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In Honor of Carrie Fisher: The Princess Who Fought Against the Stigma of Mental Illness

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I’ve spent most of today mourning for a woman I’ve never met but whom meant a great deal to me and millions of others. Carrie Fisher was more than her outstanding movie roles, more than her hilariousness, more than her mental illness. She embodied a strength that millions of women look up to, myself included. She was a huge influence on my life from a very young age, I remember begging my mom to put my hair in the Leia buns so I could be a princess for a day when I was 7. Her role as the tough and independent Princess Leia brought out my fierce side. I became sassy for a while after watching “Star Wars.” The movie itself holds an extremely special place in my life. It was the film that bonded me and mom together. It was our special thing that we’d watch together, and that’s something I’ll treasure forever. My mom was also a huge Carrie Fisher fan. I’d like to think that she and I would have cried together today.

Maybe that’s what makes this so hard for me? December 28 would have been my mother’s 62nd birthday; I lost my mom eight years ago to suicide. She was a nearly lifelong addict and had major depressive disorder (MDD), both of which she’d never fully been treated for other than self-medicating. I think losing Carrie Fisher feels somewhat like losing a piece of my mother all over again. Every time Carrie Fisher spoke out about her addictions and her mental illness I had wished my mother had been there to hear it. Between the two of these women influencing my life it’s no wonder I’m such a staunch mental health advocate and stigma fighter.

We all get to leave something behind in this world, good or bad, and what I’ve learned is that your life means something even when you think it doesn’t. Carrie Fisher will forever be Princess Leia to some, but to me, she will be the woman who lit a fire in me to be fierce and sassy and to fight for the end of mental illness stigma. She will be remembered by me for her unwavering perseverance, her wit, her truth-telling in a way that left no room for misinterpretation, her ability to make light of serious issues in such a way that left you laughing and nodding your head yes in agreement to all she divulged, and most of all she will be remembered by me and millions of others as one of the biggest and brightest lives we’ve ever encountered.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher. I wish I could have said it in person, but I’m saying it now. Thanks for lending your voice to the voiceless and for all your talent and hard work, and for never being afraid to share your humanity. You are missed already. May the force be with you always.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Originally published: December 28, 2016
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