Carrie Fisher’s death at 60 years old on Tuesday sent shockwaves through Hollywood, as fans and actors alike reacted to the news of her passing.
“We just lost a great ally for mental health and addiction,” Margaret Cho wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Be strong, be as strong as she'd want you to be.” Cho’s tweet was one of many to recognize the void in mental health advocacy created in the wake of Fisher’s death.
The longtime actress, famous for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, was also a celebrated writer and advocate, who used her celebrity status to create awareness for mental health issues and addiction.
“I’ve been in therapy since I was 15 years old,” Fisher frankly told ET, later revealing to The Guardian that therapy was “my only serious relationship.”
In fact, Fisher’s brutal honesty became a trademark of her interviews with the press, which often included discussions about her constant struggles. Over past 25 years, Fisher appeared on ABC’s 20/20 and The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive with Stephen Fry to discuss her bipolar disorder diagnosis and opened up about electroshock therapy treatments on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
“I'm mentally ill,” she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2000. “I have a chemical imbalance that in it's most extreme state will lead me to a mental hospital.”
Even as recently as November 2016, in an advice column for The Guardian, Fisher openly wrote about her struggle with drugs and being bipolar, stressing the importance of finding a community of support.
“I was told that I was bipolar when I was 24 but was unable to accept that diagnosis until I was 28 when I overdosed and finally got sober,” Fisher wrote. “Only then was I able to see nothing else could explain away my behavior.”
In 1985, Fisher accidentally overdosed on a combination of medication and sleeping pills, sending her to the hospital. The incident would serve as inspiration for the semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards From the Edge, about an actress dealing with drug addiction and coming to terms with her relationship with her mother. Fisher also adapted the book for a Mike Nichols’ film starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
In a 1993 interview with The Guardian, Fisher opened up about her relationship with drugs. “[Drugs] managed something in me that I was too lazy to manage on my own, this thundering emotion and verbal excitement that would roar out of me,” she said, adding that she used to do cocaine on the set of The Empire Strikes Back. “It still can: I can still take a dinner party hostage but I try not to.”
In fact, when it came to her career as a writer, Fisher regularly drew upon her own experiences. Fisher’s relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and battle with drug addiction were two large themes of her ongoing working, including the revealing autobiography and one-woman show, Wishful Drinking.
Fisher was eventually recognized for her work as an advocate, honored with the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism by Harvard College in 2016 for “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”
On Tuesday, actor Sean Astin lamented that “another mental health pioneer [was] gone,” referring to Fisher and his mother, Patty Duke, who died in March. “My late Mom & our family send all our love & affection 2 @CarrieFFisher and her loved ones,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Carrie's Fisher's brutally honest humor made dealing with addiction just a little bit easier,” 30 Rock writer Jack Burditt shared.
“Carrie Fisher talked openly and honestly about her mental health, and that was a huge gift she left us with,” editor Rosemary Donahue added on Twitter.
“You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do, you just have to do it," Fisher wrote in her last column for The Guardian, offering to be an ever-supportive figure for her community. “As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do.”