Stephen Fry, Britain’s much-loved actor and comedian, has for many years been open about his drug use and bipolar disorder, and now he has lifted the lid on how he used to snort “the sherbert of shame” to get a bigger kick out of doing crossword puzzles.
In an interview with the Sky Arts programme In Confidence, the 53-year-old multi-talent said: ‘There were 15 years of pretty chronic cocaine taking. In my most hyper frames of mind, I found it was a wonderful drug to take to calm me down.
“I tended to take it alone at home and play word games, mind spinning.
“I’d do very difficult crosswords, I would spend hours on those.”
Fry went on to say: “I found it extremely easy to stop, but it took me a very long time to get to a position where I was ready to.”
Fry kicked the habit in 2003 and in a 2006 interview with BBC2 he admitted that he turned to cocaine — and vodka — in a big way as a means of numbing the inner turmoil of his depression: ”I’m actually kind of sobbing and kind of tearing at the walls inside my own brain while my mouth is, you know, wittering away in some amusing fashion.”
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression — a greatly misunderstood condition characterised by extreme highs and lows — when he was 37, although he’d battled depression since his teens and was suicidal by the age of 17. Fry has spoken very openly about his experience with the illness, which was also depicted in the BBC documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic-Depressive, and according to researchers his willingness to talk about the condition has led to more people diagnosing themselves with the illness.
”This appears to have promoted the disorder as less stigmatising and acceptable to the public, a phenomenon that may have an evolutionary basis,” Dr Chan and Dr Sireling have said of what is being referred to as the Stephen Fry Effect.
Figures in the public eye who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder include DMX, Axl Rose and Ben Stiller. It is not known what causes this often debilitating disease, but with proper treatment and support, sufferers can learn to find a way to function and live with it.
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