Being a black man and a football player you learn at a young age not to show pain or any form of weakness. My pops used to say “Never let em see you hurt” and I carried that mindset throughout a good portion of adult life. Mental health is something that athletes sweep under the rug because we think it makes us look soft. Imagine being respected for your strength and aggression but having to admit you need help mentally. Back in 2014 I had my wake-up call and it was from a person I least expected. I spent the night at a woman’s house and out of nowhere I just became really angry. She didn’t do anything wrong and in that moment I blacked out. I screamed at her at 4 am about how I really wanted to be with another woman, I even threatened to leave in the middle of the night. Prior to that incident I had been losing control of my emotions I would be happy and smiling then aggressive and melancholy. This affected my personal life mainly but carried over into my work life. People would loosely suggest therapy but I thought that was for “crazy people”; not knowing how ignorant I was at the time. Verizon offered a free employee help line that you could call and speak with licensed therapists, it intrigued me but I wasn’t sold on it. Finally I decided to give them a call and it was like they could read my mind. The mood swings, random acts of violence, and the depression all made sense. She said that it seemed like I was suffering from borderline personality disorder but I should follow up locally with a professional to confirm. I used to think that I was crazy because I couldn’t control my thoughts, honestly I couldn’t even control my own happiness. There were days that I would go into work smiling and as soon as I clocked in a sense of frustration would kick in.
I decided to see a therapist regularly and I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. My therapist told me things about myself that I hadn’t even thought of. I was carrying so much trauma from my past that I internalized which usually would come out in a negative way. She diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and depression. It scared me because I impacted so many lives in a negative way because I didn’t get the help I needed sooner. I would date women temporarily and at random just give up on them. These were women that I knew that cared for me deeply but I was too selfish to care about that. My attitude was all about me and I how I felt, not once being empathetic to the pain that my actions caused. Throughout the years I’ve made a point to apologize to those women for the way I treated them. Surprisingly each women accepted my apology and they admitted to seeing a positive change in the man I was becoming. Life has taught me that accountability is directly linked to growth. Therapy saved my life because my instability would’ve caused me to make a life-changing mistake. I would encourage everyone to try therapy out even if everything seems to be okay. Past trauma isn’t always easily visible and it takes the right kind of help to heal from it. Reliving past trauma is hurtful but once you acknowledge it then it becomes easier to fix.
If I told you I was fully healed mentally I would be lying. This is an ongoing fight that I have to manage daily. I still have my days that I want to be alone in seclusion from everyone but now I fight through them. It also helps having a woman by your side that understands and nurtures you. Instead of letting me be in a depressive state she talks me through it and I notice my mood brightens when we have those talks. I’ve considered medication but I don’t want it to stifle my personality or deal with the side effects. Fellas it’s okay to get help with your mental health the most important muscle we have is our brains. If we can spend 5 days a weeks improving our physical fitness why not devote some time to our mental fitness. Therapy helped me in every aspect of my life it even helped me on the field. Im more mindful of how I motivate the guys, I even try to get an understanding of what their life is like off the field. Change won’t come easy but the reward can last a lifetime. I titled this blog removing the mask because I want to remove the stigma of mental health shaming amongst men.