January 13, 2017

So long, Carrie, and thanks for all the fish!

In trying to fulfill my New Years resolution to write more in my blog, I stumbled across this unfinished post. The timing seems uncanny- Carrie has been gone for just a few weeks now. But I'm going to publish what I had two years ago and then officially finish it off. The interesting thing is it starts like this:

For some reason this post is being difficult and I'm having trouble making the writing flow.  Bear with me.  Or just scroll down and look at the pictures :)

When I was a little girl, Princess Leia was my hero.  She was awesome.  Her main motivation wasn't finding a boyfriend.  It was freedom.  She fought for what she believed in.  (She found love anyways though, which was cool.)  And she was sarcastic and hilarious and held her own with all the men running around the Star Wars universe.  Eventually, she even became a mom (I loved the Star Wars books as a kid... ok, I still love them), but she kept fighting for freedom and family and wielding a blaster (and occasionally a lightsaber!).

Now fast-forward twenty or so years.

I still love Princess Leia.  But Carrie Fisher is my hero now.  I've been suffering from mental illness for over half my life.  I have severe depression and anxiety that sometimes makes me have to put my life on hold for months at a time.  Well, Carrie Fisher suffers from mental illness too, and....

And that's all I wrote back then. The experience was too hard to capture. So I'll say it now: 

Two years ago this month, I met Carrie, and I gave her a medal. I made a matching one for me, too. They're cheap plastic medals that say "MENTALLY ILL" in crooked, glued-on stickers on the back. 

         Carrie with Gary, her partner in crime

She mentioned in one of her books that everyone living with mental illness deserved a medal, and I wanted to make sure someone got her one. Anyways, I gave it to her, and then I talked to her for a few minutes and thanked her for helping me learn to talk about my illness. I never thought in a million years I'd get the chance to do that. And she wrote on the title page of my copy of The Best Awful, my favorite book of hers, "For Ashleigh, my heroine and fellow tribe-member, Love Carrie." And now she's gone. 

                 This means SO much to me  

My tribe member is gone, and I am grieving. I never would have learned to talk about mental illness if it wasn't for her; even the other author who helped inspire me was herself inspired by Carrie. Carrie's courage changed my perception of myself and of my illness.  I now proudly proclaim it. I shout it from the mountain tops, because I now have the power to climb that high. The freedom from stigma. The strength to stand. I owe it to Carrie, and she's gone. 

So I'm going to stop feeling awkward about grieving someone I only met once. I grieve for my tribe member and am humbly grateful that I got the chance to tell her what she meant to me. 

                  Thanks, Carrie. Give 'em hell!

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Thank you for coming. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you learn about yourself. I hope you get help if you need it or give it if you can.