I just heard about Brandon Marshall, the Miami Dolphins football player who recently announced his diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Marshall, who admitted that he had suffered from some undiagnosed malady for years has a long standing reputation as being hot-headed and explosive. In fact, both he and his wife were arrested after a domestic incident that involved her stabbing him in the stomach out of “self defense”.
To be clear, I don’t put quotes around “self defense” to sarcastically suggest Marshall’s wife was the true antagonist and merely offering a cop-out for her violent actions. Instead, I mention her claim because it was probably *exactly* what happened: Marshall had a BPD rage, became violent and threatening, and she was forced to protect herself. My own BPD rages frequently get out of control and have become confrontational at times. Luckily, the only person hurt during my outbursts has been me. I’m actually grateful this is the case.
What was surprising about Marshall outing himself as a sufferer of BPD was that he did so during a public press conference in front of the media, coaching staff, and fellow team members. He was brutally honest about his condition and almost seemed relieved he could finally lend a name to it; something that had troubled him for years. In fact, Marshall had been seeing doctors regularly since joining the NFL, only to be left with more questions than answers. Finally, after a battery of psychological and physical exams, the doctors concluded it was BPD.
I’m not a hardcore fan of the NFL. I occasionally watch a game now and then, and have always enjoyed Super Bowl Sunday. I didn’t play football as a youth because I was small and lanky, more suited to running track and cross country. During high school, all the “big kids” went out for football each year. Most of these guys had played in community youth leagues for years, and were your stereotypical high school big-shots that were loud and occasional bullies.
At first glance, football comes off as one of those sports where all the players beat their chests in the locker room before a big game. Thoughts of grueling weight lifting, charging tackling dummies, and practicing complex plays also comes to mind. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart both literally and figuratively. Today’s professional football players are like warriors going to battle every Sunday, kicking the shit out of each other to get down the field towards the endzone. It’s this tough, testosterone fueled action that most men love to watch in person or behind the TV.
That’s why Marshall’s press conference was so unusual. When was the last time the star quarterback at your high school or college admitted he suffered from depression, or had some other mental illness? Probably never. If you’re a true NFL football player, you don’t suffer from mental problems. Your challenges are physical. Add the fact that most people diagnosed with BPD are women and you have all the makings of a confession that literally brought NFL fans to a standstill.
I’ll paraphrase one of Marshall’s most poignant remarks: “I’m a Pro Bowl player…I have a great, smart wife…We have three beautiful dogs…but with all that said, I haven’t enjoyed not one moment of it.” Whether or not you like football, it’s clear this was a pivotal moment in this man’s life, one that will resonate deeply with close friends, family, teammates, and random people that have interacted with an angry, BPD powered Brandon Marshall. I’ve never contemplated telling even my closest of friends (little that I have) that I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, let alone get up before the nation’s entire sports media and admit it to the world. I give Marshall a lot of credit: it was an incredibly courageous moment.
All that said, Marshall realizes he’s not cured. He’s been treated with some psychotherapy in the off-season, but time for the doctors will be slim to none next month when the NFL regular season begins. He’s done some healing, but there’s still a long way to go. My advice to anyone close to Marshall, particularly his family, friends, and teammates is to give him some breathing room. It’s certainly a relief to finally know what was going on with him, but that doesn’t mean things suddenly become easy. Without a doubt he’ll probably continue to suffer from BPD for this football season and for years to come. Things can go either way: the next time he’s behind a microphone might be because he’s celebrating a Super Bowl ring, or because he’s in trouble with the law again.
There’s a silver lining to the story involving the stabbing he suffered from his wife. All charges were dropped last Friday. Marshall and his wife will now press forward – a little older and wiser – but more importantly better informed about why their life was upside down, and what can be done to fix it.
If you’re involved in sports and think you might suffer from BPD or any other mental illness, talk to someone you trust and get help. It’s the right thing to do for yourself and those around you, the sooner, the better.