Forget the gold bikini. For people with mental disease Carrie Fisher was a queen | Hannah Jane Parkinson

Ive ever seen Star Wars but detecting Fisher through Stephen Frys documentary on manic depression immediately built “i m feeling” less alone

Ill let you in on a secret: I have never seen any of the Star Wars cinemas. Perhaps more egregious still: I have zero desire to see any of the Star Wars cinemas. And yet I feel the death of Carrie Fisher as keenly as any sci-fi fan. Because Carrie Fisher was so much more than Princess Leia although that may come as a surprise to editors at the Mirror who ensure fit to headline its front page: Princess Leia dead at 60.

Carrie Fisher died at 60. Carrie Fisher the actor, sure. But Carrie Fisher the actor not just famous for Leia, but for a long listing of performances. Carrie Fisher the writer of 7 full-length volumes and a prolific script consultant. Carrie Fisher the mental health proponent who did so much to clear the dark plumes of others depression and guide them towards illumination. Carrie Fisher, the dog devotee, the eccentric tweeter, the mother, the storyteller.

I have nothing to say on Fishers performance as Leia. Leia I know merely as a pop culture icon, a Halloween costume; two plaited doughnuts and a Friends episode. I know she means a lot to a lot of people, however. I know kids who grew up in the 70 s adored her; I know fans paid thousands for cosplays and meet-and-greets and that the instalment of the franchise in cinema currently has her digitised presence. Tributes from her fellow cast and crew members have poured forth.

But Leia wasnt the Fisher I held close. The first time I encountered her, the big brown eyes and the flared nostrils and that huskncackle, was in 2006, watching The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Stephen Fry visits a manic Fisher at home. I didnt recognise her but I recognised the mania. Who was this woman? Immediately I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews and performances. Hour passed. My eyes went wet with laughter, then dried with tiredness, and the black outside turned grey and flat. I crawled into bed and felt somehow changed. Somehow, and it might voice trite but who cares shed say it as it was less alone.

Carrie
Her creative writing about mental illness was brilliant. Carrie Fisher in 1980. Photograph: Express/ Getty Images

Fisher always spoke about craving and mental illness straight up: I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that. I am still surviving it, but bringing it on. Fisher was saying these things years before the rest of us; before celebrity as advocacy; before think pieces; before people were awarded with actual awardings for it( she has an hilarious bit on being named Bipolar Woman of the Year ).

After a manic episode on a cruise ship in 2013 which was, as so often these days, filmed and put one across social media, Fisher simply said: My medication had a little problem with itself. Its checks and balances and I went out of balance in public. And that was that. She broke down the stigma of drug and of diagnosis. She dedicated others advice, including this letter merely weeks ago in the Guardian. As difficult as it seems like it can be, youre ahead of the game As your bipolar sister, Ill be watching.

We insured her at her best but she showed us the workings out too.

Her creative writing about mental illness was brilliant. There arent many people who can write it well; who can peel back the truth of it and get to the rawness and somehow make it soft, or at the least, make it not as raw, touchable; but she did.

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When Harry Met Sally

Often Fisher built it funny too, which is an even greater gift. Her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking what a title, what encompassed artwork is a great instance( No matter how I run, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra ). Her 1987 semi-autobiographical fiction, Postcards from the Edge, detailed time in rehab. Her second memoir, the Princess Diarist, disclosed her affair with Harrison Ford, writing of her feelings for him( at least five, sometimes as many as seven ).

Then there is the non-Star Wars acting career. As Marie, Sallys best friend in When Harry Met Sally, she carried a Rolodex of possibilities suitors for friends.( Today, Marie would be the friend who stopped you drunk-dialling your ex at three in the morning. Fisher would probably be that friend too .) There were excellent cameos in Sex and the City and, including with regard to, sending herself up in 30 Rock. More lately, she was introduced to another generation playing Rob Delaneys fierce mum in Catastrophe( starring alongside Gary Fisher, her beloved French bulldog ).

I read an interview the coming week in which the British “ministers “, Theresa May stay with me said she had never had a female role model. Bizarre. Ive lost three of mine this year alone: Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne and now Carrie Fisher. Because Fisher was a female role model for me. She pushed back last year against insidious sexism( stop debating whether I aged well ). She was a woman with mental illness who refused to be painted as an hysteric, a histrionic; sexist archetypes beloved by the early psychoanalyst set. She was successful not because of a gold bikini or because of famous parents but because of smarts and talent and, yes, beauty, and witticism and determination and kindness.

She crackled with life on this planet, in this galaxy. One of the things she would say to reassure those with mental illness was: you can lead a normal life, whatever the hell is. Hers was an extraordinary one.

Read more: www.theguardian.com