Last year, I decided to take a semester off from school due to severe anxiety and depression. With all my friends away at college, I was left in a constant state of social isolation. I knew that it would be boring and lonely, but I also knew that I needed a chance to get my mental health issues under control. So I packed up my dorm, retreated into my mother’s waiting arms and essentially hit the pause button on my life. I had no idea where to go from there, for my own brain was sabotaging my every move – day in and day out. It was a raging war in which I had no means of defense.
And then I found Carrie.
With her uniquely raw, hilariously real voice, Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist put a name to all the things I had been feeling but could not articulate. Young Fisher’s diary entries perfectly encapsulated the feelings of inadequacy and social anxiety that were plaguing me, while older Fisher’s reflections on her own words provided a hindsight perspective that I desperately needed. I connected so profoundly with her voice and message, I was able to reflect on my own experiences and mistakes with a greater sense of clarity.
Having read all of Fisher’s books, I can say with certainty that I have never come across another author who better illustrates what it is like to live with mental illness. In both her memoirs and her novels, she is unflinching in her candidness — even when it makes her look bad. Her ability to be so open about issues such as alcoholism and her struggles with bipolar disorder is awe-inspiring. In the war to de-stigmatize mental illness, she was our fearless general — our Princess Leia taking on the empire.
She was a guiding light for me when I had nothing else to rely on. She taught me that the one person I have to be able to rely on is myself. She taught me how to own my mental illness without letting it define me. Most importantly, she taught me how to stop taking everyone else’s opinions so seriously. Never will I forget the impact of Fisher’s words, “Who are you even doing all this bullshit for?” Fisher did not have time for bullshit and she was never afraid to laugh at herself. In Wishful Drinking, Carrie gives instructions for her obituary, saying, “No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” This continues to make me think about how no matter what she may have gone through, she never let it take her spirit. Then I do not give up. Then I feel slightly better. Then I know I can pull myself through. I can do it for Carrie.
So thank you, Space Princess. May we all die strangled by our own bras.