Way back in August last year, I wrote this blog about Stephen Fry and his entanglements with bi-polar disorder. In the last week or so, he has spoken, again, about his experiences, in particular a suicide attempt.
I’m still not a huge fan of Mr Fry, and my opinions of his various talents haven’t changed. I was rather touched and saddened by this interview, though, conducted on his own behalf and in his capacity as the President of the mental health charity, Mind.
Bi-polar disorder is an utter embuggerance. I know this to be true, because I’m one of the lucky bastards that gets to enjoy it, in all its wonderful guises. I get the highs and lows, the miseries and the madness. I’m what I like to call a four phase bi-polar person; that’s how I rationalise it; that’s what I’ve worked out. I call those phases: Happy Girl, Sad Girl, Cuckoo and Munchkin. I know these people well. I encounter them all at regular intervals, sometimes more than one in the same day, or even the same hour. More than one of them is dangerous to my work and life and relationships, and at least one of them could actually do me very serious harm.
I know of what Mr Fry speaks.
I doubted, when I talked about Mr Fry the last time, whether it was a good idea for one person to represent so many of us, with such a spectrum of problems. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I resented it. I did not feel as if I was terribly like Mr Fry. I did not want to be identified with him. I felt that we were different.
I was wrong.
Or... at least... I was only half right.
What I was really feeling was there but for the grace of God! What I was really doing was hoping to high heaven that I wasn’t like Stephen Fry, because if I was then I was in more trouble than even I had ever realised or ever wanted to admit.
If I was like Stephen Fry then there was more of everything that I could lose control of, and I cling to the little control I have as if it is my only hope. If I was like Stephen Fry, the dangers I face now are as nothing compared to the dangers I might face in the future, because Stephen Fry, like many bi-polar people, has, or certainly has had, serious problems with self-medicating and substance abuse.
Unlike Stephen Fry, my bi-polar tends to push me into control-freak, OCD mode. My bi-polar has taught me that if I can keep my environment small and familiar, and if I can keep control of it, then I am less likely to have extreme episodes at either end of my particular spectrum. I learned those things when I was young... when I was very, very young, and I have employed coping mechanisms for them ever since. So, not for me the mood altering drugs that so many bi-polar people use to alleviate their symptoms, or even to push them into the manic states that we can’t help reveling in.
This week, I have felt for Stephen Fry. I sincerely hope that he has made a full recovery, and that he balances his meds and avoids further episodes of this kind. He seems sanguine about it all, but we are all left with the ghosts of those sensations and of the memories of what it is to feel what it is we feel when cuckoo and munchkin are in residence.
I worry for Stephen Fry. I worry that the closeness of the deaths that do not take us home only bring us closer to the death that finally will, and, whatever my personal feelings about the man, and I’m not really entitled to any, since we’ve never met, the World and his wife loves him, and deserves to have his company for a good deal longer.