Stephen Fry and Bipolar Disorder
October 5, 2006 6:26 AM   Subscribe

The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive Is the recently aired work of Stephen Fry. [1][2] a well know english comedian diagnosed as manic-depressive.Now also know as bipolar disorder manic-depression is a class of mood disorders in which the person experiences clinical depression and/or mania, hypomania, and/or mixed states; a rollercoaster of highs and lows.Fry's work and personal involvment help shine a spotlight on a condition obscured by the stigma associated with mental disorders.
posted by elpapacito (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
This looks extremely interesting. How can I, in the USA, find/purchase a copy of this documentary?
posted by iurodivii at 6:37 AM on October 5, 2006


Ditto iurodivii's question. Bipolar disorder is a force in my life, plus I'm just looking forward to the chance to see Stephen Fry and Tony Slattery on camera again. It's like a Whose Line reunion!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:55 AM on October 5, 2006


I saw this recently, and kudos to Fry for having the balls to tell his story. I have a fascination with how the human brain works and it's interesting to see how folks with this disease live their lives. One can only hope that spreading this kind of knowledge will help remove some of the stigma associated with brain disorders.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:55 AM on October 5, 2006


To answer iurodivii and FOB, a friend told me it might be available as a torrent, and that you should search on the word "depressive".
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:57 AM on October 5, 2006


funny, the documentary comes in two parts.
posted by lowlife at 7:07 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Not to downplay the plight of actual manic depressives or bipolars, but I've known far too many people who refer to themselves as "manic" or "bipolar" when, in fact, they really were just genuinely flaky or unreliable. Typically, these people have never been diagnosed by an actual doctor, but simply apply those labels to themselves because it "makes sense."
posted by Afroblanco at 7:11 AM on October 5, 2006


"Comedian" seems a narrow description of Steven Fry. As well as a comedy writer and actor he is famous as a bestselling novelist, a film director, a critic and columnist (and in the UK a very influential intellectual). Also voice-over artist, game show host, Jeeves in the trans-atlantic hit tv series Jeeves and Wooster, adapting "Me and My Girl" for the stage...
posted by infobomb at 7:29 AM on October 5, 2006


I only saw the first documentary, and it was an excellent, honest piece of film. Time to download part two. (Fry's episode of the Who Do You Think You Are? series was great too, come to think of it).

Not to downplay the plight of actual manic depressives or bipolars, but I've known far too many people who refer to themselves as "manic" or "bipolar" when, in fact, they really were just genuinely flaky or unreliable.

See also: people who are a wee bit geeky claiming mild Aspergers or autism.
posted by jack_mo at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2006


Ditto infobomb's comments: I always think of Fry as the popular face of British intellectualism. By which I mean that he effectively transcends the snootiness traditionally associated with apparently upper-class thinkers (I have no idea whether Fry is indeed a toff, just that he comes off that way). In any case, there's no doubt he's an asset to the country when it comes to media-projected British image.
posted by NeonSurge at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2006


Fry was perfectly cast for his role in V for Vendetta.
posted by jonp72 at 7:46 AM on October 5, 2006


See also: people who are a wee bit geeky claiming mild Aspergers or autism.

Dude, I'm so with you. Although to be honest, I've more often seen the opposite happen, whereby people who are a wee bit geeky are "diagnosed" by non-doctors as having Aspbergers or something similar. I once got into a heated argument right here on the blue about that very topic.

Apparently, in this brave year of our lord 2006, there's no room for personal idiosyncracy - everybody has some disease or another.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:48 AM on October 5, 2006


I've of two minds about this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:29 AM on October 5, 2006


As an unashamed and outright Stephen Fry fanboy who can get the BBC but missed the original broadcast, I procured the film via other means and can heartily recommend it.

I caught myself having the sort of guilty and unfair thought that whenever someone famous (Robbie Williams, Carrie Fisher) was speaking in the film, I thought wow, this here person is really being honest about themselves, how noble, but when a non-celeb was sharing their life story about their wretched disorder and the horrible toll it has for them I thought oh, what a loony. I know that this is a terrible thing to say and probably offtopic, but it might tell us something about how we think of mental disorders, television, or celebrity, or any combination thereof.

Oh, and you can see Stephen Fry being brutally honest in self-reflection, sincerely awkard and nervous in spite of his wit, and basically sitting behind an iBook and smoking a lot.

Everyone should see this film.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:52 AM on October 5, 2006


Like Mr. Fry, I've been diagnosed, but I've coped without meds thus far. This looks like a neat show. Thanks.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 8:53 AM on October 5, 2006


game show host

Speaking of which, series 4 of Qi just started a few weeks ago. For the lighter side of Fry.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:57 AM on October 5, 2006


Fry was perfectly cast for his role in V for Vendetta.

Well done for having the nerve not to finish that sentence with Wilde.
posted by biffa at 9:23 AM on October 5, 2006


Regarding the downplaying of bipolar, perhaps people now adopting the words 'manic' etc. shows a greater visibility that this condition exists - perhaps even greater awareness - and isn't merely the blanket statement of someone being 'crazy'. That said, people tossing around medical terms that don't apply is a problem in and of itself. For what it's worth I don't like the title "The Secret Life of", but I'm probably far too nitpicky for my own good.

Interesting to note he has cyclothymia, or what his psychiatrist refered to as 'bipolar light'. I wonder if a stigma exists regarding severity - 'true' bipolar I's on lithium (a remarkable story in itself there) are seen as more sick versus those with bipolar II or with cyclothymaia or Bipolar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) who are seen as still being able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, etc.. I hope one day for everyone's sake that we're able to find a way to definitively diagnose these conditions... they're certainly hell to live, that's for sure.
posted by rmm at 9:33 AM on October 5, 2006


If people have an unseemly eagerness to diagnose themselves with mental illness, it's most likely to be because they are ashamed of the way they are, and are (maybe subconsciously) looking for a way to get some relief from persistent guilt and self-blame.

This is a consequence of the notion, pervasive through all aspects of society and culture, that healthy people are somehow not subject to physical laws of cause and effect and hence hold ultimate moral responsibility for their actions. I don't want to derail too much here, but I started quite a long discussion about this a few weeks ago. If we want to have a society where almost everybody enjoys really good mental health we're going to have to abandon this fantasy sooner or later.

On topic: thanks for the torrent links, I missed the first part when it aired.
posted by teleskiving at 9:35 AM on October 5, 2006


If you've ever read Fry's wonderful autobiography, "Moab is My Washpot," you'll know that he's about the most forthcoming person in the world. In other words, it doesn't take a great deal of courage for him to reveal embarassing things about himself. That's his whole shtick (apart from being an excellent writer, actor and comedian). Anyone's who's at all a fan knows all sorts of incredibily embarassing facts about Stephen Fry. Once we all get tired of hearing about his bipolarism, he'll come up with something else to reveal.
I'm not criticising him, by the way. As long as he keeps entertaining us.
posted by Faze at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2006


Faze writes "Once we all get tired of hearing about his bipolarism, he'll come up with something else to reveal."

I doubt he is so motivated by entertaining us to fake an illness, that would be so desperate. Also that hardly would be original, as that guy on Oprah already managed to sell his bullshit book well before anybody else, but delivering unconunted hamrful delusions as well ; also thanks to Oprah's staff lack of care for the reliability of the"product" and maybe interest in generating more outrage and publicity. Yet let's assume Fry next move will be "The Secret Life of a pathological liar" or "The Art of Selling piety"..that would change Fry account, but not the fact that there is people who are routinely shunned by some because they don't look crazy enough to fit the "crazy" stereotype ..and they may fe ashamed to talk about mental problems.

To these it is worth remembering the ancient adage "fuck cares about what they think or say"
posted by elpapacito at 11:05 AM on October 5, 2006


epapacito -- You got me wrong, man. I wasn't questioning Fry's sincerity. I'm sure he's on the level with his revelations (even if, indeed, his autobiography might have been subtitled "The Secret Life of a Pathological Liar." In fact, his first novel -- which is pretty autobiographical -- is called "The Liar.") I'm just saying that it takes no particular bravery for him to go public with intimate personal pathologies. He's done it before, and he'll do it again.
posted by Faze at 11:16 AM on October 5, 2006


There was a line that really rang true with me on the second programme of that series. It went something like "I'd like to die. I don't mean I want to kill myself, rather I'd prefer not to be alive".

It was also really interesting to see at the end that he, and other people with bipolar disorder, when given the option of pushing and imaginary button that would cure them, didn't want to push it.
posted by TheDonF at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2006


Huge Fry fan, watched the shows, read the novels - but how on earth he managed to make a boring movie about Oscar Wilde I'll never know. I didn't even think it could be done.
posted by Sparx at 2:10 PM on October 5, 2006


It was also really interesting to see at the end that he, and other people with bipolar disorder, when given the option of pushing and imaginary button that would cure them, didn't want to push it.

That might be because hypomanic & manic episodes can be so rich, vibrant, fun & creative, and so loaded with deep, resonant & fascinating interpretations & experiences of the universe that bipolars may feel just a little sorry that ordinary people cannot experience them. Or so I have been told.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:44 PM on October 5, 2006


Not to magnify the joy of normal, people, but I've known far too many psychiatrists who refer to themselves as "doctors" or "experts" when, in fact, they really were just trying to make a buck categorizing sypmtoms, observations and personality traits in a vain attempt to play god - ramming chemical lobotomy/lead-boot/diharretic pills down patients throats for good measure. Typically, these people have never fully understood the infinite intricacies of the human mind, and simply apply those labels (and pharma) to thier patients because it "makes sense."

/notreallythatbitteranymorenowthatiamoffmeds
posted by HyperBlue at 9:48 PM on October 5, 2006


Hyperblue, I'm not sure if you're agreeing with me or not.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:10 PM on October 5, 2006


Apart from that, hyperblue, your attitude seems to contain a massive strawman.

The people you refer to *are* indeed doctors. In fact, they are specialists, who have studied intensively for a decade or more on top of their basic med degrees in order to become *relatively* expert in their field, which is admittedly more like pharmaco-neurology than what most people think of when they hear the term "psychiatrist" (ie something more like a psychologist or psychotherapist).

You claim that they have "never fully understood the intricacies of the human mind", but tell me - who exactly has, ever? The answer would have to be a big fat "nobody".

Psychiatrists approach the symptoms & treatment as best their paradigm allows - ie from the point of view of medical science. "Categorising symptoms, observations and personality traits" is just the way that this paradigm works. Applying scientific principles to the psyche is never going to be an easy thing, but overall I would have more faith in a scientific approach than in whatever else you seem to think might be superior.

If your point was just that some (or most) psychiatrists simply make an assessment, prescribe pills & check the results, then yeah - from what I have heard, that sounds about right. But that is only a problem if you think there is a cromulent alternative that somehow has all the right answers.

And "playing god"? Come on - these are health care professionals. They are trying to help or cure people. That god stuff is uncalled for.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:27 PM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


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