When I was twelve, I began taking medication for depression and anxiety. I’d known that I had both of these ‘conditions’ long before the diagnosis came about, but it was nice to put a name to a face. As a gift to celebrate, I was given two things: a therapist, and a copy of Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. I mostly knew of Carrie through her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who frequented many of the films that I watched when I was a toddler. I’d never seen Star Wars and had no idea what the book was about. But I cracked it open anyway and began to read.
It only took me about a day to finish (to be fair, it’s not a very long book). In the novel, Fisher covers a lot of ground. You get a sense of everything, from funny tidbits of her Hollywood childhood to her difficult battle with bipolar disorder. After I was done, I spent a few minutes staring at the wall. Then, I began to weep. Fisher had been able to give me something that I had been longing for for months: the ability to feel seen. When I read her words about what it felt like to be inside of her head, I wanted to get up and start dancing. I finally found someone that feels the way that I do!
Obviously, I knew that Fisher wasn’t speaking directly to me. But, damn, did it feel like it. It was like, for years, I had been walking through a dark tunnel, desperately searching for a light switch to flip. And suddenly, there she was. Equipped with her razor-sharp wit and killer sense of humor, Fisher turned the lights on. She spoke candidly about what her mental illness looks like on the worst days, sometimes rendering her unable to get out of bed. The same thing happens to me. It used to make me feel so ashamed. I just wished that I could disappear into my pillow.
But Fisher, she refused to ever disappear. She was big and bold, unafraid to show the world every facet of herself, even when it didn’t want to see. The world doesn’t really like to see people with mental health issues. Not truly, anyway. We say that we’re understanding of what the people around us are going through, but we’re not, not really. People just like it better when you can tie yourself into a perfect bow. It makes things less complicated. Fisher was the complete opposite, and she embraced it.
For a really long time, I thought that I was never going to be able to accomplish anything in life because of my unpredictable mental state. I didn’t necessarily have any factual basis for this theory, but nonetheless, it was what I believed. Wishful Drinking got me thinking, though. Maybe, it is possible to do something with your life when you feel this way. In fact, maybe it’s even more important that you do. Perhaps, taking the chance to prove to yourself that you are strong enough to reach the other side is exactly what the point of all this is.
I like to think of Fisher as an anonymous donor for my motivation. We never met, but ultimately, she’s changed my life forever. Without her willingness to be so vulnerable with the world, I don’t think I’d be half the person that I am today. Everybody is plagued by something, but their ability to show up and face it is where the essence of their character truly lies. She did more than show up. Fisher gave it her all. She knew what she meant to people, she knew that there were individuals like me out there, looking to her for guidance. And she didn’t take it lightly.
When I learned of her death 4 years ago, a little piece of my heart shattered. How was I supposed to live in a world without Carrie Fisher? What was the point? Honestly, I still have days where I feel like that. Sometimes, though, I decide to focus on the beauty of the situation instead. I think about the groups of people that she brought together, for a myriad of different reasons. I remember that I’m better because of her. I’m reminded of what she represented: that there is always more love left to be found, there’s nothing you can’t get through, and you are never alone. And, finally, of one of my favorite quotes from Wishful Drinking: “Now this is a delusion, but it’s my delusion and I’m sticking with it. It’s sort of like: I have problems but problems don’t have me.”
by Emma Henault
Emma Henault (she/her) is an aspiring writer living in Vermont. In the fall, she’ll begin working towards an English Literature degree in upstate New York. You can find her on Twitter here.
Categories: Anything and Everything, Feminist Criticism
I wish you all the luck in the journey ahead and may you never feel belittled by circumstances and especially by flippant standards of people. I, as a fellow reader and writer suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues owing to familial matters for years now, see you and send you all my prayers and wishes, in time for New Year. You are a gifted writer and are loved by people for whom you are the world and beyond. Godspeed to you, Emma. Cheers and hope for a fruitful writing career from my side.