When I did a documentary on my breakdown and depression last year, I said that it must be hard bordering on impossible for someone who does not get depression fully to understand what it is like.
The best description I could come up with is that it is like being dead and alive at the same time.
It is a feeling I know well. It is a feeling Stephen Fry knows well. It is one he has articulated so well. It is why when I wrote All In The Mind, he was one of the first people I sent it to, and typically generously, he allowed me to use some of his comments on the cover. So when Stephen Fry tweets that he is depressed, and thinking about giving up on Twitter, I join with others in assuming he is in that kind of state. I have sent him a private message. But my public message is that it is no good anyone saying, as people do, well what does he have to be depressed about, what with being incredibly successful, well-off and hugely popular?
That is not how it works. Depression just is. It comes in and takes you over and even if your rational mind knows it will pass, you feel like it is defining your reality for ever.
It is being assumed, because Stephen made his comments in response to a twitterer who said he found his tweets ‘boring,’ that this is what triggered it. But it is almost certainly not so, that other factors will have been at play, and I doubt whether Stephen would be very happy if the twitterer in question was subject to a Jan Moir style avalanche.
I know Stephen fairly well. He is a really nice man as well as being extraordinarily clever and talented.
When recently he agreed to do one of our ‘Audience With’ sessions for Leukaemia Research, a packed theatre hung on every word as he recalled key episodes in his life and career.
He talked about his bipolar depression and recalled the time life got so on top of him that he fled a play he was appearing in, prompting a huge media frenzy which, in his depressed state, he had never imagined would ensue. He might well be feeling the same now, knowing that to some extent he is ‘public property’ but wishing when depressed that he could just be left alone.
He also talked about Twitter, and the role it was playing in changing the way people communicate and consume media.
Coming in the wake of the Jan Moir and Trafigura incidents, he was at pains to dispute the idea that his huge Twitter following made him some kind of leader. He clearly did not see himself in that way.
Lots of people are saying they hope he does not stop tweeting because his followers enjoy what he has to say. I would simply say he should stop it or not, according to what he wants, and try not to worry too much about what anyone else is saying.
He knows he has got through depressed periods before, and will do so again. He knows too it is part of what makes him such a creative talent, which in turn is why so many people follow him, and worry about him too.