if I could continue writing about mental health and disclose this new diagnosis with anyone. Not one person in my family knows about this, and maybe three friends are aware of it. There is so much self-doubt, confusion, sadness, and a gamut of other feelings that come along with getting that diagnosis.

I have been agonizing these last few months and hiding my diagnosis from nearly everyone because I don’t want to be looked upon differently or lose any relationships because of it. I have been in this tug-of-war with myself; one side desperately wants my friends and family to know and thus be fully accepted for who I am, and the other side wants to conceal and hide it at all costs. The fear that people will think of me differently, treat me differently, or even cut off ties with me is real, and it is always present. I don’t want to be this afraid of it anymore. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide myself to be accepted by the people I love.

Because I am not different. I am me, and I am who I’ve always been. The only difference is that I have a name for what I have been living with and experiencing for the great majority of my life.

I am writing this right now to help break the shame and stigma I put upon myself, and to say I have bipolar disorder.

“We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic… an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder.” — Carrie Fisher

When I was diagnosed, I revisited and delved deeper into Carrie Fisher’s novels and explored her words and experiences in living with bipolar disorder. No, not just living with it — thriving, struggling, succeeding with it. She has been an open, fierce mental health advocate, and that is something I admire so much in her. She was unabashedly herself and was completely unapologetic about who she is. She was never quiet or shy about her struggles or her ability to overcome. She was a person who brought voice to countless people who were silent about their struggles and made people feel less alone. I sit here trying to imagine all of the people she has touched and inspired for this very reason, and I wonder what these people would be like if they didn’t have her example. She chose to embrace it and share it and to not live her life concealing her diagnosis and hiding.

Today, I choose to do the same.

Carrie Fisher is more than just Princess Leia to me and to many others. She was the first feminist heroine I was exposed to. Her words in her writing, candidly speaking of her struggles and her triumphs regarding mental illness have helped push me and kept my head up on the tough days of fighting mine.

Carrie, thanks for your refreshing candor, acute self awareness, sense of humor, and ability to never take yourself too seriously. Thank you for showing girls and women that we are heroes too. Thank you for being a brave advocate and example to so many people.

“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.” – Carrie Fisher

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Photo by Gage Skidmore

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Carrie Fisher Epitomized What It Meant to Be a Mental Health Advocate

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Carrie Fisher dies at age 60.

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People Are Sharing Their Memories of Carrie Fisher and Her Mental Health Advocacy

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On Tuesday, actress and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60. Shortly after her death was confirmed, Fisher’s fans took to social media to share how the actress, who spoke candidly about her experience living with bipolar disorder and addiction, changed their lives.

Here’s what they are saying.

 

 

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Carrie Fisher, 'Star Wars' Actress and Mental Health Advocate, Dies at Age 60

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Actress and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher died after suffering a heart attack, People magazine reported Tuesday morning. She was 60.

Fisher was best known for her role as Princess Leia in “Star Wars” but is known in the mental health community as an outspoken activist who lived openly with bipolar disorder.

According to People, a family spokesman Simon Halls released the following statement on behalf of Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd:

It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning. She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.

This article will be updated as more information is made available.

Related: How Carrie Fisher Inspired Me to Be My Best Self as a Person With Bipolar Disorder

Image via Wikicommons.

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The Words I Wish I Could Tell My Loved Ones About Living With a Mental Illness

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Dear those I love, even those I don’t know,

I live with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. I have been medicated, I have a service dog and I survived a suicide attempt. Those of us who have these illnesses that are so often taboo in today’s society would like you to know how it feels coming from our side, but for many, trying to explain what’s going through our head is sometimes so difficult. Even when we do have the words to explain what we are feeling, we are too scared to reach out. That doesn’t mean we don’t want you to know what we are feeling. 

I had been scared, if not utterly terrified, to share what I felt on a daily basis, until one day I was so down low and and so full of feelings I just started typing. I kept typing and typing until I felt I had nothing else to say. The rest of what you will read is what I have felt and experienced in my life, and what I know so many others wish they could put a voice to. So I choose to publish this not as just a story from me, but what I know others who live with my illnesses have opened up and told.

There are many days we will wake up and feel hopeless. We won’t be able to find the energy to do anything. We will want nothing more than to just stay in bed, not able or wanting to take on the day.

There come times we breakdown, and in the midst of those breakdowns whether apparent or not, we might say things that hurt you. Then later we will realize what we said and regret it, but know the damage has already been done. We hate that we sometimes do this. Please know we don’t mean it. Our illnesses aren’t us.

We often feel alone, but are to scared to reach out in fear that we will be judged. That we will lose those we love in the process. We wish more than often that we could just open up, but that fear is always there. If we open up, please don’t judge us. Instead love us. Support us. Your love is what carries many of us through the hardest times.

Our feelings are often times confusing and overbearing, and we can’t find the words that convey what we are feeling. Please in these times be our support, our rock we can lean on, so we can know we aren’t alone in our struggle.

So many times in my life I wished I could help others understand what I need. These are the things I wish I could tell those I love.

“I just need someone who is willing to stay in my life even through my darkest times, and not give up on me and leave me to my own mind. When people leave my life and can’t handle me and my illness, it makes things so much harder for me.”

“I pray for someone who will love me regardless of what happens and who is willing to be there for me. I just want someone who I can call or text about what’s going through my head, who will not judge, but support me.”

“I want someone who wants to be in my life and will help me keep holding on. Someone who will be there for me, who loves me regardless of what my mind tells me.”

“Every day I struggle to continue on through life. I feel alone and want to reach out so much, but I’m scared that if I do I will lose you and be dropped from your life.”

“Living with the unending battle that’s depression, anxiety and bipolar, I know I can say things that hurt. I often struggle controlling my thoughts and keeping them quiet, and when I hurt you because of my actions I hurt and am so sorry for what I’ve done. Please know that isn’t me speaking, it is my illness telling me I’m not good enough, or that it doesn’t matter what I say because I don’t matter.”

“What I really want is to be understood and loved by people. Not shunned, not left alone. I want to feel the love of others, I want to do things, I want to be normal. But sometimes I just can’t, and when I can’t that is when I really truly need someone to be there for me.”

“It is so hard when you feel like you are alone. That those you care about most ignore you or dismiss the fact that anything is wrong. It hurts. It hurts to feel forgotten and alone.”

“This battle I face, was never meant to be battled alone.”

“Please don’t forget me.”

There is so much we wish we could say to you. There is so much going on under the surface that you will probably never see or think is there. If I could say one final thing to those in my life it would be: “You never know when just saying ‘hi,’ calling or a hug can truly help so much. Many times I have gotten to the point when I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t see the point, and it was someone calling me out of the blue that would help me. Please don’t give up on us. We didn’t choose this. We just want to be loved.”

I hope for a better tomorrow even when that hope feels so far away I feel like I can’t reach it. But I know with the help of friends, family and loved ones, those of us who struggle with illnesses like mine will always have hope if we have you. 

Don’t forget about us.

With love and hope for a better day,

Zachary Walker

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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What the Holidays Are Like in India as Someone With Bipolar Disorder

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The holidays can actually be the hardest time for people in any part of the world. I know if someone were to ask me if I love the holidays, the answer would be no.

I should’ve written this post a month back, in October, which is the peak season for holidays in our India. We have Dussehra in October, a 10-day celebration. But because I wasn’t feeling well during that time (I was under one of the nasty depression spells), I thought I’d write about it now. After all, we still have Christmas to cover. And it is quite a huge deal here as it is everywhere in the world. The span from October to December is fueled with the magic of holidays in our hearts.

What do holidays really feel like to someone with bipolar disorder, like me, trotting between mania and depression? You guessed it — it’s a nightmare of epic proportions. Me, as a Bengali, in West Bengal, we have Durga Puja — and five out of those 10 days are said to be auspicious.

I will tell you how I spent the fifth day of those 10 days — I spent it crying. Apparently something was wrong with my medication cocktail and it made me almost lose my mind. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. My husband was sitting there with me, helpless. Because the fact is I don’t even know why I was crying. This is just an example of what goes on in the holidays.

To begin the festive day, first I have to wake up. Waking up, getting out of the bed, can be pretty hard work for anyone with mental health issues, but waking up on a festive day with mental illnesses comes with a tremendous amount of pressure created by others. These are the days when rules are made up for you — wake up, get dressed for others and get a panic attack. Meanwhile, look alive. Since relatives are going to come over and the festival is happening at your home, you have to look alive even though you’re dead as a zombie inside.

This is exactly how my holidays went down every year until I got married.

“You’ve grown so big,” Aunty exclaims. “Look how much you look like your dead mother,” another one exclaims. More awkward conversations, glances, some pitiful, others envious. Let’s not forget the biggest question of them all — what are you doing now? My daughter so and so just completed engineering, now she’s all set to marry this man so and so and they’re settling in the U.S. 

Me, as a simple, 30-year-old, unemployed woman with various mental disorders, just looks up and smiles, hoping to somehow disappear into thin air. But since life isn’t that miraculous, I stand there holding a smile for the longest time, losing my train of thought. 

I know I could just say that you know, because of my bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I just can’t hold a job. Also, I have a boyfriend of seven years and we plan to get married after 32. At least I’m on the road to some future. But this answer would probably wake up alarm bells everywhere. This is not an acceptable answer.

Because firstly, they don’t believe mental illness is real. Secondly, they assume if you don’t have a job you’re lazy, or you’re not smart like aunty’s engineer daughter. And seven years with a boy? Not yet married and you’re 30? Unacceptable, all of it! Probably your father should have taken better care of you, taken you to the guruji to expel those demons. 

So I smile till my jaw hurts, imagine my father calling me and wander away from the aunties till another one finds me.

During these festivities, all I do is get social anxiety and panic attacks, which I certainly don’t want anyone to see.

Now that I’m 32 and married, it doesn’t much seem to bother them anymore. They have moved on to territory of child-bearing. But still, my profession always comes up every year. And I want to disappear into thin air every year.

Once I’m alone, there’s nothing much to do other than cry my eyes out and to think, why did it have to be me? Why does it feel like I’m the only one who’s struggling?

At least I felt that way until I met others like me, in you all. No matter how much negativity they spew around, I always find solace when I come here, when I write, when I do my work for Hope Is Good.

I figure holidays must feel like this for someone else. So I wrote it down today. Don’t forget to let me know if your last holiday went something like this or if you’re dreading the upcoming season.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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