Everybody is fighting a battle.
We live in an age where our social media personas can often blind those from seeing what really exists inside of us. Sometimes, you may never know what someone may be going through. Although I don’t usually talk too much about my personal life, I am happy to share this part of my story with you. In order to understand where I am today, let’s first take it back to my childhood.
Growing up, I would consider myself a happy kid for the most part. I was almost spoiled in a way. My parents didn’t necessarily go overboard, but I had few complaints. I loved going outside, playing with toys, video games, sports, and more. I did it all. Just like any normal kid.
However, my family moved often and that steadily started to become more of the norm. I moved so much as a kid and as a teenager that it began to wear me down. It was really difficult for me to deal with. It seemed like every day I’d pass somewhere I had once lived at some point.
TW: mentions of suicide
Change of Plans
If the constant moving was the quarterback pressure, then my parent’s forthcoming divorce was the sack-fumble. When my mother and father got a divorce, things began to change. Although they told me it wasn’t my fault, it still shook me to my core. Once I got older, I was able to handle it better.
The transition from family life to a single-parent home was difficult. Oftentimes, I took the brunt of it, but my escape was always football. In between those white lines, I could be immune from all outside noise. I would get lost in the game and for those few hours each week, I was free.
Yet inevitably, the game always had to end. From youth football through high school football, after games, I would often just sit around and hang out. I’d talk to other people’s parents and families. It was difficult without both of my parents being there. Seeing everybody happy with their moms and dads was honestly heartbreaking.
Now don’t get me wrong: my mom would definitely come up to me, congratulate me, and support me, but it just felt different without my biological father or my step-father there. So coaches or other family members would take the place of a father figure and show that unconditional love to me. My parents did the best they could, so I couldn’t be too disappointed in the situation. Being a single parent, mother or father is not always easy, so I commend the ones that do it. I especially commend the kids who are having to deal with that.
What is depression? Depression is feelings of severe despondency and dejection. I was diagnosed with depression between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Finally, my behavior took an unexpected turn for the absolute worst. I began having suicidal thoughts.
Feeling so incredibly helpless, I finally decided to confide in my mom for the very first time.
And after that conversation, I was alone no more.
Shortly after speaking with my mom, I started seeing a therapist and taking medication (still do). Sometimes I’d feel really alone and only want to be to myself. I could be at a party having an enjoyable time, then a few minutes later be sitting by myself and not want to talk to anyone. People would ask me what’s wrong, but I would be reluctant to tell them. It’s hard to explain, but it just comes with depression.
Thoughts of suicide can be scary, but you have to know that it’s not the solution. Suicide is never the answer and I express that notion often. A lot of people will ask me how I deal with my depression, PTSD, anxiety, and etc and I love sharing in order to help others.
As a football player, you’re taught to never reveal weakness and I took that notion to heart. As I transferred that mindset into my personal life, my first thought was that my mental health could never affect me on the football field, right? The football field was my safe haven, after all.
I became increasingly distant from my teammates. There would be times at practice and games where you would find me by myself with my head down. Silent. Totally removed from the equation.
If I didn’t play well, I’d be really down on myself. But there were a few teammates that I could always lean on for advice. I really appreciate those guys for always having my back. They know who they are.
Life Changing Experience
In October 2015, I was robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. It was an extremely traumatizing experience because I had never seen anything like that before. My family was really worried at the time about my health, but I was ok. I didn’t suffer any physical harm, but this did cause me to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I would have frequent nightmares and wake up sweating. It added another layer to my mental health journey, but one that I have also learned to manage.
I’ve been managing all of these things with the help of my faith. I trust in God to get me through whatever I go through. And not only do I hope to get through these hard times, but also to grow through them. I know that there have been many people who have experienced the same things –constant moving, divorce, mental illness –and have been able to overcome them. I highly recommend therapy as a way to express or open up about whatever struggles you may be facing. It really helped me a lot.
My role models consist of mostly athletes, but Odell Beckham Jr. and Tyrann Mathieu would be my main role models or favorite athletes. I feel like I can relate to them the most. Both of them have such a passion for the game, despite the trials and tribulations that they have faced. What I admire most about them is their ability to bounce back from any situation thrown their way.
Odell and Tyrann both had to deal with a lot, both off the field and on. Whether it’s been personal issues or injuries, both were able to recover from it all. I’ve had to bounce back a lot in my life, so it’s really nothing new to me. But when I look back on the challenges they faced, it motivates me to keep striving for better. If they can bounce back from anything then I know that I can too.
Being an inspiration is one of the things I love the most. I’m so passionate about helping others and just doing the right thing. I want to be the person that kids, teenagers, and adults look up to. A lot of people will tell me that I’ve inspired them because of my story and it’s something I take a lot of pride in.
I try to take things that I learned from my role models and pass that along to others in effort to help them as well. Despite what I go through or have been through, all I ever want to do is help others and put a smile on their faces. This has always been a major priotity for me. And having the support of friends, family, and fans is a major blessing for me. Because of them, I will continue to strive for greatness and to continue be a role model to more and more people.
Mental Health Awareness
I plan to do more towards raising awareness for mental health. No matter if it’s charity work or teaming up with organizations, I want to do whatever it takes to help others. My heart is filled with joy whenever I have the opportunity to share my mental health story, as I hope it can inspire others who are struggling with similar things.
We all go through trials and tribulations, but we have the ability to bounce back from them. You just have to stay motivated and continue to be great. It’s all about growth and maturing. Like I said before, don’t just go through it, grow through it.
Always have the mentality to bounce back and never give up.
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