8 Reasons We're Grateful for Carrie Fisher, Badass Mental Health Warrior
On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died after having a heart attack. The beloved actress was well-known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films and admired in the mental health community for the shameless way she talked about her mental illness.
Fisher was legendary for the kick-ass way she spoke about living with bipolar disorder, always managing to make us laugh in the process. To honor her one year after her death, we wanted to share some of the reasons we’re grateful for all she did. Because although it’s sad to think about her loss, we know she would have wanted us to come together, have a good laugh and reminisce.
Here are some of the reasons we’re still grateful for Carrie:
1. She gave great advice.
After her death, people took to Twitter to express their grief, and many shared their favorite Carrie memories. One person in particular shared advice Carrie had given them about living with a mental illness.
She told me, "You have mental illness, but your mental illness doesn't have you."
— Jen Mac Ace Neptune Ramos ???????????? (@jenmacramos) December 23, 2016
“When I met Carrie Fisher last year, she told me the best advice I had gotten about mental health,” Jen Mac Ramos, a journalist based in the Central Valley of California, tweeted. “She told me, ‘You have mental illness, but your mental illness doesn’t have you.’”
— Jen Mac Ace Neptune Ramos ???????????? (@jenmacramos) December 23, 2016
2. She took the shame out of taking medication for your mental health.
Throughout her life, Carrie was open about taking medication for her bipolar disorder — and always reminded us it was OK if we took medication, too. In a 2012 interview with USA Today, she said she had to try multiple medications before finding the right one and even was candid about the consequences of suddenly going off medication. She emphasized you can live a normal life with bipolar disorder and that you shouldn’t be ashamed about how you choose to manage it.
There is treatment and a variety of medications that can alleviate your symptoms if you are manic depressive or depressive. You can lead a normal life, whatever that is. I have gotten to the point where I can live a normal life, where my daughter can rely on me for predictable behavior, and that’s very important to me.
3. She spoke openly about the connection between mental illness and addiction.
Even after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Carrie struggled with addiction. This isn’t uncommon for people with mood disorders, and it’s an important overlap to talk about.
“I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple — just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully,” she said in 2000. “And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive.”
As someone who was open about her struggles with addiction, she also taught us recovery isn’t perfect. When she died, a coroner’s report revealed she had alcohol, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy in her system. It’s not clear if this affected her death, but it does mean that she was perhaps still struggling with her addiction. This doesn’t make her any less of a mental health hero. In a piece about hearing the news of Carrie’s autopsy report, Mighty contributor Emily Bradley wrote:
Addiction can rob you of everything. For me, it’s always there in the background, waiting for me to drop my guard. There have been so many times in my few short years of recovery that I’ve almost blown it. I also can’t pretend to understand the mental state of Carrie, who is someone I’ve never met… We will never know what she was going through.
When I think of Carrie Fisher, I see a strength not many of us have. She was brave enough to share her journey with us, and speak out against the crushing stigma. She was so beautiful, wise and talented. It was almost easy to forget she was also human. A human, who struggled with addiction.
4. She reminded people living with bipolar disorder they are champions.
Carrie knew living with bipolar disorder isn’t for the faint of heart and wanted people with bipolar to be proud of their lives. In her autobiographical book, “Wishful Drinking,” Carrie wrote:
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… 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.
5. Gary her dog was, frankly, the best.
Carrie was known for bringing her dog, Gary, everywhere, including interviews. The entertainment channel Bravo once called him “the face of therapy animals in Hollywood.” They wrote of the relationship with Carrie and her dog:
Fisher and Gary were inseparable during their four years together: he walked red carpets, appeared on talk shows (he famously fell asleep on Good Morning America), and even helped her sign autographs. “Gary is like my heart,” Fisher told the Herald Tribune in 2013. “Gary is very devoted to me and that calms me down. He’s anxious when he’s away from me.”
Although it’s not completely clear if Gary was a registered Emotional Support Animal, animals can help people who are struggling with their mental health, and there are plenty of health benefits associated with being a dog owner.
Also, look at that face!
6. She made us laugh.
If anything, Carrie was known for her incredible sense of humor. Some of her funnier quotes include:
“I think in my mouth so I don’t lie.” — on an interview on Good Morning America
“I’m very sane about how crazy I am.” — in her book “Wishful Drinking”
“I’ve got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.” — in an essay published in Newsweek
7. She encouraged people to open up about their own mental illnesses.
After Carrie passed, writer Ana Marie Cox revealed for the first time she also has bipolar disorder. Inspired by this, people used the hashtag #InHonorofCarrie to talk about her own mental health diagnoses.
I’m pretty open about being in recovery; I’ve been more circumspect about mental illness. In honor of Carrie Fisher: I’m bipolar, too.
— ana marie cox (@anamariecox) December 27, 2016
#InHonorOfCarrie I have suffered with depression and a mood disorder. I have finally gotten my addiction issues under control. Life is good
— Nancy Reed (@NancyR7777777) January 14, 2017
#InHonorOfCarrie I have a bipolar disorder too. The battle is hard and for all my life each day. But she was very brave so we can too.
— candycandy (@candycandyrio) January 1, 2017
#InHonorOfCarrie I have lived with bipolar, anxiety, and depression for 20 years, thank you for making it easier to talk about it
— ★Lynette★ (@angelofdeath80) January 5, 2017
#InHonorOfCarrie suffered severe depression & anxiety. didn't seek help until it was almost too late. Seek help. It's worth it
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) December 27, 2016
8. Even after her death, she was still normalizing mental health.
As one last nod to the mental health community, Buzzfeed reported Carrie’s urn was a huge Prozac pill — a nod to her notorious sense of humor.
Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, told reporters, “Carrie’s favorite possession was a giant Prozac pill that she bought many years ago. A big pill. She loved it, and it was in her house, and Billie and I felt it was where she’d want to be…We couldn’t find anything appropriate. Carrie would like that. It was her favorite thing, and so that’s how you do it. And so they’re together, and they will be together here and in heaven, and we’re OK with that.”
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) January 6, 2017
Tell us why you’re grateful for Carrie Fisher in the comments below.