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Keith Earls Gives Incredibly Honest Interview About Bipolar Diagnosis

Keith Earls Gives Incredibly Honest Interview About Bipolar Diagnosis
By Jonathan Byrne

Friday night's Late Late Show featured an appearance from Munster rugby and Irish international Keith Earls.

The Limerick man came on the show to speak about his diagnosis with Bipolar 2 Disorder, and was incredibly honest in his assessment of what transpired.

He first spoke about his life growing up in Moyross in Limerick City, and how he found it tough being raised amongst crimes and gangs.

At the age of 12, Earls suffered a panic attack after coping with the news of the death of his cousin, aged 19 at the time, who lost his life in a car accident.

"I remember thinking, I wasn't going to see my cousin again," Earls said, who went into a panic attack from the trauma. "I genuinely thought I was going to die."

Earls then went on to recall the events that led to his Bipolar 2 diagnosis, and the negative presence in his mind that he's called 'Hank':

My Hank is there in my head, he's the other side. He's depression and negative thoughts, that's been living in my thoughts since that day, since I was 12. He just doesn't want me to be happy. He makes me think quite negative, he makes me do a lot of things that I don't want to do. Just negative thinking.

Ryan Tubridy went on to ask him if 'Hank' would appear while he's playing rugby, or in any of his big international games or games with Munster.

"I suppose in game as well he would be there. If a set move is called I would be thinking negatively about the play or telling myself, 'don't drop the ball.'"

"I went through games where he got the better of me, I just didn't want him to beat me. There was games I probably shouldn't of played in I was in such a bad place mentally."

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Earls' Diagnosis In 2013

The 34-year-old was in Irish camp in Carton House in 2013 when he learned of his diagnosis with Bipolar Disorder 2. He said he knew something wasn't right.

He had just welcomed into the world his first daughter, Ella May, and said he should have been on 'cloud nine' but still felt full of negative emotion.

"My daughter, Ella May, my first girl was born as well then in 2012 and she was born with a respiratory condition. My emotions were everywhere."

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"My emotions were everywhere, my paranoia was through the roof, my negative thinking. It was shocking. I was so sick of it. It was absolutely draining me."

It was at that camp in Carton House that Earls knew he had to seek professional help, so he called upon team doctor Éanna Falvey.

"I rang the doctor, Éanna Falvey, to come up to my room for a chat and I explained everything to him, he was brilliant."

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"I went down to see a guy in Cork, a psychiatrist, and diagnosed me with Bipolar 2." Earls said, "Bipolar 2 is probably the better out of the two to get."

The Munster man was relieved to find the root of the problem, because he said it was starting to affect those around him.

"In particular, Edel, who I'm living with. She's seen the highs and lows and just bizarre behaviour," Earls said.

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He then recalled being in the psychiatrists practice in Cork and asking for medication there and then, after battling with the disorder most of his life:

He told me 'go away, we'll have a look', because I'm an athlete about medication. And I just told him straight out, 'I'm not leaving your office until you write me a prescription for some tablet to just make me feel better and make me feel like myself again.

Life With The Disorder

Earls was recommended a number of coping mechanisms and was advised to speak to a cognitive behaviour therapist as well.

"I still have my bad days but it definitely stabled me, and thankfully the last couple of years I've got a great hold on it," he said.

"I found my identity which I think was part of the problem .. I didn't know when I was Keith, I didn't know when I was Hank and thankfully I can tell the difference now."

For Earls, speaking about his own battles is one thing, but he hopes his interview will pave the way for others to seek help if they are struggling.

"This is why I wanted to tell my story. People look and they see me on the 80 minutes on a Saturday, but it's a lot different. The struggles outside of those 80 minutes have been really though."

"A lot of my teammates and social media, things are getting tougher for athletes. Don't get me wrong, we live a privileged lifestyle."

If I can help anyone in the general public, if I can help anyone, any one of my team mates to talk to someone before it gets too late, That's what saved me, stepping up and not being embarrassed to speak to someone and tell someone that I was struggling.

See Also: 'The Shamrock Is A Brilliant Signifier' - How Ireland's Incredible Centenary Crest Was Made

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