I have a vague recollection of a documentary with Stephen Fry, in which he talked with lucid frankness about manic depression / bipolar and the impact it had had on his life, and also interviewed fellow sufferers – both fellow “celebrities” and people from other walks of life.
One of the segments which I remember most vividly saw him wrestle with the vexed question of whether he would press the “off button” – if indeed such a thing existed – to get rid of his condition once and for all, if he could. To which the answer was no… if I recall correctly, he felt that the “ups”, in terms of periods of creativity, vibrancy of thought and sense of sheer joy more than compensated for the “downs”, the times in which everything is a struggle, one feels like one is a pale shadow of one’s “normal self”…walking dead.
I have sometimes had similar internal debates with myself – usually when on the up-slope again, after a period of depression, because when you’re actually IN a good period, you don’t often stop to ask why and how you are feeling good – you just get on with it!
But last night’s desperately sad news of the passing of Robin Williams has brought the feelings to the surface again. His public persona – and indeed many of the characters he portrayed in his films, as well as the incredible ad-libbed stand-up of his earlier career – was that of someone surfing the wave of creativity, vibrancy, and joy while it lasted. Interviews I have seen and read intimated at the darker side of his personality, which gnawed at him and led him down the troubled trails of alcohol and drug abuse. I wonder if he ever wondered whether he would give up all the wonderful moments he experienced in the peaks, if he could no longer suffer the pain of the troughs?
And the answer is still no. I would NOT press that button, if such a thing existed… because the good times and the bad times are all part of the whole. And as I have learned to accept the low times, and appreciate the “highs”, I have come to terms with being just as I am. So I’m going to keep tight hold of my “little spark of madness”, because without it, I’m just not me…