Once again, Stephen Fry was on radio being interviewed by Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4)
His honesty and verbal dexterity were endearing as always. The book that my son was halfway through when his demons got the better of him was ‘More Fool Me’ by Mr Fry.
He spoke about his fear of being found out, about his loving mother and orthodox but fiercely intelligent father, his very naughty school years, a visit to prison, artistic sensitivity, exciting times at Cambridge, his friendship with Hugh Lawrie, his clumsy dance moves and much more. I was delighted to find out that one of my favourite tracks is his too – ‘I Wish’ by Nina Simonne.
He first attempted suicide at the age of 17.
What would he tell his younger self? To calm down and not be so miserable. He would also tell him that he admired his emotional engagement with everything, as though the world was on fire. And it was.
He said that Hypomania is like being a tiger in a very small cage.
He described depression as a tightness in the chest. “My heart beats so that I can feel it all over my chest. Of course, there is darkness. It’s like something is being sucked from you – energy, hope, a sense of the future. No sense of the future at all. It seems meaningless and black. There is no prospect of it being anything else.”
He admitted to using alcohol and street drugs to cope with his mood changes due to his undiagnosed illness while not making the illness an excuse.
When asked if he would rather not have the illness, after a preamble of reinforcing the seriousness of the situation, he quoted W.H Auden, “Don’t get rid of my devils because my angels will go too.”
I feel a tiny step closer to understanding the dreadful illness that is Bipolar Disorder.
One of the main distinctions for me was that the depression he described came not from the past but from a perceived lack of future.