In 1995, Stephen Fry was performing in Simon Gray's West End play, "Cell Mates." After three days, he walked out of the production. Sitting in a garage, his hand on the car ignition, he contemplated suicide for two hours, before fleeing his home country for the European mainland. It wasn't until this frightening episode that Fry was diagnosed with manic depression, or bipolar disorder, a psychological condition that sees its sufferers oscillating dangerously between dizzying heights of mania and gutting troughs of prolonged depression.
'Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive (2006),' a two- part documentary directed by Ross Wilson, unfolds like a personal journey of self-discovery. Fry confronts his medical condition by consulting experts and others who have suffered the disorder (including Richard Dreyfuss and Carrie Fisher). It's very bold for Fry, and indeed all these people, to take the viewer so closely into his personal struggles, and such frankness would, I imagine, be invaluable for anybody saddled with manic depression, whether it's been diagnosed or not.
Throughout the documentary, Fry does seem quite insistent on stamping manic depression as a physiological disorder, encouraging the use of medication to control the condition (though Fry himself ultimately decides against any medication). Oddly, I don't recall much mention of therapy as an effective management technique, even though it must play a considerable role in the road to recovery. This is a valuable documentary, and, having been acquainted only with Stephen Fry's bubbly TV persona, a fascinatingly intimate character study.
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