Public Advisor Matt Copple’s story: ‘I am bipolar and proud’

Matt Copple is a Public Advisor for M-RIC supporting our mood disorders research. In this article, he provides a honest account of his experiences as a service user.

I’ve been hospitalised twice and had many bouts of severe depression, starting in my teenage years. It wasn’t until much later that I was diagnosed with bipolar type two [1] . I like to share my story so that I can help others who might be experiencing what I went through, by encouraging them to talk about it and not to wait until things become really serious before seeking help.

I first became aware of mental illness through my mum, when I was about 10 years old. She was going through a horrible divorce with my dad, and we realised something wasn’t right with her. She would go terribly high [2] and drink an awful lot and then come back down, regret what was happening for weeks or months; and then she’d be fine and be my normal mother for a while.

We understood that she was manic depressive; that’s now called bipolar affective disorder.

First experiences of depression

As a teenager I had periods of depression; at first, I thought it was pressures of school and exams. With all the hype of A level results my mum went into a bipolar high [2] and ended up being sectioned [3] again; I fell into depression after that and had to take a year out, which is when I first had medication.

Many years passed and I met my now ex-wife and inherited two stepsons; we had many happy years together and had two beautiful daughters, now aged 21 and 12.

From my 20s up to my 40s for a very long period of time I didn’t go off sick at work; I thought it was wrong and I was following the example of my dad who never had a day off sick. I was working 50 to 80 hours a week and was very ambitious in my career.

After we lost my mum through cancer in 2010 I coped by burying myself in work, going at 100 miles an hour, peaking and then dipping into depression. I thought that I was a machine – and I wasn’t.

I changed career direction into a more strategic role in 2014 and it was as if the floodgates had opened on what I was holding back by way of depression. I went downhill very fast.

Eventually I went to the GP who gave me anti-depressants [4] but they didn’t work. Because I was off work and not busy, I was going deeper and deeper into a depression and eventually my partner went to the doctor with me to tell him I was getting really serious now. What she didn’t realise at the time was that I had also started to self-harm, and I was very unwell.

In hospital – and in a mental loop

I was referred to Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and admitted voluntarily [5]. I kept going back to when I took the career choice in 2014, going over and over it, trapped inside a ruminating loop. I would chant to hospital staff that I wanted to go back in time.

At some point I dipped into psychosis and would speak in a different voice, sounding like Prince Charles. It seemed laughable and the family would laugh. When you are deeply depressed you don’t realise there are levels below that depression.

I managed to talk myself out of voluntary admission and the hospital discharged me; but very soon I had to be admitted again and went to different units, including the Hesketh Centre where my mum used to be taken. I went in there and went ‘oh my God this is where I visited my mum and now it’s happening to me’.

I went to Clock View and started to recover on a combination of anti-psychotics [6] and anti-depressants; and started cognitive analytical therapy, CAT. After four months I came out so heavily sedated, I was basically a walking zombie and I was put under the care of a community psychiatric nurse.

I had a bit of an argument when I got home because I wouldn’t get out of bed. I’m not proud of this but I found a load of tablets and took them all. I was taken to hospital, throwing up everywhere and passing out.

I was put on a ward with older people who were calling out to Jesus and I had a nice chat with a nurse and realised, this isn’t my time, why am I doing this?

It was as if my brain reset and decided I didn’t want to be like this.

Bouncing back – and then down again

I bounced back, staying under the psychiatrist in the community and the psychiatric nurse and eventually went back to work. I had a phased return and slowly built up my confidence.

Then I was tapped up for a promotion as Head of IT on secondment and it triggered what I now know was a bipolar high [2].

Six months later my director said, you’re not good enough. My mind collapsed in on itself again because I took it very personally and I had spent a lot of money on a new house while I was on the bipolar high. It all crashed around me and very quickly the suicidal thoughts started again and I was back in hospital.

When I was allowed out to visit the family it was very hard because I felt safe in my little hospital room and all I wanted was medication to make me sleep.

I was there for about five months and I kept chanting, ‘I want ECT’; and I kept asking to leave and was put on a Section 3 [3] which meant I couldn’t leave.

Finally I went to Broad Oak for my first ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)[7]. In that first session I was lashing out; but within a few sessions I started to feel a little bit more like me. Soon after, I was discharged.

Using a computer analogy it rebooted my brain, it defragged it and suddenly I became myself again.

It did send me on a bit of a bipolar high; I bought a Mercedes and took my wife on a trip to America to watch Lionel Ritchie!

I went back to work, but I had missed too much and I ended up taking voluntary redundancy and took another job. I went through the Mersey Care very intense cognitive analytic therapy, CAT, and started to think it’s not all about work it’s about your wellness and your family.

At that point I became a service user governor at Mersey Care, because I wanted to give something back. I felt in control of my own destiny again; family was going fine and I ended up marrying my girlfriend after being together for 24 years.

Another crash

I was flying high – and then I completely crashed. That’s when I was diagnosed bipolar type two [1] and everything started to make sense and through the cognitive analytic therapy, I understood that it went back to my childhood, witnessing my mum taking overdoses.

I became lead governor for six years; I was also trustee and then deputy chair at Parkhaven Trust in Maghull.

What I found fantastic for my own recovery was that when I was a governor, I could go and tour the psychiatric units that I was once in; and when I met the staff, they said, ‘oh my God is that you Matt Copple’ and they could remember me when I was rocking in the corner and now I was quite confident, motivated and happy.

Going back to Clock View was difficult; I found the place where I tried to push down a tree; and I went to the room where I had tried to end my life.

I went to the ECT suite and the nurse who treated me broke down in tears when he saw how well I was. That meant a lot.

I caught up with Dr Richard Barnes who is in charge of ECT and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) [8] and I asked him to take me through what happened to me. He showed me the equipment and explained what happened and that helped, observing it as a well person.

A few years after getting married, the marriage collapsed. I think through the pressure of everything that had happened and having a very unwell husband or partner.

I have been with my new partner Annie for a couple of years; she works in the same industry as me and we get on exceptionally well; we will soon be moving into a house together.

I work round the clock but I know that life isn’t all about work and if my youngest daughter wants to stay up late watching telly that’s fine, we watch telly together. And she gets on really well with Annie which is brilliant.

Bipolar and proud

It’s been a hell of a journey and I now say I am bipolar type two and I am proud. I deliver podcasts for my organisation; I like to share my lived experiences if it helps others and I work with team members all over Europe. It’s good to talk – I didn’t talk and I ended up in hospital.

A new treatment for me was TMS [8]; that’s using magnets to stimulate the brain. It calmed my anxiety and got me out of depression and that’s when I left the marital home and set up my own flat and survived all the fallout and didn’t go under.

I’ve come off lithium [9]; I’ll probably stay on anti-depressants for life; I still have mood cycles, but I am steady enough and will probably be discharged from services soon.

What I will insist on, is access to services after I’ve been discharged. When I go down, I shouldn’t have to wait weeks and weeks before getting an appointment. It should be a quick referral to the TMS unit for the treatment that helps me. It scares me that after being discharged from psychiatry I won’t be able to access TMS as quickly as I can now.

I would also like to see an A &E dedicated for people in mental health crisis. I am passionate about accessibility of services; and for services to be joined up so that everyone involved in my care knows what is happening to me – looking at me as a complete person.

I am now part of M-RIC, sharing my experiences to help the mood disorders research as a public advisor. This is my new venture – and it helps me feel good, that I’m still helping others through my story.


[1] Bipolar Affective Disorder (Type 1 or 2) is sometimes abbreviated to ‘bipolar’.  You can find more information about the condition  from Bipolar UK or the Royal College of Psychiatrists

[2] The phrase ‘high’, ‘bipolar high’ or ‘manic’ refers to periods where people with Bipolar Affective Disorder experience an episode of mania.

[3] The phrase ‘sectioned’ is shorthand used in everyday language to describe being admitted to hospital, most often under Section 2 or 3 of the Mental Health Act.  Section 2 means a person can be kept in hospital for up to 28 days.  Section 3 is used when people are considered to require a longer period of treatment in hospital (e.g. up to six months in the first instance).

[4] Anti-depressants are a class of different medications that are used to treat (among other conditions) depressive episodes.

[5] When people are admitted to hospital for a mental illness under a Section of the Mental Health Act, their illness is severe, there are risks to the person’s health or safety (or sometimes they present a risk to the safety of other people) and they do not agree and consent to being admitted.  However, people can also be admitted to hospital voluntarily, sometimes called an ‘informal’ admission, when they are able to agree to admission and treatment in hospital.

[6] For some people with Bipolar Affective Disorder their treatment with medication requires a combination of medications.  Commonly, a medication from a class called anti-psychotics is used.  Like anti-depressants, there are many different anti-psychotic medications.

[7] Read more about electroconvulsive therapy

[8] Read more about transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy

[9] Lithium is a medication used to help stabilise the manic and depressive episodes experienced by people with Bipolar Affective Disorder; you can read more about it under the section ‘Medications to stabilise mood’ on the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s website