June 6, 2013

Stephen FryI’m sitting on a park bench. My makeup is sliding off the side of my face in the sun. I’m trying to look normal, whatever that is. I’m staring down the eyes of my interviewer, lest I let them wander over to the cameraman. I’m a little scared.

Yesterday, Stephen Fry revealed that in 2012 he had attempted suicide. As the President of Mind and the de facto face of the mental health anti-stigma initiative in the UK, his announcement was a sad but poignant reminder that bipolar, and indeed all mental illness, does not discriminate. A person who appears to have the world can suffer just as terribly as someone like me.

I got the call from Time to Change a few hours ago. They’d been understandably swamped with media requests to talk about Mr. Fry, and could I spare an afternoon to chat? As a media volunteer this isn’t a new thing for me, but I will admit when I hung up the phone, I was more nervous about an interview than I had ever been. I had never told anyone before, but I had suicide ideation early in my diagnosis.

There are over 500 books in my house. At least 40 of them are journals of mine, oversized beasts with papers stuck in them, and little pocket sized notepads with scribbles, and fancy pants ones from the British Library, or moleskin covered. But there is one hidden away, that I’ve carried from home to home, and over the Atlantic, that is empty. That one was to be the final journal.

When I was initially diagnosed with bipolar, I saw it as a death sentence. It would be the thing that killed me. There was no point in attempting to have a ‘normal’ life, or to live for that matter. So, I bought a beautiful journal. And I would fill it with my writings, and drawings, and stuff. And when I was done, and that journal was filled to the brim with me, I would kill myself. Not the most reasonable course of self-treatment, but as Stephen Fry said, you can’t reason your way out of depression, as it isn’t reasonable. I took solace in knowing that once the journal was finished, at least I’d have something worthwhile to show for my life. I’d have created something of worth.

I never started that journal. The depression passed, and by the time the next cycle came, I had learned better coping skills. I eventually found love, and we began a family. But I never forgot what that journal stood for, and every day it is a reminder of how far I’ve come in spite of this illness.

I wish Stephen only the very best on his continued road through bipolar. If you feel as though you have no one to turn to, please contact the Samaritans and your local GP. I’m really glad that his producer found Mr. Fry before it was too late. I’m really glad I never touched that journal again.

I’m really glad you are reading this. I’m really glad you are here.

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