Carrie Fisher may be most well-known for playing Star Wars' Princess Leia, but she was a superheroine in real life too. The actress and author, who died Tuesday at the age of 60 after suffering a cardiac arrest, battled relentlessly against the stigma on mental illness, and to raise awareness for the need for treatment.
Fisher was diagnosed at age 29 with bipolar disorder, an illness characterized by episodes of depression and mania. Throughout her life, she used her trademark humor and candor to shed light on the condition, and convey the powerful, life-changing message that there is no shame in a mental health diagnosis.
In honor of Fisher's legacy, here are just a few of the times she spoke out and inspired us all.
On owning your diagnosis
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you.” —December 2000, in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC's PrimeTime Thursday
On the courage that mental illness requires
“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. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). 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. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” —Wishful Drinking, her 2008 memoir about her mental illness and prescription drug addiction
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On finding the humor
“I thought I would inaugurate a Bipolar Pride Day. You know, with floats and parades and stuff! On the floats we would get the depressives, and they wouldn’t even have to leave their beds—we’d just roll their beds out of their houses, and they could continue staring off miserably into space. And then for the manics, we’d have the manic marching band, with manics laughing and talking and shopping and f***ing and making bad judgment calls.” —Wishful Drinking
On surviving a severe manic episode
“I don’t really remember what I did. I haven’t watched the videos that people took. I know it got bad. I was in a very severe manic state, which bordered on psychosis. Certainly delusional. I wasn’t clear what was going on. I was just trying to survive. There are different versions of a manic state, and normally they’re not as extreme as this became. I’ve only had this happen one other time, 15 years ago, so I didn’t have a plan of action.” —September 2013, in an interview with People about the bipolar episode she had while headlining a Caribbean cruise
On chasing your dreams, despite your diagnosis
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ―April 2013, in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
On why getting help is crucial
“Without medication I would not be able to function in this world. Medication has made me a good mother, a good friend, a good daughter.” —February 2001, at a rally in Indianapolis for increased state funding for mental illness and addiction treatment
On how to help a loved one with bipolar
“If you feel like your child or friend or spouse is showing signs of this illness, if you can get them in touch with somebody else they can talk to and share their experience with and not just feel like they’re being told they’re ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or ‘stupid,’ then they can relate somehow.” —November 2004, in an interview with bp Magazine
On summoning courage
“We have been given a challenging illness, and there is no other option than to meet those challenges. Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic—not 'I survived living in Mosul during an attack' heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder.” —November 2016, in her Guardian advice column, "Ask Carrie Fisher"