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Dublin: 9°C Friday 23 October 2020

Column: Without love and support, I would be dead or broke or in the gutter

Living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder will bring you though dark times, but understanding from received from loved ones can give hope and stability, writes Ciaran Behan.

Ciaran Behan

FROM MY MID-TWENTIES, I had a list of symptoms that were a major problem in my life.


• Being very happy and excited

• Getting irritated with other people who didn’t share my optimistic outlook


• Full of new and exciting ideas

• Moving quickly from one idea to another


• Being unable to sleep

• More interested in sex


• Making plans that were unrealistic

• Very active, moving around very quickly

• Talking very quickly

• Making odd decisions on the spur of the moment, sometimes with disastrous consequences

• Recklessly spending money

• Being overly-familiar or recklessly critical with other people

My story: the day I finally got a answers about what was going on

Getting out of the taxi, I make my way into the day hospital. The building is dull grey and it screams sorrow not joy. The receptionist says ‘take a seat and the doctor will see you soon’. I hate waiting rooms because I look around and think I am the only one sitting here without a problem and everyone else is mental.

I am not sitting long and I am already bored listening to Ray Darcy waffle on about some boring crap and interrupt the person he is interviewing. The room starts to empty out but I feel it closing in and I get that feeling I am as much in need as anyone else in this hospital…

“Ciaran the doctor will see you”

I walk down the corridor and I get that feeling that I am on The Apprentice TV show and I am going to the boardroom. I am not going to see a normal GP; I am going to see my psychiatrist.

“Now Ciaran after looking at things, I think you have Bipolar Affective Disorder”

Jesus, I think to myself, what the hell is that? She goes into more detail and then starts telling me about the mania, the manic episodes, and what they are all about. The binge drinking – god did I do that. At one stage, before 2011, I was working in a pub and I drank from 10 am til 1 am the next day, topping up all day long.

The pub I was working in was located in an area where I was no more than a four-minute walk away from numerous other pubs, which meant I could walk in, order a pint, down it in one gulp and get back to work and act normal. As most things with bipolar and mania, you push yourself more and more to take a bigger risk.

The mountain

What I have just outlined was halfway up the mountain, I had not got right to the top just yet. I really drank and drank to get more of a buzz. I suppose I hit the top when I was drinking spirits and the days soon became a blank.

I woke up one morning with two flags under my head as a pillow, in a pub, having to get myself sorted within the next 30 minutes and get ready for a day’s work. 98 per cent of the time I got this under control and sorted and, being like most magicians with bipolar, I pulled it off like no problem at all. So while drinking for Ireland I soon found I needed a new vice. That came in the line of drugs…

Hash to start… until it got boring.

Then ecstasy…

Then the devil itself… cocaine.


The use of these drugs did not rule me entirely because I think in all my madness I still had a little voice in the back of my head saying “will you ever take it easy”. It was never a good time but it was still done.

Then comes, it’s the sex drive and appetite to be kinky that really is a danger. Was it for me? No, but my head was full of mad ideas that just did not sit right with me at all. But I was into betting, starting with bookies, then it pushed on to the computer graphic gambling machines. I know of one pub in Dublin, I worked out a system on the blackjack game that over three weeks I pulled out over €1500 in €2 coins. I might add, trying to change them around Dublin, you look like you robbed some kid’s piggy banks.

I soon got bored of this and tried the real thing, a casino, because I needed a bigger hit. This was short lived when after three weeks I lost a shit load of money and I made the decision to tell the casino I wanted to bar myself.

I have no concept of money when I am enjoying myself, I never had money, it’s not worth what it’s printed on to me and I never let it control my life. I liked to shop for stupid stuff, just to spend money. I would like to buy stuff that was also pointless and expensive. I liked to spend it on nights going out just spend, spend, spend. Start small and get bigger and bigger and bigger.

Without support, I would be dead or broke or in the gutter

These are some of the key things that had an impact on my life and which I am not happy about at all. I even feel a sense of shame when typing them out. You also have that feel-good bit that comes with mania. No one is on your level, not on your speed. You are thinking of ideas planning and plotting and when you feel no one is with you the anger and agitation comes. You lash out! You think ‘For fuck sake can they for just once see what I see?’

This can have a major impact on your surroundings and affect loved ones. I know all of what I have listed so far has had a major impact on my relationship, and I know if Mellors had not stuck by me, I can safely say I would be dead or broke or in the gutter. That was the one thing, and still is the one thing, that when I get scared I know it’s ok because she will help me or she will have a plan or she will support me.

So if you’re reading this and you have bipolar, if you have a loved one remember them.

They will love you and they care. So get help and get on the right track. I really think if I could put someone forward for a carer award Mellors should get it.

Accepting it

Now I do also think at times it’s great to have bipolar, it’s my superhero power. I get to be so creative because of it and I get some super ideas. To name some, #sundaycookoff on Twitter and the book post I did a while ago. If I could sit at around 20 per cent manic I would like to because I have a confidence boost,  I feel if I am like that nothing will go wrong and if I am ever faced with a problem while like that, I get it fixed.

I have been told I am very infectious, but with a touch of mania I would have a good chance of leaving in your clothes. I know I can’t sit at that level and I would not because if I did climb up higher – god knows what I would do. So it’s great my Mellors, hospital team and meds keep me grounded.

Thanks for Reading


Ciaran Behan writes a blog, The Inside Out Man, where this post originally appeared.

Column: My experience in an adult mental health unit

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Ciaran Behan

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