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Ireland wing Keith Earls lifts lid on Bipolar 2 diagnosis

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Ireland and Munster wing Keith Earls has lifted the lid on a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 in an appearance on an Irish television talk show.

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Earls said he ‘was literally losing his mind’ when he decided to seek help from medical professionals some eight years ago, on his appearance on the Late Late Show on RTE 1. The Limerick native has written about his personal mental health battle in his new autobiography – ‘Fight Or Flight: My Life, My Choices’. 

“I was sitting at home on the couch and my parents were at work and I remember thinking ‘I wasn’t going to see my cousin ever again’, and then it just went downhill from there, I was thinking about when I die, I will never see my parents.

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“I was shaking, I was trembling and then the panic attack started. I didn’t know what it was. I genuinely, genuinely thought I was going to die. I came around after a few minutes.

“I kept it all quiet, didn’t really speak about it. I suppose the fact I didn’t know what it was, I was a small bit embarrassed, maybe. I have had a couple of them out through my career as well and it did take me a long time to talk about stuff.

“It was never mentioned in my house, never mind the country or Limerick, it wasn’t a thing that was spoken about back then.”

It all came to a head for Earls while on Ireland duty in 2013.

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“I was in camp in 2013. I am in Irish camp, Joe Schmidt is just taking over the Irish team. I should be on cloud nine.

“My daughter, Ella Maye, my first girl, was born in 2012 and she was born with a respiratory condition, and you know my emotions were everywhere. My paranoia was through the roof. My negative thinking, it was shocking, and you know I was so sick of it. It was absolutely draining me.

“So, here I am in Carton House, in Irish camp and I just decided I need to do something about this. So, I rang the doctor… I explained everything to him, he was brilliant. I went down to see a guy in Cork, a psychiatrist, and he diagnosed me with bipolar II. There is obviously bipolar I as well, but bipolar II is probably the better out of the two to get. I was delighted to get the diagnosis; I was genuinely losing my mind.”

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“Thankfully over the last couple of years, I have got a great hold on it. I have found my identity. Which I think was part of the problem as well. I didn’t know who I was, and I was always trying to be other people. I didn’t know when I was Keith, I didn’t know when I was Hank [the term he uses to describe his depressive side]. And thankfully I can tell the difference now.

“I wanted to tell my story because… if I can help anyone, even it was in the general public, any one of my team-mates to talk to someone before it gets too late. I think that’s what saved me, stepping up and not being embarrassed and speaking to someone and telling someone that I was struggling.”

Earls made his Ireland debut against Canada in 2008. He has won 91 caps and scored 33 tries for Ireland including eight at Rugby World Cups making him Ireland’s second top try scorer of all time.

The 34-year-old toured with the Lions in South Africa in 2009 and started every game of Ireland’s 2018 Grand Slam Six Nations campaign. He has made over 180 Munster appearances, scoring 58 tries having made his provincial debut in 2007 against the Ospreys.

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