The Enigmatic Wide Receiver Shares His Views On the Problems That Plague Athletes – This past Sunday, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall penned a very personal, thought provoking piece for the Chicago Sun-Times. Marshall’s time in the NFL is checkered with incidents of questionable behavior. On New Year’s Day 2007, he was a witness to the shooting death of Darrent Williams, a former teammate of his during his tenure with the Denver Broncos. Court testimony says that the shooting may have been retaliation for an altercation earlier in the evening involving Marshall and his cousin. He has been involved in numerous cases of domestic violence with the women in his life. Marshall has also had repeated behind the scenes battles with the coaches on the teams he’s played for. In July of 2011, Marshall held a press conference to announce that he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental affliction that could lead to an extreme variation in mood. These mood swings can have harsh affects on a victim’s personal choices and social relationships.
Through various treatments and group therapies, Marshall has been able to gain control over his illness. He has taken it upon himself to educate the public on the benefits of seeking out real help in times mental crisis.
The cycle starts when we are young boys and girls. Let me illustrate it for you:
Li’l Johnny is outside playing and falls. His dad tells him to get up and be strong, to stop crying because men don’t cry. So even from the age of 2, our belief system begins to form this picture. We are teaching our boys not to show weakness or share any feelings or emotions, other than to be strong and tough. Is that ‘‘validating’’?
What do we do when Li’l Susie falls? We say: ‘‘It’s OK. I’m here. Let me pick you up.’’ That’s very validating, and it’s teaching our girls that expressing emotions is OK. We wonder why it’s so hard to bridge the communication gap between men and women.
This presented itself clearly when I was going through group therapy and was the only man in my groups. Better yet, I was there for three months, and there was only one other guy in the program. In therapy, I learned how to express my emotions and talk about my problems, then apply it to my real life. I had to work through my entire belief system, train myself how to think, not what to think, and let go of the things that had me in bondage. I had to bridge the gap. It wasn’t going to do it on its own. It’s a cycle.
Can you imagine how this presents itself even more so in football players? Junior Seau, Kenny McKinley, Dave Duerson, Brandon Marshall, etc. I am the only one in that group who is living because I got help before it was too late. In sports, those who show they are hurt or have mental weakness or pain are told: ‘‘You’re not tough. You’re not a man. That’s not how the players before you did it.’
The difficulty of opening up emotionally to others is something I can identify with wholeheartedly. It stems not just from being seen as weak, but from the realization that even after I’ve opened up, I sometimes find myself feeling much worse off due to the fact that the issue usually still lingers. I’ve only recently begun to share my thoughts, feelings, etc. with others. For a majority of my life, I was the type to bottle it up and hold it in, which would lead to me flying off the handle at times. It scares me to think that even with all the money and the fame, some professional athletes just can’t deal with the harsh realities of life. What is the path through this darkness? How do you find a way to cope? “The blueprint I am creating for myself will help not only other athletes, it will help suffering people all over.”, Marshall says. “We must break the cycle, and that starts with prayer and by seeking help. By understanding the pain, we can replace the hurt with love.”