Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

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Photo: StarWars.com

I never talk much about Star Wars, do I? I never talk much about my skeleton, either. Like Star Wars, it’s way down inside, it helps hold me up, and I take it for granted.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia was a huge part of my childhood. I saw Star Wars in the theater at age 8, but it wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back that I became a true fanatic. Thanks to that fanaticism, I met the artist known as Rosemary O’Malley, who responded to my impatience for the movie’s arrival with this suggestion: “Why don’t we write a story about what might happen in the movie?

That’s how the Star Wars fanfic started, which led to the X-Men fanfic, which led to me calling myself an author from age 14 up.

I loved Princess Leia long before I loved Carrie Fisher. I thought Leia was incredibly heroic. She defied the Empire, risked her life to prevent the Death Star from becoming operational, refused to give up the plans even when everyone she knew and loved was threatened, and even quipped to her rescuer, “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” She could shoot, fly a Y-wing (in the comic books, which I read religiously), strategize, and lead. Luke was the kid with the big destiny and Han was the overgrown boy who loved trouble, but Leia was the adult in the room. You could count on her to do the right thing, to be courageous no matter what, and to keep her chin up even in the worst circumstances. Plus, she ran around in white go-go boots with flat heels. In an era when even superheroines wore heels to work, Leia had intelligent footwear.

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Photo: Lucasfilm LTD

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Carrie Fisher in 2013

Carrie Fisher was a different story. At first she shocked me with her wicked wit, her fearless honesty, her transformation from ingenue actress to bestselling author. Gradually I realized that while Princess Leia was a wonderful role model for my early teens, Carrie Fisher was a person the grown-up me could look up to.

I’ve struggled all my life with my weight, especially as I’ve entered middle age. She had a few things to say on the topic. I’ve also struggled all my life with clinical depression, something I’ve kept secret in my writing life because of the stigma. Now that Carrie, a brave and indefatigable mental health crusader, has left us, I suppose it’s time for me to do something she might have liked: add my voice to the long list of people living with depression.

In 2015 I suffered a major episode that lasted from early summer through the fall, throwing a monkey wrench into my writing schedule. By that I mean, I couldn’t write a word or do much of anything. It was hell. Lucky for me, modern medicine prevailed and I feel like myself again today. But take it from me, #depressionlies and there is help available.

Let me repeat: there is help available. I was lucky enough to regain my mental equilibrium before my vision problems started. Because of that, I went through the surgeries and life changes that followed with renewed strength.

So with a heavy heart I say farewell to Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia will always be with us, for a new generation of little girls and boys to discover and admire. Carrie has moved on, and she’ll be greatly missed.