This holiday season actress, activist and icon Carrie Fisher died at age 60. I didn’t know her personally — in fact, like so many of Carrie’s fans, I never met her.
However, looking back on my young life, Fisher’s influence on me feels undeniable.
The first time I saw Fisher was as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars films, and I was instantly captivated.
Leia was bright, daring, brave, and vicious — by all means a modern day nasty woman wrapped up in 1970s space glamour.
As a shy 10-year-old already grappling with a mental illness I hadn’t yet realized afflicted me, Leia was everything I wanted to be and everything I wasn’t.
Over the next several years of my adolescence, as my depression and crippling anxiety bobbed and weaved in and out of my life, Leia was a constant figure.
I’ll be honest. Depression is a disgusting illness that I hate mostly because it spent most of its time trying to take away the things I love most.
For me, depression came in the form of numbness. At my worst, I felt no remnants of the enthusiasm for life and experiences I once cherished. However, in the absence of my own passion, I began to borrow Leia’s.
In moments that required an enthusiastic response, I followed Leia’s emotional pathways like a script and used her anger, joy and determination as a template upon which I rebuilt my own emotional database.
As I slowly climbed out of the hole my own mind had tried to trap me in, Fisher’s princess was — pardon the pun — a new hope for a little depressed girl out of her depth.
Years later, as I began to fancy myself a writer and comedian, Fisher came back into my life. This time she was herself. In my teenage years, which were so often characterized by the careful avoidance of my true feelings, I discovered that, like me, Fisher struggled with mental illnesses.
With the unabashed honesty I so desperately craved, Fisher spoke extensively about her ugly struggles with mental illness.
As a young person, it was this inspirational intersection of Fisher, the mental health activist, and Fisher as Princess Leia that propelled me further toward both acceptance and recovery.
When the news broke last week that Fisher had died, there was a part of me that felt like I had lost an old friend. It’s a testament to Fisher’s effect on my life and the lives of others that so many people around the world are quietly mourning her.
Fisher wrote in her 2008 autobiography, “Wishful Drinking,” “no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
It feels only right that, in some small exchange for her cameo role in my mental health recovery saga, I end my reminiscence on her effect in the way she requested all her obituaries read.
Carrie Fisher died Dec. 27. She drowned in moonlight, and it has been reported that she was strangled by her own bra.
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