Content/trigger warning: death
My (pen) name is Mara Lee, and I loved Carrie Fisher.
I don’t say that lightly. I didn’t know it was possible to care so much about someone I had never met. But Carrie Fisher was that important to me. While I’m a huge Star Wars nerd and I adored Leia Organa, it was Carrie Fisher’s mental health advocacy that I admired most. Well, that’s not exactly it, although I took strength from her stance on mental illness. I loved how unapologetically herself Carrie Fisher was. She was hilarious, witty, brave, a talented actress, a skilled writer, open and honest about her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder, and she embraced her fans calling her “space mom”. I loved her personality.
I’m mentally ill. Not bipolar like Carrie, but about everything but; I have been formally diagnosed with major depression (although I think double depression is more accurate), generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder (added to this list in mid-May when I finally accepted that diagnosis), complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and otherwise specified dissociative disorder. (Note: I’m pro-self-diagnosis; I just happen to have had the good fortune to be properly diagnosed by a professional.) Every word Carrie spoke about mental illness made my brain jump up and down screaming “yes, yes, exactly”. In the absence of someone I knew in person to be my mental illness-related beacon of strength, I needed someone like Carrie. When I was first diagnosed with depression, I resolved to not shut up about it because I hated the stigma surrounding mental illness and wanted to do something about it. Carrie was my confirmation that I wasn’t wrong to be so vocal about my mental illness.
I’m also Autistic. I’m planning to talk mostly about mental illness on this blog–more on that later–but being Autistic is inexorably entwined with who I am. And Autistic people often have special interests. A special interest is something that consumes an Autistic person’s life: we think about it all the time, we want to know everything about it, we won’t shut up about it (verbally if we’re capable, in any other form of communication if we’re not), we can hyperfocus on it for hours, etc. etc. Carrie Fisher became a special interest of mine when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out and I watched General Organa walk off of her ship to greet Han Solo, and my tiny lesbian heart could not handle the General’s awesomeness. I had never had a special interest in a person before. For the longest time, I thought it was my first celebrity crush. But it was something more than that.
And it was something more than a special interest. Maybe it’s the shock and sadness talking. Maybe I’m just that nerdy. Maybe my hyperempathy is having a field day after the outpouring of grief I’ve seen on social media over Carrie’s death. But the statement “I loved Carrie Fisher” does not feel inaccurate.
And I want to do something in her memory.
I’m not famous and probably never will be, unless this pen name ends up on any of the sci-fi or fantasy novels I have in the works. But like I mentioned before, Carrie Fisher and her badassery were my confirmation that I was doing the right thing by trying to destigmatize mental illness. So, here’s this blog. I’m going to try to post about once a month on a topic related to mental illness and stigma: neurotypicalism in the medical-industrial complex, mood disorders vs. “scary” mental disorders and the differences in how they’re perceived, the relationship mental illness has with the horror genre…trust me, I have plenty of soapboxes. I’m also prone to blathering about my personal life, so I will probably also post occasionally–okay, maybe a ton–about my collection of mental illnesses and how they affect me.
If I may be frank, I don’t know what I’m doing. I have never set out to destigmatize mental illness in this format before…hell, I’ve never done anything to destigmatize mental illness besides run my mouth to my friends. And this is the Internet, so I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong that will be immortalized, or get tons of hate that my sensitive Autistic ass is not going to be able to handle. But as Carrie Fisher once said about MI people pursuing their dreams, “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.”
So I’m doing it anyway.
This is for you, Carrie.