Carrie Fisher was so much more than a princess- she was a fighter

"You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing in airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'" -Carrie Fisher (Wishful Drinking).

Just as the year comes to a close, 2016 couldn’t help but claim another victim. Days after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles, iconic actress Carrie Fisher sadly died in hospital. 

Suddenly I felt the same sadness my mum had felt only days before, when her favourite singer George Michael died. It hurt knowing that Princess Leia, from the Star Wars films that saturated my childhood, was no longer with me. Of course, as a child she was just a rebellious princess who strangled a giant alien slug and shared a somewhat passionate kiss with her twin brother. But as I grew, I realised that Carrie Fisher was so much more than just a princess. 
 
Carrie Fisher did not have a normal life. With her parents being Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and her casting in Star Wars at just 19, she was thrown into the spotlight at a young age. Subsequently, the pressures of Hollywood caused her to succumb to the temptation of cocaine, as well as prescription medication after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 
 
Carrie was always very outspoken about her past, and her willingness to talk openly about mental health, even during a time when it was not entirely understood or accepted by the general public, is just as memorable as her role as a no-nonsense, straight-talking princess-turned-general. 
 
She made no secret of her inner battles with depression and bipolar disorder, in fact she was very open about it, saying: “I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on. Better me than you”.
 
According to the World Health Organisation, approxiately 450 million people suffer from some sort of mental illness, but despite these alarming statistics, it would be difficult to identify the one person in four that will reportedly be affected by a mental disorder in their lifetime. However, Carrie's honest attitude was another step towards de-stigmatising mental health issues and showing people that physically invisible illnesses are still very much illnesses, and should therefore be treated as such.
 
In her memoir Wishful Drinking, she wrote: "One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication."
 
Although Carrie was adament that it was important to discuss mental illnesses, she was sometimes unsure about how it could be done in a way that illustrates the true impact of them, whilst simultaneously trying to fight her own.
 
In 2013, she told People magazine: "Over the years, writing about [having bipolar disorder] did help me to be able to talk about my illness in the abstract, to make light of it. That's my way of surviving, to abstract it into something that's funny and not dangerous. But what happened was I lost the serious relationship with it. It is not an entertainment. I'm not going to stop writing about it, but I have to understand it."
 
As a person who has never personally experienced mental illness (as far as I know), it is heartbreaking to hear about the occurances in the darkest corners of one's mind, Yet it is inspiring and encouraging to hear a woman like Carrie Fisher speak out and share her experiences, in an attempt to sympathise and empathise with those suffering in silence. 
 
Carrie Fisher's legacy should exceed that of merely an attractive young woman dressed in a metal bikini and shooting at storm troopers. She should be remembered as a strong, but imperfect, human being who didn't take life too seriously, except for when it needed to be. She was a fighter and an inspiration who didn't use a blaster to battle her problems, but her words.