by Megan Montenaro
The activist was anything but shy about her struggles and addictions
One of my favorite childhood photos is of me and my brother standing in front of my dad’s new Mercury Cougar wearing our Star Wars t-shirts. Later that year is probably when I was given the Princess Leia Barbie that is still somewhere in my parent’s attic. As I type this, a Princess Leia Pez dispenser sits safely among the 59 others in my collection on display in my kitchen. For as long as I can remember, Carrie Fisher has been a face that I knew, a name that I recognized. When I had the chance to briefly work with her – a few conference calls years ago – I was struck by her take it or leave it attitude. Unfortunately we left it and I never had the chance to meet her.
I’m not a box,’ she said ‘I don’t have sides. This is it. One side fits all. This is it.’
Postcards from the Edge
My mother jokes that my family’s mental health pool is a cesspool. We are a wacky bunch and some of our struggles have been identified and treated, medicated and mediated. And some of our problems, as I now joke, have been so swept away it looks like a bathmat on top of Mount Rushmore. But no matter how we choose to deal, I am thankful for growing up in an environment where discussing mental health wasn’t taboo. I am thankful that when I started to struggle as a sophomore in college my mom said “you remind me of me at this age” and made sure I was introduced to necessary tools, which turned out to include a winning combination of unconditional love and some strict sticking her nose in my business, until she was satisfied that I would come out on the right side of it all. Now, 22 years later, I readily recall what I was given in order to make sure that I stay on the right side of it all. Sometimes it’s as simple as the scene where Hans Solo asked a masked stranger, “who are you?” and after revealing herself Princess Leia simply answered “Someone who loves you.”
No matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.
Carrie was famously quoted as saying that “no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” Hilarious on its own, even more badass and admirable when I found she said that as a response to George Lucas telling her she couldn’t wear a bra under that iconic white dress because “there’s no underwear in space.” He went on to explain “you go into space and you become weightless. Then your body expands but your bra doesn’t, so you get strangled by your own underwear.” She remarked that it would make for a fantastic obituary if that is how she died.
Among countless other reasons I will miss Carrie Fisher, I will miss the bold, blunt, but always beautiful way she spoke about her struggles and inspired us all to learn and grow from her mistakes and triumphs. Debbie Reynolds knew she could never cure her daughter, saying she “will do whatever I can to make her life less difficult.” This meant being just as powerful an advocate and fundraiser for the mental health community until the day she died, which was sadly the day after her daughter left us.
For too many reasons mental health is not a priority in our culture. But not talking about it should not be one of them.