By PHIL TAYLOR
In the depths of depression last year, sports broadcaster Murray Deaker decided to quit his radio and television jobs.
The only thing that stopped him was the fact that he couldn't reach radio boss Bill Francis, who was overseas.
Deaker, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, told the Herald depression took his confidence and desire to continue. He was prescribed an antidepressant which propelled him into a manic state and led to his being pulled off air.
Deaker, who with wife Sharon has written about this period in his book, Just An Opinion, has had four major bouts of depression, the latest his worse.
He kept working, but what would normally be a cakewalk became an ordeal. Programmes which had taken an hour or two to plan were taking all day. He'd lost faith in his ability.
"I never thought I would be able to get out of the bed again. I then realised I didn't want to. My whole life had shrunk to the size of the apartment, then the bedroom, then the bed. What do you think about? You are solely thinking about whether or not you are going to survive, and I got to a stage where I really didn't want to. I thought, 'I can't handle this any more'."
That's when he was prescribed the antidepressant Aropax. "Because I'm so susceptible chemically, I went through the roof and that's when I [verbally] attacked Mick Watson and Kevin Shoebridge. I was on the nose."
Deaker confronted Team New Zealand operations manager Shoebridge, who sailed in the last America's Cup for the American syndicate OneWorld, with his frustrations about boat-jumping yachties; Watson was accused of showing more interest in appearing on social pages than driving the Warriors.
"That was when I was taken off air. Bill said, 'You have to come off Deaks until we get you right, you're out of control'."
Rumours started, including one that the recovering alcoholic was back on the booze, although he was never tempted to break his 26 years of sobriety.
Sharon Deaker says she didn't know the Murray who emerged during his roller-coaster high. "This one swore, told lies, gambled and displayed almost total intolerance of other people's opinions."
To escape media attention, Sharon took him to Paihia, where he wrote what became his chapter on his illness.
Along the way he has had to confront and adjust personal views, including his opinion of psychiatrists. "Hell's teeth, if a bloke cried he was a girl. Even when this was at its worst and Sharon was saying I should see a psychiatrist, well my reaction is in the book: Murray Deaker does not do psychiatrists."
The new Murray Deaker can confirm what Tony Soprano knows, "Psychiatrists don't have couches".
"I didn't know I was bipolar. I have only come to grips with this in the last few weeks and I'm not absolutely sure now what came first, the alcoholism or the bipolarism.
"I think the heavy drinking made the high that much higher and the lows tolerable. I also think the drinking accentuated both."
Lithium helped, and he is taking the drug again, having become frenetic when he took himself off it. He's over his worry it might make him "boring on air", and expects to continue taking medication.
He has previously written about his alcoholism, and how the death from cancer of his first wife, Diana, affected him. Writing and talking about his mental illness had been cathartic but was not easy. "It's not a badge I want to wear. I would rather it was someone else who had this and was speaking about it." But he hopes it helps do away with the stigma that he himself once held about such conditions.
Deaker was talked out of resigning by his family, who laid the first blocks in restoring his confidence. He is indebted to them, he says, because such an illness is hardest on those closest to you. None bore the brunt more than his wife.
IT ALL STARTED WITH ALINGHI
An obsession with the America's Cup precipitated Murray Deaker's depression.
Deaker, a member of controversial diehard Team New Zealand supporters' group BlackHeart, discloses in his book his one dealing with Alinghi.
"At the America's Cup ball, a feeble-looking fellow who told me he was head of PR for Alinghi said that if I was a Swiss journalist I would be told to be neutral. I said I could understand that because the Swiss let everyone else fight their wars for them and now they were doing the same in yachting, namely, letting others sail their boat.
"He said there was just one thing he wanted to say to me. Before he did, I told him there was only one thing I wanted to say to him: F*** off!
"Well, he has. So has the America's Cup. And so have Coutts and Butterworth."
Butterworth, though, got the last laugh. Deaker received a Christmas gift of a Swiss cuckoo clock from Butterworth. "Murray," read the accompanying note, "you're a difficult man to buy for but the clock reminded me of you."
* Also known as manic depression.
* Characterised by extreme mood swings.
* More than temporary feelings of being depressed. Very low or high moods are sustained and can make it difficult to function in everyday activities and relationships.
* About one in 100 people develop the disorder.
* Can be effectively treated. Early diagnosis helps.
* There is no chemical test. Diagnosis is based on the presence of symptoms. Symptoms of mania include: persistent high mood, irritability, increased energy, less need for sleep, loud and fast talk, racing thoughts, easily distracted, increased sense of self-importance, loss of insight. Source: