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Flight From Darkness: Bipolar Disorder Documentary
Flight from Darkness focuses on the life of Percy Paul, from his dazzling rise and fall as a brilliant mathematician to his continuing struggle to prevail over his illness and realize his full potential.
Percy Paul’s mind launched him on a meteoric rise from a broken childhood to the highest corridors of academia. But frequently his mind betrays him, plunging him from the peaks of genius into a darkness that threatens to overwhelm his exceptional promise.
Percy began his journey in the least likely of places-in a remote Dene community in Northern Saskatchewan, a place where far too often alcohol and violence were close at hand. Despite these circumstances, he excelled in school and sports, eventually proving himself a world-class distance runner and gold medallist.
Within a few short years, Percy found himself at Princeton, working alongside one of the world’s leading authorities on string theory, black holes and quantum field theory.
But all this changed when he turned 28. Percy became an alcoholic in an effort to cope with his increasingly extreme mood swings. After a failed suicide attempt, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Those afflicted with this life-long disorder suffer flights of mania followed by periods of clinical depression, where many try suicide-and, tragically, all too many succeed.
In the film, Percy’s ex-wife, Michelle, serves as a witness to the destructive nature of bipolar disorder. She re-counts Percy’s dramatic change from “a great husband and father” to an “alternately depressed, manic and sometimes verbally abusive alcoholic.”
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, medication can help minimize some of its debilitating effects. But for Percy, the side effects of the medication frequently outweigh the benefits. Yes, they do calm his mania but they also leave him feeling like a zombie. The creative thought processes that allow him to do his work feel closed when he takes his pills. This is the reason why some consider bipolar disorder to be both a gift and a curse.
Flight from Darkness focuses on the life of Percy Paul-from his dazzling rise and fall as a brilliant mathematician to his continuing struggle to prevail over his illness and realize his full potential.