As everyone but the proverbial three-toed sloth knows by now, actress and mental health advocate Carrie Fisher has died at the age of (only) 60. From the early reports from sources close to the dramatic events that occurred aboard her plane, I knew she was probably not going to make it; few people survive cardiac arrest outside the hospital. But of course I hoped she’d pull through, and for a couple of days I thought she might defy the odds. She was nothing if not resilient.
Alas, it was not to be. Now that she’s gone, she has left a gaping hole where a champion once stood. Carrie’s acting career was long and profitable, and her writings have been widely read. But what really made her shine was her support of the mental health community. “I am mentally ill,” she said once. “I can say that. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve survived it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” She and Patty Duke talked about bipolar disorder long before most people were even ready to acknowledge there was such a thing. They truly were pioneers in that they faced down stigma and shame, and basically told the world to go to hell if it didn’t like what they had to say.
Carrie’s life wasn’t only about her bipolar, however. She battled alcohol and drug problems as well, giving hope to those of us who struggle with substance abuse issues. She had a wry sense of humor that kept her going through bad patches, showing people that living with serious mental illness didn’t ALWAYS have to be serious. She shared the most personal aspects of her life with us, even though being in the public eye couldn’t have been easy for her.
A few years back she had a manic episode while on vacation, and there was all kinds of speculation as to whether she had gone back to drugs and booze. I would have been mortified, but Carrie just went on with life, continuing to be a voice for the mentally ill, and especially the bipolar community.
She is a hero who will be greatly missed.
May the Force be with you, Carrie Fisher.