THERE’S a startling moment in the opening page of Ali Douglas’s book in which she writes about wading into the Spanish sea, a bottle of Valium in her hand, suicide on her mind. The TV sports presenter, once such a familiar and popular figure on our screens, had been left with intense mental and physical torture by her latest bout of depression that killing herself seemed like the only option available. She was just 27. She had it all planned out, but what brought her back from the brink were thoughts of the family she would have left behind.

Douglas had suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness for as long as she could remember. It would not be until 2009, when she was 35, that she was diagnosed with Bipolar II. She remains forever grateful to the psychiatrist, a woman who exuded “a beautiful warmth and empathy”, who made the pronouncement, after which Douglas underwent medication and therapy.

Today, Douglas, 44, a mental health advocate, shares her life with boyfriend James (“Handsome Doc”, a consultant anaesthetist) and her five-year-old son, ‘MK’, from a previous marriage. They live a contented life in Surrey.

Her book, Beautiful Chaos, chronicles in frank detail her illness, from the compulsive rages, mood swings and turbulence that first surfaced in her formative years, but it also focuses on her career, which saw her start with Scottish Television and go on to work for Setanta, Sky Sports News and Rangers TV, and present the ITN national news.

Douglas also writes with commendable honesty about her use of drink and drugs, including cocaine, as a means of escape. Her story is a reminder of the truth that just because someone is leading a life of fame and glamour, it doesn’t mean that their life is untroubled. Douglas had suffered many bouts of debilitating depression in her time, as well as “frightening and exhausting highs.”

“The book started as an anonymous blog, which I started in February last year,” she says. “I’d been quite secretive about [the illness] before and felt it was the time; I just felt comfortable and that perhaps, given how far I’d come, it might be something that I could help other people with. It might sound strange, but I almost felt duty-bound.”

The blog prompted “a really good reaction”, which gave her the confidence to continue it. “People have written to say, ‘thank you for opening up’ and that it has helped them, and make them feel less alone.”

The book’s early chapters detail the highs and lows, the obsessive behaviour and the awful insecurities that the adolescent Douglas had to endure. Her parents often had their hands full with her, and her father often bore the brunt of her verbal outbursts. “I think bipolar quite often manifests in the early teens. There’s no doubt that I was born with some sort of disposition to mental illness and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 19 and spent some time in a private mental health hospital in Glasgow. Still I wasn’t diagnosed properly.

“It was only when I was 35 when this fantastic psychiatrist diagnosed me. She was just amazing. She changed my life. She was so calm and quiet and understood what I was saying, so I felt I could be open with her. It’s only been the last nine years in which I’ve had the ability to manage [the illness]. It’s been a huge change in life, and in the meaning of life for me, since I’ve been diagnosed.”

To this day, she “massively” regrets the way in which her younger self often spoke to her father. “My dad is a good man and they tried so hard to understand what I was going through,” she reflects. “I can see them now, looking at me and thinking, ‘what can we do? What’s going on in her head?’ But so little was known about mental health then, and they wouldn’t automatically think they could do something to help. I really beat myself up about the way I spoke to them, particularly my dad, for many, many, many years, but we’ve spoken a lot since then and my dad understands why all of that was going on at the time – he knows it wasn’t actually me.

“In the really, really bad times, even up to my late teens, it may sound a bit silly but I craved a hug from my dad. I needed to feel safe. My mum’s wonderful, she always tried her best to understand what was going on with her middle daughter. They have both been so solid throughout it all. They have both been an absolute rock”

Douglas has learned how to cope with what she long ago termed her “gremlin”, the catalyst for her extreme behaviour over the years, though she acknowledges that this particular gremlin “has had more comebacks than Liberace.” She loathes it, or him as she terms it, for imposing himself on her and her loved ones, and still dreads his presence, but, as she writes, “I’m better armed than I used to be, and he doesn’t scare me anymore.”

It may be that the early chapters will resound with young people who are experiencing a similar turbulence and unpredictability, and such wild swings in mood, and have not been properly diagnosed yet. Their parents might find her words interesting too.

“It takes an average of 10-and-a-half years for someone to be diagnosed as bipolar,” Douglas says. “It’s strange, but you’ll get an average of three-and-a-half misdiagnoses. These figures reflect my own story, even though it took a lot longer than 10 years for me to receive the correct diagnosis.

“Young people’s mental health, and that of teenage girls’, has become a massive issue, and I wonder whether it is more prevalent with boys because they don’t want to open up about these things. It’s said that one in four people are blighted with some kind of mental-health problem, so there must be so many people out there who are not yet diagnosed and who could perhaps be helped with diagnosis, by the right treatment and the right meds. I just want to point them all in the right direction.”

She speaks of the “incredible community, some of them anonymous” on social media who are intent on helping others. She says she wishes more young people were aware of this. Douglas approves of the Chancellor’s £2bn real-terms increase in mental health funding but regrets that there is still a “massive stigma” surrounding mental health, especially in the workplace. “I get a lot of feedback from people saying it’s particularly difficult in the workplace. I certainly found that. I came out of the closet, so to speak, only after I retired from television presenting, and that made it much easier. You have worries that people in the workplace will see you as unreliable.”

She recalls all the elaborate excuses – repeated migraines, a badly vandalised car – she used, when deeply depressed, to avoid coming into work.

She recently met a producer she worked with at Rangers TV. She told him about the book. “We had a fabulous chat about it,” she says. “It turned out that I could have opened up to him at the time, but you’re just so nervous about doing that sort of personal thing in the workplace.”

Beautiful Chaos: A Life Worth Living with Bipolar; Trigger paperback, £11.99, Nov 14. Ali Douglas tweets @talkandcheese and blogs at

Life and Loves: Ali Douglas

Career high: Reporting live on Helicopter Sunday [in 2005] when, against all odds, Rangers won the league, and the commentator famously said, “The helicopter has changed direction” in reference to the fact that the trophy was on its way to Motherwell to present to Celtic, but it had to do a U-turn to go to Hibs for Rangers. Goosebumps moment, and we had a huge celebration with the players and staff at Ibrox that night. I travelled back on the team bus too, which was just such a buzz - we were all in shock, but ecstatic!

Career low: Presenting the SPL when I was very ill and visibly crumbled on screen every week. This was the most excruciating and demoralising period in my 25-year career.

Favourite film: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan. Shawshank Redemption is up there too though.

Last book read: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

Best character trait: I have a huge heart.

Worst character trait: I spend too much time organising my life in advance, to the point of being in danger of missing out on what’s happening in the here and now.

Best piece of advice ever received: To be proud of who I am and never to make excuses for myself.

Favourite meal: Sushi.

Favourite music: Foo Fighters, although on the opposite end of the spectrum I’m a lifelong Carpenters fan, and know every single word to every single song.

Favourite holiday destination: So far, Bali, although our trip to Columbia this year is likely to top that.

Ideal dinner party guests: My boyfriend, James, my handful of dearest friends, who all bring something different; Peter Kay for humour (he also seems very warm and lovely); Carrie Fisher to talk bipolar and cause some controversy, Mary Berry for a touch of class and to do the cooking, and David Beckham for some eye candy.