Archive for the ‘Carrie Fisher’ Category

The downside of celebrity is that it is so one sided. These personalities are beamed into our lives so much so they become a part of it. There is  a realness there, but it is not real, not really, just to the subjective experiencer. I first noticed it when Princess Diana died. I cried so much. I was glued to the TV, for the updates. I was swamped with disbelief. She was a princess. She shouldn’t or couldn’t die. We were near the same age, our children were born close in time, she set the fashion I wanted to emulate, she was on magazine covers everywhere. Then there was little internet. I had no computer at home. There was definitely no social media. No direct interaction.

Now in 2016 we have lost a lot of celebrities, some quite unexpectedly. Then Carrie Fisher had a heart attack and my world just kind of folded. I was expecting either news that she was going to have surgery or that she had died. They seemed the only two options. As the silence continued death seemed to be inevitable. When the news came I cried. I cried a lot. I was weepy and sad the whole day. Matthew took me to brunch and we sort of sat there both feeling sad for the same reason we had lost Carrie Fisher. We didn’t really talk about it. Blubbering in public is so not my thing. This is the price we pay for having celebrities in our lives.

Carrie Fisher championed a lot of things, now in dying she raised the awareness of cardiac arrest in women post-menopause. Women have the same risk as men once those lovely hormones leak out of system. It’s like two wrong sides of a coin. Loss of youth, beauty, hormones verses the sweating, the insomnia, the weight gain, sometimes depression and increased risk of death from cardiac arrest.

Carrie Fisher was on social media. She wrote books that revealed intimate details of her life, at least details that allowed us to share and to bond. This means she was even closer that Princess Diana ever was to me.

In 2013 I wrote this post after seeing Carrie Fisher at Supanova in Sydney, Star Wars A Force Awakens wasn’t out yet. Here

So basically I was into it.

Mental illness is strong in my family…

When I read Shockaholic I totally got where Carrie Fisher was coming from. She took those shock treatments because she wanted to keep her life together, to keep her daughter in her life. Bipolar (and most of the severe mental illnesses) can be so isolating. You churn through friends and family because they can’t take it, can’t take the crazy shit and what makes it tough is that the sufferer needs love and support to get through.

I don’t have a mental illness myself but I’ve lived with it. I did however get severe post natal depression at age 19 and had a psychotic break. It took me years to get back to where I was. Sometimes I experience anxiety. I’m not perfect. Not with my genes. Right now at age 56 I wonder about myself. I watched an Oprah Show replay of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Renoylds. Carrie Fisher liked the manic stage of the illness. I get manic now and then. I get that. You achieve so much when you focus, when the energy is pouring out of you. My eldest daughter says I’m ADHD and I do score highly in the online questionnaires. It’s probably too late for me to take pills. I’m me. I can live with me. My friends know. They speak Donna. My daughter had been on at me about this for a couple of years but it wasn’t until I started the PhD that  noticed things about myself. The obsessive working, the manic mind, the shifting from one thing to another as I couldn’t concentrate, my brain going off in a different direction especially when I’m in a group of people talking. I upset people when I go off topic when they are discussing something important to them. I interrupt people to blurt out what’s flashed into my mind. Waves a hand. Too bad. I can cope with a label.

I got off luckly. I never did drugs. In my family drugs are a trigger for schizophrenia, bipolar and schizo affective and probably depressive illnesses. Compared to my siblings I’m the lucky one. With Carrie’s history it’s hard to tell whether the drug using in her youth was a symptom or a trigger or both. Lesson is if you have the genes for mental illness even dope smoking can fuck with your brain chemistry and bring on a permanent mental illness. That is why I do tea. Tea all day long. Occasionally alcohol but too much of that stuffs your brain too and you only get one brain. So Carrie Fisher’s death affected me.

Then the next day Debbie Reynolds passes and I’m like Fuck me! No! It’s a fucking tragedy. You couldn’t write shit like this.

I feel for her daughter and her brother who have to live with two holes in their lives. I’m nothing in this. I’m the symptom of the modern age, the age of celebrity and social media and fake intimacy. I feel for her friends and colleagues who really knew her. I feel for her fans like me are left with this sense of loss that is real and unreal both. I honour the fight that Carrie Fisher fought for her life, to conquer her demons, her unhappiness to find herself. I honour that she stood up for mental illness and addictions and that she shared her experiences through her books, interviews, shows, scripts. From memory from reading Wishful Drinking, she said she left school at 15 to work on stage with her mother. Carrie Fisher didn’t need a degree to be smart. She was clever and witty and profoundly knowing. She’d been to hell and back. Vale Carrie Fisher. Vale Debbie Reynolds. Condolences to those who loved you.

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On the weekend, I was up at Supanova and managed to sit in on a question and answer session with Carrie Fisher, the lovely lady who played Princess Leia in Star Wars. While it was hard to hear everything she said due to the acoustics, it was great to hear her funny answers to what must seem like really mundane questions. For example, a little boy said. “Why aren’t you wearing your Princess Leia outfit?” to which she replied. “I’m sorry. I left it at  home, but I do wear it everyday around the house.”

Carrie Fisher also said that when she read the script for Star Wars she thought it was fantastic and that Han Solo had the best part. I agree with her there.

On the drive back to Canberra it got me thinking about Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher and the impact on my life.

I was 17 years old when I saw Star Wars. Yes, it was 1977 and I had just travelled to New Zealand to be with Dave, whom I later married. I remember the day well, as there’d been a movie strike and we heard last minute that it was over and that Star Wars was showing. Of course, the movie blew my mind. I was so excited and it was so wow. Big screen. Really big ships etc.

But last night I was thinking that Star Wars was the first time I’d seen a movie with a strong female character. I was brought up on Star Trek, Lost in Space and Dr Who. Even UFO had strong male leads and very little in the way of strong female leads. She grabbed guns, resisted torture, and had the good sense to fall in love with Han Solo.

Princess Leia’s character opened my mind up to the concept of a woman who could lead, of a woman who was smart and also funny. I was young yes, and I did want to be Princess Leia (I’ll own up to that). I wanted to be smart like her. I’d read a few of the tie in books and the novelisations of the movie and Leia was well-educated and clever. I remember in the 1980s I was at a screening of all three movies in NZ. A girl in the seat in front of me was commenting to the boys she was with. “As if boys would listen to what a girl would say, as if they’d take orders from her.” That comment stuck with me. It wasn’t alien to me that concept but it still was alien to her. She was a teenager. There you go.

Now turning my mind to Carrie Fisher, I see a woman who has had it good and has had it bad. But despite her challenges with drugs, with bipolar, with life in general, she hasn’t given up. She’s not curled up somewhere waiting to die. She fights back. She writes books, makes movies and writes and doctors scripts. She is clever and talented. When I was younger. When life was really tough. When I was poor, a single mother trying to make a better life for me and my kids, I used to say when life kicks you, get right back up and kick it back. I had to do that. I had to make myself continue on, to achieve, to get where I am now. Listening to Carrie Fisher reminded me of that. She fights back. Princess Leia fights back. That’s a strong message to send anyone. I hope she’s passed that on to the millions who are fans of Princess Leia and to those whose lives she touched at Carrie Fisher.

For the record, Carrie. You looked awesome in the metal bikini. You looked awesome in all the movies.

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