2016 has seen the deaths of many influential and talented celebrities. But none have affected the mental health community like the passing of Carrie Fisher on December 27.
In recent years, Carrie Fisher was known for her mental health advocacy. She spoke openly about her bipolar disorder and her fight to keep it under control. Like some others facing a mental illness, she at first denied her diagnosis and turned to drugs to self-medicate. She showed us that mental health challenges can happen to anyone.
Carrie Fisher was born on October 21, 1956, to Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. She rose to fame in 1977 when she first played Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars franchise. Shortly afterwards, Fisher was diagnosed with manic depression, or bipolar disorder. It is characterized by intense, cycling moods. Fisher first thought “
Fisher continued to deny her diagnosis until she was 29. That was when doctors again told her she had bipolar disorder. This time she accepted the diagnosis. Going to rehab for her drug use helped her realize that there was a deeper issue going on. As her peers in rehab calmed down, she lost more control as the drugs no longer prevented her manic state.
In recent years, Fisher managed to control her moods through the use of medication and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). She wrote and spoke very openly about her experiences. As well as worked hard to advocate for better mental healthcare access for all.
Fisher did not let her illness hide in the shadows as shame. Instead, she showed the world that individuals facing a mental illness can live through it, can thrive within it, and can be successful. A mental health diagnosis is not a condemnation.
She also showed that a mental illness does not simply disappear by taking a few pills. She worked hard to stabilize her moods, and her efforts didn’t always work. For example, when she had a bipolar episode while performing on a cruise ship in 2013. Sometimes society can underestimate the effort it takes to stabilize a severe mental illness. But Fisher showed the world that it’s not easy, even for someone who can pursue any treatment available.
And she taught us all that perseverance is key when battling a mental illness. “I outlasted my problems,” Fisher said in an interview with ABC News. “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.”
Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for all you did with your time on Earth. Rest in peace.