I appreciate Carrie Fisher’s intense honesty about her struggles with mental health, in particular with bi-polar disorder. I am not so sure that one voice makes a huge difference, but every voice counts, and especially her’s, which was funny, clear, loud, and well-known due to her fame.
Ms. Fisher had a rough time of it after her diagnosis in her mid-twenties, choosing for a period of time to drown her diagnosis in alcohol and drugs. By her thirtieth birthday, Fisher had come to terms with the fact that her bi-polar disorder was real. From the moment of her acceptance, Fisher embraced her illness and recognized that the disease was medical in nature. She never succumbed to feelings of shame about her chronic mental illness. In her mind, she knew it was due to a chemical imbalance, and this chemical imbalance was no different from any other medical condition. It is reputed that her brutally honest reaction to, and acceptance of, her bi-polar disorder brought some normalcy to perceptions about mental health illness, proving that even an intelligent, cool, and successful person can have a mental illness and still lead a normal, productive, and stimulating life. Many of us who deal with a chronic mental illness know this to be fact. We know that we can lead successful, productive, and happy lives. We are not the ones who need convincing. It is the larger (but shrinking) community that has never experienced mental illness that needs to understand the normalcy of our particular abnormality. When the outside community begins to accept the normalcy of this disease, it will make it easier for all of us to feel unashamed.
Today, perhaps in part because of Carrie Fisher’s honesty, more people are talking openly about their own struggles. More programs have been established to help people face and manage their own mental illness, and to educate their families and the population at large. With greater openness on the subject of mental health, more people are reaching out to get the help they need. And all of this is good.