Being heavyweight champion of the world taught me a lot, but it made me realise one thing above all – that everything you fight for, everything you dream of, everything you build up, can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. Let your guard slip, then boom, you are out.
It happened to me on March 16, 1996, when Mike Tyson turned out the lights on my boxing career. Then it happened to my happiness, health and liberty too.
I know my condition inside out now. Better than any opponent I faced in the ring. People always ask me: “How does it make you feel?”
I always sigh. I’m not being difficult. But I will try to explain.
When my illness takes hold the world swings from high to low. I can see the change coming but I can’t stop it. It is like a force of nature – a haymaker of a right hook that rocks me from side to side.
Have you ever been caught outside in a horrendous storm and started panicking that the strength of the wind might knock you off your feet? When my bipolar strikes it feels as if that wind is constantly pushing me back.
My world is covered by a fog. Little of what is going on around me matters. Light or dark. Day or night. Summer or winter. The world I see will be the same shade of grey.
The hardest thing is not knowing when my condition will hit or how long it will stick around.
Boxing was straightforward. I trained. I prepared. I stepped in the ring. When I saw a punch coming I moved, quickly, or I defended myself. Then, bang, I made sure I knocked out my opponent before he had the chance to reload.
My bipolar, though, appears from the shadows and it is impossible to defend yourself against a punch you can’t see. I face it and I fight it. But even when I beat the crap out of it, I know deep down it may come back.
That’s what happened in 2003 when I was sectioned for the first time. It came after the most distressing period of my life. My marriage had broken down and my world collapsed. My wife Laura and my three kids moved out and suddenly I was alone.
I was trying, and failing badly, to cope with retirement from the ring.
Then in 2002 my former trainer George Francis took his life. That was the final blow.
Without my family around me, with my career over and my cornerman gone, my mental health suffered. When they took me to Goodmayes Hospital in Romford on September 22, 2003, I was kicking and screaming.
The treatment I received rescued me. When I got out six weeks later I thought I’d come through the toughest battle of my life.
I was called “Bonkers Bruno” on the front of The Sun. Overnight my world changed. Suddenly Frank Bruno, sporting hero, was now Frank Bruno, the man with a mental health problem. Then came the news of the ultimate betrayal. A few weeks after I got out my management team were asking a lot of questions about money. My accountants were freaking out at the amount of cash flying out of my account. The