One of the biggest misconceptions the public has about people who suffer with bipolar disorder is that their personalities are so unpredictable that they might fly off the handle on any person they meet at the drop of the hat.
The reality of living with the disorder is that those who suffer from it don't just see their moods turn on a dime. Many people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder have some of the most caring personalities you will ever encounter. According to Mark Occhilupo, that's just who Andy Irons was.
Occy–as he's affectionately known–was the 1999 world champion and is regarded as one of the most honest voices in the world of surfing. He's been brutally open about his own struggles with depression and drug addiction, and his highly acclaimed podcast (called the "Occ-Cast") is one of the most regularly revealing pieces of content in surf media.
In short, Occy pulls no punches. And that's why, when Occy says that Andy was one of the kindest people on tour, you know he isn't bluffing.
"He was always himself; he was the most loving, passionate human, and he showed that in front of the whole world," Lyndie Irons told TGR about Andy's personality." He was just so loving and sweet, but he showed that too to the world. So, it wasn't that he was one way or another. He was always very himself. Amazing."
As mental health professionals have noted, bipolar disorder is a disorder of dysregulation. In short, the mind loses its ability to regulate actions, and so those who suffer with bipolar tend to experience, and display, emotions in excess. So while that can manifest itself in crippling lows, it can also be seen in hyper-affectionate loving behavior.
And the stories about Andy's warm nature to strangers are plentiful.
I don't know. He connected with kids so well. I don't know. 'Cause I think he wasn't, he was silly and goofy and wasn't afraid to not be himself and I think kids are real appreciative of that, now that I have a kid. They like the silly goofy, down to earth. But Andy would know... I don't know. He watched a lot of cartoons. [chuckle] A lot. So, he had that in common maybe too. I hated it.
"We enjoyed many quiet times together with our girls in the last year [of Andy's life] and I got to know a happy, funny, innocent kid who was happy to live every second with the people he loved," Kelly Slater told Surfer following Andy's passing. "He was the most intense competitor I’ve ever known and one of the most sensitive people."
Indeed, one common thread present in many of the anecdotes shared regarding Andy after his passing was his childlike personality and enthusiasm. He regularly would spend hours on the beach after contests just hanging with local groms.
"He was so good with kids," said Lyndie Irons. "I think they were like him, like honest. And there was no ulterior motive. They were just honest, and didn't want anything from him other then just hanging out."
"I know that in his heart he wanted his legacy to be: He wanted to change kids lives." Slater told TGR, after revealing that–prior to his death–Andy had approached him about making a movie on his struggles with addictions. "He wanted to help kids get off of drugs. He wanted to go to schools. He wanted kids in schools to watch his movie."