by Liza Long
One of the first movies I remember seeing was Star Wars. I was five years old, and for me, as for many girls who came of age in the late 70s and 80s, Princess Leia shaped the possibilities we imagined for ourselves and our adult lives. She was proof that women really could do anything, no matter what obstacles the evil empire of the patriarchy put in our paths.
My parents purchased all of the Star Wars films on video disc, and my siblings and I watched the space opera every chance we could get, memorizing the scenes so that we could act them out later. To this day, one of my favorites is when Luke tries to rescue Leia from the Death Star prison and botches it. With an exasperated sigh, eyes flashing, she grabs his rifle and starts shooting the bad guys, quipping sardonically to the baffled farm boy, “Well, somebody has to save our skins.” Indeed.
Carrie Fisher was more than my princess. She was my hero.
Little did I know how heroic she really was. Much later, when my second son was diagnosed with juvenile bipolar disorder, Fisher became a real-life hero to me, thanks to her brave activism on behalf of those living with mental illness. Her chronicles of living in recovery from bipolar disorder and addiction were unapologetic testimonials to the force of her brilliance and spirit.
But her real heroism was that she made living with bipolar disorder normal. She worked to create a world where “Bipolar Pride” could be accepted by everyone. Thanks to Fisher and others like her, I have more confidence that my son and his unique gifts will be accepted in society, that he will have the same chance every child deserves at a healthy, happy life.
Like too many people who live with serious mental illness, Fisher died well before her time. But the force of her impact lives on, not only in my favorite childhood movies, but in the books where she shared her journey to recovery. She made the world a better place for people living with bipolar disorder—and for all of us. Thank you, Princess. We’ll miss you.