8 Things We Can Learn From Carrie Fisher
On Tuesday, Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack during a flight from London to Los Angeles. As an actress, Fisher was best known for her oversized earmuff buns and her role as the beloved Princess Leia in Star Wars. In her later years, she went on to be the voice for mental health and addiction awareness and rights. Fisher wrote five novels and three works of non-fiction, including a fact-fictionalized version of her life, Postcards from the Edge and, most recently, The Princess Diarist, a memoir based on the journals she kept during the filming of Star Wars. She embodied a resilient spirit and strength we can all learn from, at a time when we’ve made so much progress, but still have a long way to go.
Below are just a few of the lessons we can learn from her.
1. CHALLENGE THE NORM
Fisher is visionary and also one of the true radicals. She refused to accept the ableist, ageist, sexist, body shaming and the stigmatising culture that is brainwashed into our minds by mainstream media. She understood intersectionality and solidarity. She was against the idea of marginalizing anyone in the outliers of societal bell curve; to her, such actions have done too much harm to far too many people.
2. IT’S OKAY TO BE ‘NOT OKAY’
Fisher’s talent, tremendous success, and impressive looks left us unsuspecting of her personal mental challenges. On the surface, she functioned at incredibly high levels, while simultaneously drowning in deep turmoil. In her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, Fisher wrote about mental illness. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 24, directly addressed the stigmatization of mental illness in a passage from the book. “One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder,” she wrote. “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
3. HELP IS NOT FAR
Fortunately for many of us, we live in an era where help for mental illnesses i.e. depression, anxiety, etc. is often available just a phone call away. Slow progress has been made for society as we shift away from the stigma where going to therapy is seen as a sign of illness. Now, taking time out and conversing with a professional is viewed as a sign of rejuvenation and wellbeing. Hopefully, a day will come when there is no reason for anyone to suffer in silence anymore.
4. THERE’S LIGHT ON THE DARK SIDE
The latest World Health Organization reports that 1 in 4 of us living in developed nations are likely to experience at least one major mental health episode within our lifetime. Such challenges can help us cultivate resilience, empathy and allow us to grow emotionally. Fisher’s personal battles led to deep convictions that she made public, showing up courageously in support of all of us who have experienced mental illness directly or indirectly.
5. USE FEAR EFFECTIVELY
Experiencing fear, especially when struggling with deep emotions and troubled circumstances, is human. It’s a sign we are living, taking challenges in our stride, even when we are scared. Fisher pursued her dreams despite her hardship, and in a 2013 interview with The Herald Tribune, she offered some sage advice to those with mental issues who may be anxious about pursuing their dreams: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway,” she said. “What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it, and eventually the confidence will follow.” Troubling emotions are tough to cope, but evading them won’t make the situation any easier either.
6. FIND HUMOUR IN LIFE
In her later years, Fisher brought her interesting wit and honesty onto social media platforms, allowing insights into her humorous and unique point of view. In one of her outstanding tweets from 2011, Fisher shared some wise words on the importance of finding humour in living: “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true and that is unacceptable.“
7. DON’T LET OTHERS TELL YOUR STORY
How often have we felt that we were mistaken or misunderstood? In her later decades Fisher was an avid writer of her own confessional novels and memoirs. She shared in them her own personal struggles and experiences. Just early this year, she expressed in an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “If those issues are going to be public, I would rather them be public the way I’ve experienced them rather than someone else assuming things about me. It’s freeing to do it. Shame is not something I aspire to.”
8. WRITE YOUR OWN OBITUARY
Just as you should never allow others to write your story, we should all attempt to take control of our own obituaries. In Wishful Drinking, Fisher recalls an incident during the filming of Star Wars where George Lucas explained to her the rationale of going bra-less under the white dress she wore as Princess Leia. Lucas eluded, “Because… there’s no underwear in space.” He further clarified that the space environment would lead someone to be strangled by her own bra. Fisher concluded: “Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obituary — so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
Thank you Carrie Fisher. Without your wisdom and positivity, many others would have let themselves stay concealed in the shadows.
Fisher, C. (2012). Wishful drinking. Simon and Schuster.