As a middle school teacher, I have watched many kids struggling with mental illness. I have seen family members grapple with the tolls it charges, and I have seen friends trying to learn how to live with diagnoses.

Because thats what you do- you live with mental illness. Your family lives with it, you live with it, and your friends love you with it.

Not inspite of it.

With Carrie Fisher’s passing, a loud voice speaking for those living with mental illness was lost. In celebration of all that she contributed as an artist, her efforts to advocate for those living with mental illness have been brought to light.

In 1995, when there were few advocates for those living with mental illness, Fisher said, “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.”

Fisher was open about her struggles with drug addiction, but that wasn’t anything new. What she did, what so few women had the courage and voice to do, was to speak openly, and candidly about living with a diagnosis. “(G)enerally someone who has bipolar doesn’t have just bipolar, they have bipolar, and they have a life and a job and a kid and a hat and parents,so its not your overriding identity, it’s just something that you have, but not the only thing — even if it’s quite a big thing.”

Carrie Fisher was not Princess Leia. She was not a drug addict. She was not bipolar. Carrie Fisher was all of these things, and she was also a woman who wanted to help make the world a better place.

Gone, but not forgotten.

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