Life is too short to get hung upon what other people think of us. I know that’s easier said than done, but this is coming from someone who has spent most of her life trying to be a people-pleaser. I was forsaking my own happiness and not owning up to who I really was – someone with anxiety and intense bouts of perfectionism.
I suffered from severe self-stigmas and, until recently, I didn’t want to come to terms with who I was because I wasn’t “perfect.” I
wanted to change who I was to become a better version of myself. But I was creating a version of myself that wasn’t really me. I relied on the opinions of others to fuel my intentions for business plans and my views on matters important to me. I didn’t know that I was losing myself, when I was really just trying to find myself, in my 20s.
When one of my idols, and fellow London and mental-health-awareness aficionado, Carrie Fisher passed away in December 2016, it opened up a dialogue about mental health stigmas in Hollywood and beyond. I want to continue to tell the story that Carrie Fisher and so many others with Bipolar Disorder and other mental health disorders started. I’m here to keep the burning flame of many people’s hard work alive today.
I live with a mental illness: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. For this lifelong “Star Wars” fan, Carrie Fisher was more than just Princess Leia to me. She allowed me to reach a path to acceptance and begin my own advocacy efforts. I accepted my chemical imbalances and quirks and am still learning to accept them. I have met her personally, and thought she was amazing. When she passed away, I decided that I wanted to talk openly about my mental-health issues, too. After all, I had suppressed them for so long. All of us can lead normal lives without the stigma following us around like a badge of dishonor.
Carrie Fisher had a mental illness, too. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 1985, but didn’t want to accept it. So she didn’t. She used other things, like substance abuse, to dance her way around her diagnosis, but not form acceptance. She once said in an interview with Diane Sawyer, “I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital. I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple — just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully. And I was that. But, it turns out that I am severely manic depressive.”
What are some steps we can take to fight our own self-stigmas? Talk about the stigma. One way to tackle this is art therapy. Create pieces of art which focuses on the subject of mental health – and don’t hold back. Write poetry and create eBooks of your experiences about living with mental health. Try to do things that relax you and challenge you. If we have survived it, then we are success stories. We’re successful professionals, spouses, children of our parents, siblings, friends, and more.
Come face to face with your mental health issues. Take medication. Handle it naturally – learn to accept yourself for who you are. If people say something negative, who cares? Those who speak negatively about others and their openness with mental health might also be suffering too, and may not have come to terms with it. Don’t let others drag you down – the more we can talk about it, understand it and respect it as the disease it is, the easier it becomes for those dealing with it. If you need help working through your own mental health disorder, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talking with a mental health professional could really help you work through self-stigmas and other issues.
Thanks for fighting the good fight, Carrie Fisher. Your legacy is in good hands with people just like us.
Edited by Emily Young