The Secret Life of A Manic Depressive
The link between manic depression and creativity is well-documented. Geniuses like Adam Ant and Tony Slattery have been plagued by the condition. Yet the dizzying highs of mania produced such fantastic works as Apollo 9 and Peter’s Friends. Just what can it all mean? Well, it could mean that not every artistic endeavour produced in the manic phase is on a par with van Gogh’s Sunflowers. But there does seem to be a pretty consistent turbo boost to the creative process with each manic episode.
"Stephen Fry’s The Secret Life of A Manic Depressive dealt with the issue in the amusing, matter-of-fact way we’ve come to expect from the shoe-faced polymath."
Stephen Fry‘s The Secret Life of A Manic Depressive dealt with the issue in the amusing, matter-of-fact way we’ve come to expect from the shoe-faced polymath. He undertook the documentary to fight the stigma surrounding bipolar affective disorder and educate the gen pop about it. He chatted with Robbie Williams about his depression and the ever witty Carrie Fisher about her long-term bipolar roller-coaster ride. Most (not all) of the people he spoke to enjoy their manic phases and speak about them almost as if they are a gift yet they remain acutely aware of the price tag that comes attached. The depressive episodes can be crippling, causing life to grind to a halt just through the sheer weight of despondency and anguish.
"’Everything that happens is because you are a cunt’. Wow, so it makes you think you’re Dawn French? Truly, this is the worstest of all the fliddy mental problems."
Fry spoke movingly about his depressive stages, the despair and self-loathing. "Everything that happens is because you are a cunt". Wow, so it makes you think you’re Dawn French? Truly, this is the worstest of all the fliddy mental problems. Little wonder that Fry made a number of suicide attempts – "not a cry for help" he insists, rather serious attempts at overdose that had him projectile vomiting at well-meaning paramedics. The prison term he served for credit card fraud was a piece of piss, he insists and he now recognises his teenage delinquency as a symptom of his bipolarity.
He also spoke to Connie, a sufferer from Birmingham. Connie once attempted suicide by trying to drill a hole in her head with an electric drill. I’m not sure where that went wrong but I know it’s a bitch trying to find the right drill bit in Birmingham. It wouldn’t surprise me if Connie ordered the drill in good faith and they gave her the wrong size so that when she got down to her extreme trepanning it flew out and skewered her rabbit, the last friend she had in the world. I suppose if you were really trying to do it properly you’d get a Black and Decker Workmate to hold the drill in position, switch it on at the mains and swan dive on to the rotating head.
"This is a serious, often cruel illness that can torment and incapacitate as effectively as a re-run of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’."
Aerial Telly doesn’t make judgments – that’s not his stilo. But I’m not really convinced by all these suicide attempts, personally. If you really want to do it then I’ve never heard of anybody surviving a 30 storey drop from a window. But no, some of these people always seem to give themselves a get out clause.
Well anyway, I’m all for educational documentaries on mental illness – particularly when they incorporate celebrity voyeurism, amusing anecdotes and have a certain humility and charm about them. It’s not an easy sell when much of your documentary deals with the problems of the rich and famous but the message came across well that despite the enthusiasm to diagnose bipolarity in children across the pond this is a serious, often cruel illness that can torment and incapacitate as effectively as a re-run of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’
The best thing about it: Stephen Fry
The worst thing about it: Sub-standard suicide attempts
The verdict on The Secret Life of A Manic Depressive: Essential viewing for anyone who hasn’t seen the other 14,000 manic depression documentaries around.
Marks out of 10: 7