‘Darts pushed me over the edge’: James Wade on his battle with bipolar disorder

The 39-year-old was diagnosed with the mental health condition in 2009 just as he had made his way to the top of the sport

Jonathan Veal
Friday 30 September 2022 09:31 BST

James Wade says being one of the best darts players in the world was responsible for pushing him over the edge in his battle with bipolar disorder.

The 39-year-old was diagnosed with the mental health condition in 2009 just as he had made his way to the top of the sport, having won a raft of major tournaments in the previous two years.

But the pressure to deliver alongside the fame and money affected Wade and eventually led him to get help after years of suffering.

“Before it all came to a head, in 2007 and 2008, I was probably the best player in the world for those two years consistently,” he told the PA news agency.

“I think that darts really pushed me over the edge in my problems.

“It has given me so much but it has taken just as much as it has given me.

“The pressure of having to perform, and being recognised and earning good money, that is what pushed me over the edge.

“The job I do puts me under unnecessary pressure a lot that just rocks the boat a little bit too much.”

Despite his condition, which he suffered with long before his diagnosis at the age of 26, Wade has been an enduring presence at the top end of the men’s game, winning 11 major titles, including the World Matchplay and the Premier League.

But he has mixed feelings about his career so far.

Wade has won 11 major titles

“I believe there are not many people with what I have that could do what I have done. It has been challenging,” he added.

“But I always think I have let myself down because I haven’t done enough. If I could have dedicated myself more in my career I could have done more.

“I haven’t finished yet but I always feel like there is more. I know I haven’t dedicated myself enough because it can become too much for me.”

The illness is characterised by severe mood swings and Wade reveals that when he is in a bad place he is struck by paranoia.

“I was diagnosed when I was 26 and it was almost a bit of a relief because it explained why I was different at times, explosive, and unreasonable,” he said.

“When I am in a bad place I am very destructive, I upset people, I can be harsh and cruel.

“That is a side that doesn’t come out very often, it is less and less now but that is a part of me that is not very nice.

“That is when I am in a really bad place and have been struggling for a while. I take things personally and am a bit paranoid at times. It is stuff you have to get on with.”

It is a condition that he has learned to manage, even if some of the symptoms still present themselves.

He is often not helped by the high pressure of playing elite sport and also having a microphone thrust into his face moments after a match.

That has landed him in hot water several times with explosive TV interviews and Wade says there is still a lack of understanding from those in the sport.

Wade has given a number of explosive post-match interviews during his career

“I mess up on TV in interviews and have been out of control and there is very little forgiveness from the people I work around,” he said.

“It is difficult. Everyone has been told not to interview me immediately after I have played.

“People have been warned about what could happen and when it does everyone is surprised.

“It is a lose-lose. If I say no to the interview then I don’t get any extra air time and I don’t communicate with the crowd but if I do something wrong then I am the bad guy.”

Wade is determined to use his high profile to raise awareness and has teamed up with Bipolar UK, driving 501 miles in a £501 Ford Focus from Scotland to London.

He is reluctant to see himself as a role model, but insists if he can succeed with the condition then anyone can.

“If I have done what I have done with what I have got anyone can,” he said.

“Just because you have got any kind of physical or mental illness, if it is the right thing for you it doesn’t stop you from doing things.

“People think that other people with mental illness can’t do things, that is a load of nonsense.

“If you are determined to do something you can do it. It hasn’t stopped me and, if it hasn’t stopped me, anyone can do it, I can assure you of that.

“I honestly think young people need help more. When you are 20 you think you know everything, you think you know who you are but you haven’t got a clue. And then you have bipolar attacking you at the same time. It is hard.”

James Wade is an ambassador for Bipolar UK. To find out more visit www.bipolaruk.org

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