Carrie Fisher Was a Mental Health Advocate Inspired by Her Own Struggles

PHOTO: Carrie Fisher at the Bright Lights film premiere, New York Film Festival, Oct. 10, 2016.PlayBroadimage/REX/Shutterstock
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Carrie Fisher, a longtime advocate for mental health issues, opened up about her own battles just a few weeks before her death in her advice column in the British newspaper The Guardian.

The "Star Wars" actress, who openly spoke about her struggles with drug addiction and bipolar disorder, told a Guardian reader in a column dated Nov. 30, 2016, about the importance of finding communities of other bipolar people.

"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."

         
              
                     
                                        PHOTO: Carrie Fisher poses for a photo against metal gate, Feb. 1, 1975.                                                                        
            
                SLIDESHOW: Carrie Fisher: A Life in Pictures             
        
    
    

"Going to AA helped me to see that there were other people who had problems that had found a way to talk about them and find relief and humor through that," she wrote.

"Initially I didn't like the groups. I felt like I had been banished to sit with a group of other misfits like myself to sit still for an hour. But then someone said, 'You don’t have to like these meetings, you just have to go, go until you like them.' That took me by surprise," she wrote. "I didn’t have to like something I did? Wow, what a concept. ... My comfort wasn’t the most important thing – my getting through to the other side of difficult feelings was."

"You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do, you just have to do it," Fisher told the reader. "As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do."

Fisher died this morning at age 60. The actress was rushed to the hospital Friday after going into into cardiac arrest while aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles.

In 2000, Fisher opened up to ABC News' Diane Sawyer about her past drug use including cocaine, acid and heroin. While filming the 1981 film "Under The Rainbow," Fisher said, "I was completely crazy. ... I was on drugs, I started losing a lot of weight. ... I was not sleeping. I had a seizure on the set."

Regarding her mental illness, she told ABC News in 2000 she grew to "own it."

"I'm mentally ill," she told Sawyer. "I have a chemical imbalance that in it's most extreme state will lead me to a mental hospital."

In 2001, Fisher spoke about mental health at a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, to advocate for increased state funding for addiction and mental illness treatment.

"Medication has made me a good mother, a good friend, a good daughter," she told the crowd of nearly 2,000, according to The Associated Press.

For Fisher, daughter of "Singin' in the Rain" actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, life was always in the public eye; she told CBC Radio Active this September that "anything that's been a challenge for me has never been a secret."

"I went into rehab when I was 28 years old, and then I was diagnosed as being bipolar," she told CBC. "Because I grew up in a public family, I never really had a private life. And so if those issues are going to be public, I would rather them to be public the way I've experienced them rather than someone else assuming things about me. It's freeing to do it. Shame is not something I aspire to. ... a lot of people are bipolar. So I get a lot of people coming up to me and thanking me for that."