As if Millions of Voices Suddenly Cried Out

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Carrie Fisher was a beloved actress for her role as Princess Leia. Leia was an inspirational character. She was a badass woman. She could handle a blaster. She literally choked the life out of her captor, Jaba the Hut, with the chains that he had used to imprison her. She backed down from no man, and showed countless girls they could do anything they wanted to. And then she also showed them that it was okay to grow older. In fact, she got better with age. She became General Organa. Leader of the Resistance. Badass middle aged woman. And the middle aged didn’t subtract one bit from the badass. She aged gracefully, visibly, and honestly.

Princess Leia was a character. An inspiring one, sure. But a just character. Carrie Fisher was so much more than Princess Leia. She was a tireless advocate for mental health who lived openly, honestly, candidly, and courageously with mental illness. She constantly worked to end stigma and inspired countless others to do the same. Without her example I would almost certainly not be as open as I am, and this site would not exist.

She didn’t shy away from her bipolar diagnosis. She didn’t hide it. She wasn’t embarrassed by it. She wasn’t ashamed. She embraced it. She declared it. She let everyone know about it. She would not allow it to be ignored. She was the boldest, bravest, strongest, most honest, and most passionate voice in, of, and for the bipolar community.

And then there’s Gary, her beloved French bulldog. In taking Gary everywhere, in insisting on doing interviews with Gary by her side, in making him perhaps the most visible animal in the world, she showed just how beneficial emotional support animals can be. Gary was more than a pet. He was a companion and a refuge. She showed that to the world, working to normalize the inclusion of support animals in mental health care. Her relationship with Gary helped me decide to get a support animal, as well. Without Gary’s visibility Trevor would not be in my life.

Every day that Carrie Fisher lived was a day that stigma was fought and mental illness was normalized. Normalization is the most effective way to affect cultural change. Her fame gave her a platform and she used it to advocate for all of us who live with mental illness. She wrote books and movies that honestly depicted her relationship with bipolar. She spoke publicly about it. She was fearlessly open and honest, and she never backed down.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher, and thank you for your example of how to live a full, meaningful life with mental illness. You will be missed more than any words could adequately express.

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