Carrie Fisher's Last Column For The 'Guardian' Highlights Why She Was A Mental Health Hero
Rounding off a year of heartbreaking celebrity losses in 2016 that included Prince, George Michael, Davie Bowie, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Alan Thicke, actress Carrie Fisher died on Dec. 27 at age 60. The Hollywood legend, who was most well-known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, struggled with bipolar disorder and throughout her life became an outspoken advocate for mental health. In June of 2016, she began penning an advice column for The Guardian, and in November it published her last installment where Fisher gave words of encouragement to a bipolar reader about managing her disorder.
The letter behind the column was titled "I'm bipolar — how do you feel at peace with mental illness?" The letter writer, named Alex, told Fisher the disorder "feels like a terrible balancing act." Fisher's response is insightful and heartbreaking. She wrote about attending AA after overdosing, when someone told her that she didn't have to enjoy the meetings, she had to get through them:
My comfort wasn’t the most important thing – my getting through to the other side of difficult feelings was. However long it might seem to take and however unfair it might seem, it was my job to do it.
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 – not 'I survived living in Mosul during an attack' heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder. That’s why it’s important to find a community – however small – of other bipolar people to share experiences and find comfort in the similarities.
Fisher's one-woman stage show turned autobiographical book, Wishful Drinking detailed an honest look at her life growing up in the spotlight to famous parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, as well as her struggles with alcoholism and bipolar disorder. And it's Fisher's trademark sarcastic, biting wit that has entranced audiences and legions of young women who look up to her for her honesty and forthrightness about her battles.
Fisher ended the column offering solidarity and hope to the writer:
You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do, you just have to do it. You can let it all fall down and feel defeated and hopeless and that you’re done. But you reached out to me – that took courage. Now build on that. Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do.
The world lost an incredible woman Tuesday, who has left a giant hole not only for Hollywood, but also for those who are battling mental health issues.