I must have been about seven or eight the first time I sawStar Wars: A New Hope.
By this time in my life I had already been called a “sissy” and a “girl” more times than I care to admit. I was fed all the stereotypical, pervasive lines about gender bullshit, everything from “that’s for girls” to “girls just aren’t as strong as boys”. I was more than confused about why I was being told this, as my main role model at the time was my mom. My mom was a single female who worked 40+ hours a week just so we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. She was and will always be my hero, but for whatever reason, there was this lingering voice in my head that females are somehow weaker than males.
Enter Carrie Fisher. The first time I saw Princess Leia on screen, I immediately identified with her. A strong female character that, while the script would appear to play her as a damsel in distress, she was far from. She was one of the main leaders of a rebel alliance, which was conceived to take down the evil empire. Though her character showed moments of weakness throughout the trilogy (so did Han bitches - he got his ass frozen in carbonite), one thing was constant for me, the actress playing this character is one bad ass “girl”.
Fast forward to when I was about 18. I still had my Carrie Fisher obsession, watching anything with her in it, reading her books and interviews. I became a fan girl to the fullest extent of the phrase. Carrie became somebody who identified with so much.
One of my favorite lines from Wishful Drinking is this little nugget: “There are a couple of reasons why I take comfort in being able to put all this in my own vernacular and present it to you…. For one thing, because then I'm not completely alone with it. And for another, it gives me a sense of being in control of the craziness."
These beautiful words describe something that is still deemed so taboo to talk about, mental illness. Carrie was an advocate for mental health awareness and treatment. She talked openly about her alcoholism and bipolar disorder.
Carrie has openly talked about why she believes that mental illness was such a struggle for her. The main reason that she believed that mental illness plagued her is due to the stresses and demands of being famous, and more so, born into a famous family. Fisher wrote and spoke openly and freely about believing that her early years contributed to her mental illness, which would go on to trigger major drug addiction. She blames her teen years where he mother would bully her, or her father leaving her when she was 2, or being thrown in the spotlight from birth (something she openly admits to hating and wishing never happened).
As a Queer, I can relate. I blame my childhood for much of the mental illness that plagues me today. I blame the kids on the playground that called me “sissy” or told me “that girls don’t make good role models because they aren’t smart and weak”. I blame having a father that was kicked out of our house when I was five, and I blame myself for hiding and trying to suppress it for so long.
Much like Carrie, I myself struggle with Mental Illness. I struggle to realize my worth, to realize that there are people who identify with me and are here for me. I struggle to realize that I’m not that 215+ pound person that I was in high school, and still call myself “fat”. I struggle with alcohol and drug use to numb out the pain that I feel in my head. And like my idol Carrie, I’m not afraid to talk openly about it and show people that they are not alone in the world.
I tragically never got to meet my Princess, as our paths never crossed on Earth, but the work that she has done will stick with me forever. Carrie will forever be a major influence and idol to me and the work that I do to help those who struggle with their Mental Illness.
RIP Carrie Fisher 1956-2016