To Brandon Marshall, Who Helped Me Face My Mental Illness
Even though you have one of the most “alpha-male” careers as an extremely accomplished NFL wide-receiver for the New York Jets, you have inspired a little girl to put back together the pieces of her life.
A little over a year ago, my older brother Wes told me about you and about your story. I remember distinctly we were at my younger brother’s away football game in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was in the midst of a manic episode, but it was on the decline.
I had just withdrawn for the third time from my semester at Clemson University where I should have been a junior.
“Have you ever heard of Brandon Marshall?” He asked me. I told him I had heard your name but I didn’t know anything about you. He told me about how you wore lime-green cleats during a game for mental health awareness. He told me about how you were fined by the NFL for the cleats and that you matched the fine to donate to mental health organizations.
“This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started and awareness raised,” you wrote on Twitter afterwards.
Football is my platform not my purpose. This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started & awareness raised. pic.twitter.com/P9GNygFpH9
— Machine Marshall (@BMarshall) October 16, 2013
In almost an instant, you had become my hero.
I went home and looked up more about your story. That you have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and went through the difficult but necessary journey of piecing back together your life and making sense of it all at McLean Hospital.
Then, you opened up about your BPD and told the world at a press conference.
Even though we’re so different, we are so the same. I saw myself in your story. I thought wow, this man really understands me and what I’ve been through. Which is strange, because we’ve never met. Also the fact that you’re a pro-athlete and I’m a 5’3 college student. We look different, but I understand you. I’ve lashed out. I’ve felt like I didn’t belong. I’ve felt rejected. I’ve been unsupported. I’ve been misunderstood.
I also have the same desires you did to inform people of what I’ve been through. To give people an opportunity to understand. To not hide. To use our story. Your wife Michi said as she was getting wrongfully arrested, “Someone is going to learn from our story.”
She was right.
Not just someone, many someones. And I am one of them.
I cannot thank you enough for putting the whole team of mental illness on your back. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in a career that seems to inspire the opposite.
Thank you for unknowingly welcoming so many out of their shadows and into the light.
Thank you for messaging me back today and telling me how you were so proud of me. I nearly fell over in my class and that’s not an exaggeration. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face or the joyful tears from welling in my eyes as I flashed back to that moment this time last year when I first heard your name.
Thank you for all that you’ve done for this community and for the world. Can’t wait to paint the world lime green together.
The young woman you inspired to break free from the shame and chains of her illness.
p.s. I’ll be keeping the Lego Brandon Marshall figurine that my brother got me on my dresser, always.