Ath­lete rides bipo­lar’s ups and downs

Great Southern Herald - - News - Gareth Thomas

An Al­bany fit­ness fa­natic is har­ness­ing the power of so­cial me­dia to help dis­solve the stigma and iso­la­tion around men­tal health di­ag­noses such as bipo­lar and schizophre­nia.

Af­ter Bill Irv­ing’s bipo­lar di­ag­no­sis, he started an In­sta­gram ac­count, among other so­cial me­dia plat­forms, where he could doc­u­ment the highs and lows of liv­ing with the dis­ease and train­ing for triathlons while bal­anc­ing it with fam­ily time.

“The Bipo­lar in Tran­si­tion name came be­cause I was ini­tially train­ing for the Bus­sel­ton half iron man triathlon,” he said.

“So it was a play on words — when you tran­si­tion from de­pres­sion to ma­nia and when you’re rac­ing, you tran­si­tion from swim to bike to run.”

Mr Irv­ing, 40, said de­pres­sion in Aus­tralia was very well recog­nised but men­tal health dis­eases, in­clud­ing bipo­lar and schizophre­nia, were still taboo.

“For me, it is about break­ing down those bar­ri­ers and show­ing that we are hu­man and putting a hu­man face on it, and that peo­ple who have what ap­pears to be a reg­u­lar life still strug­gle with th­ese sorts of ill­nesses,” he said.

When he is not at home with the fam­ily or out run­ning and cy­cling, Mr Irv­ing is help­ing to save lives at Al­bany Health Cam­pus.

At 36, Mr Irv­ing left his job as a fly-in, fly-out heavy duty plant me­chanic to be­gin a nursing de­gree, which he has since com­pleted and is now un­der­tak­ing a grad­u­ate pro­gram at Al­bany Hospi­tal. “Part of the role of a nurse is to be an ad­vo­cate ... and I see my so­cial me­dia ac­counts as a ver­sion of that con­tin­ued,” he said.

“Quite of­ten, I get peo­ple who have found me and want to thank me … they are just glad to know that they are not the only one. That is a lot of what drives me.”

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

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