During a recent appearance on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, Stephen Fry has spoken frankly about his friendship with the late Carrie Fisher.
Earlier this year, Fearne Cotton launched her very own podcast series, Happy Place, which sees the presenter sit down with inspiring individuals to find a different way of looking at life.
During this week’s episode (26 March), Cotton was joined by Stephen Fry, who opened up about his friendship with the late Carrie Fisher, the impact her Bipolar Disorder diagnosis had upon her and his own struggles with mental wellness.
Calling her his “dear friend”, Fry explained that he “adored” the Star Wars actress – but admitted that she “was a very, very ill person indeed”.
“I saw her in some states where it really was touch and go,” he told Cotton, “but she would go for electric shock therapy.
“Of course, she never lost her sense of humour. I remember her saying, ‘The thing about [electro shock therapy] is it works for me. It works. It has a few drawbacks. Memory, short-term memory. You lose your short-term memory. The other thing is you lose your short-term memory, losing your short-term memory.’”
Laughing at the memory, Fry added: “I said, ‘Carrie, you’re so bad.’ She was able to laugh at herself. That’s an amazing thing.”
The veteran television presenter went on to call Fisher “a hero” for being so open about her mental health, but added that “she also showed that it can bring you down”.
“Her life was shortened by it,” he reflected. “There’s no question about that.
“She was a really good person. She was a kind person. She was spending her whole time helping others, and often it seemed at the expense of what was really going on inside her. It’s a reminder of that, for all that one celebrates the ability to live with a condition like bipolar disorder, one must constantly remind oneself to be vigilant about one’s mental health and not to take it for granted, and to be aware.”
Speaking about his own struggles with mental health, Fry explained that he is very proud to be a spokesperson for Mind.
However, he added that he fears he is in danger of “becoming sort of professionally mentally unstable”.
“There was, and still is, a danger of becoming sort of professionally mentally unstable,” said Fry, revealing that he doesn’t want to become defined by his condition.
“I’ve always viewed that it’s not who I am. It’s a condition I live with. I’m always prepared to talk about it, but there’s also a danger, because I do live with this condition.
“I’m not going to kid myself that it’s cured, because it isn’t. And I know that, if I keep picking at the scab, it’s not going to be good for me. It’s not going to be good for my mental health.”
Fry – who recently went public with his prostate cancer battle – finished by telling Cotton that his team are all very aware of his condition and confessed that they help to manage his work around his health.
Indeed, if he takes on a project while going through a rocky patch, his assistant will help convince him to delay his work until he is more mentally stable.
“If I’ve been asked to do something, and it’s a time when I’m just in a cycle, which is not particularly energetic or particularly hopeful, I’ll say, ‘Yes, I’ll do it,’ because I think it’s my duty.
“My team will say, ‘No, don’t. Don’t, or if you do, do it in a month’s time.”
To listen to the interview in full, be sure to check out Stephen Fry’s interview on Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place, available on Apple Podcasts now. And, for similarly inspiring and uplifting content, be sure to check out the Happy Place in partnership with Stylist on 27 March, which will see Cotton takeover stylist.co.uk and transform it into a digital sanctuary, focusing on wellness, happiness and good mental health.
Remember: if you are struggling with your mental health, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org.