Celebrity guests are no strangers to Loose Women, with everybody from Joan Collins to Ant and Dec having graced seats alongside the panel. The ladies were recently joined by the bird-loving broadcaster Bill Oddie, who discussed his brand new book, Unplucked, with the panel.
Released on Thursday, Unplucked is a collection of some of Oddie’s most recent essays, articles and opinion pieces about birdwatching and wildlife: the veteran presenter’s greatest passions. His book doesn’t only explore the secret lives of animals however; there are also amusing anecdotes and fascinating tales about his time in the Galapagos, encounters with whales and even disagreements with neighbours.
However, Unplucked also covers the more serious subject matter of Bill Oddie’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
In the introduction to his book, Oddie talks candidly about his departure from Springwatch and eventual diagnosis with his characteristically good humour. It’s safe to say that his honestly and openness has given the nation a new level of understanding around the topic, as well as the man himself.
We got our hands on his new book, Unplucked, and here is a sneak peek of one of his opening extracts:
“Truthfully and fortunately, the public enquiry I get most often these days is: ‘When are we going to see you on telly again?’ When indeed?! My only possible – and truthful – response is: ‘It’s not up to me. Write to the BBC. Please!’ They may well already have done, but nothing’s happened yet. But – just for the record – I am still Bill Oddie.
“So, the next question has to be: what have I been doing for the last three or four years? Well, one of them was largely spent in and out of bed and psychiatric hospital, suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Looking back now, I can reassess periods and incidents throughout my life when my behaviour fitted the basic pattern of manic depression swinging between being miserable and grumpy, or hyperactive and extrovert. The deep depressions are easy to label as a mental illness, but the manic and belligerent episodes get labelled simply as ‘character’. Sometimes productive and creative, and sometimes a pain in the arse. Yep, that’s me. Or at least, that’s what I used to be. These days, people who should know – like my family – say that I am a much more amiable person. I am also out of work.
“I won’t go into all the details of my departure from Springwatch and Autumnwatch, partly because I have never been fully able to work them out. Suffice it to say that I believe that a manic phase of the bipolar was the reason that I was eventually told: ‘We won’t be asking you to do the next series.’ It almost sounds like a judge teasing a contestant on The X Factor. ‘We won’t be asking you… We’ll be telling you!’ At which point I hug the BBC Head of Natural History! (That’ll be the day.) No such luck. The words I was hearing were a euphemism for ‘You’re fired!’ I almost wish that was what they’d said. I imagine it is much easier to be indignant and defiant when you are curtly told: ‘You’re fired.’ If they’d said that I would probably have stomped out. Instead, I cried.
“Frankly, I never did get a detailed explanation, but I have to acknowledge that during my final Autumnwatch on Brownsea Foreword 11 Island and even more so during location filming for a series called Inspired by Nature, I was ultra-critical, domineering, over-confident, impatient, etc. These are all things I have been on and off all my life, but in a state of bipolar-type mania, everything is heightened and more overpowering for those you work and live with. I am not saying that the BBC fired me because they realised that I was bipolar. They didn’t know. And neither did I until the last month of the following year during which I was twice hospitalised for my own safety (a euphemism I’ll leave you to decipher) and had to meet the crippling costs of private care, which didn’t make me feel any cheerier! Ironically, it was when I was admitted to an NHS Crisis Centre that a doctor announced: ‘I am putting you on lithium.’ Only a week or two later, I heard one of my daughters ringing round with the glad tidings: ‘He’s back!’. Just in time for Christmas! By the new year I felt fine and I have been that way ever since. I can’t claim that lithium is a guaranteed cure for bipolar but it works for some people. It has worked for me.”
If you would like to read more about Bill Oddie’s life and once-in-a-lifetime experiences with some of nature’s most amazing creatures, you can buy Unplucked now!