By no means am I all healed or fixed, but it’s like a light bulb has been turned on in my dark room. – Brandon Marshall, NFL Receiver
If your a fan of the National Football League, you’ve been hearing a lot lately about the racist and over-the-line harassment of Miami Dolphin’s offensive lineman Jonathan Martin by his teammate Richie Incognito.
Chicago Bear’s receiver Brandon Marshall says it’s time for change in the NFL.
Marshall, himself a former Dolphin, brings an important voice to this controversy because of his courage to share about his own struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD.) BPD features difficulties with emotional regulation, extreme fear of abandonment that makes relationships volatile and unstable, with addictive and impulsive behavior that wreak havoc in one’s life…and without treatment lead to self injury and suicide. Brandon shares about the destruction this disorder caused in his own personal life.
Marshall sees the problems of bullying and harassment found in the Incognito/Martin scandal as part of the culture of many NFL locker rooms, and something that needs to change.
Marshall, reflecting on Martin’s struggle with Incognito’s abuse touches on a deeper issue that men face when dealing with painful emotions such as abuse, grief, shame, anxiety and loneliness:
Look at it from this standpoint,” Marshall said. “Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate her feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 – with NFL football players. You can’t show that your hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem.
There are times when a man needs to suppress his pain, his fear and anxiety for a time in order to fight a battle, complete an essential task, or protect those he loves. This is part of being a man…and definitely part of being a football player. On Sundays in the Fall we want our NFL Gladiators to put aside their pain, their vulnerabilities and focus on doing whatever it takes to win the game.
Marshall is challenging the NFL to balance the violent macho culture that is necessary for game day battles, with the support these men need when they step back from the fray, and try and recover from the football wars. Even the toughest warrior needs an outlet where he can share emotional pain, struggles in his personal life, an abusive teammate, or when battling physical and emotional illness. Unless we create safe havens for men to recover, this can have disastrous effects on their personal lives, as we learned from Brandon’s Marshall’s struggles with BPD. This untreated pain can be masked as anger (often hurting loved ones), or suppressed with addictions to drugs, promiscuity and pornography.
Despite the macho lies men are fed, facing difficult emotions or coming to terms with an emotional illness or addiction does not make a man a coward or a weakling. Brandon Marshall has not been weakened by his recovery. He has never been more productive and satisfied in his personal and professional life.
…Marshall is a different man with a different team…the seven-year vet and three-time Pro Bowler is the NFL’s most targeted receiver, is on pace for a 1,500-yard season, and has been happily reunited with Jay Cutler, his quarterback from 2006 through 2008 with the Denver Broncos. In a Wednesday interview, Marshall compared his relationship with Cutler to the football version of a (relatively functional) marriage, and said he’s never been happier.
Breaking the Isolation-Finding a Voice
As Co Founder of the largest outreach in the world to men and women suffering after abortion Rachel’s Vineyard, we have listened to the stories of thousands of men involved in abortion decisions. Men are given a very clear message when their partner or wife is making an abortion decision; their feelings are to be strictly quarantined so she is free to make the right decision. Even though he is a father of that unborn child, he has no voice.
Sadly, other men encourage or even coerce their partner to abort, even when she is ambivalent or against the decision to have an abortion. But these men suffer as well when they come to a clearer understanding of their actions and the consequences. Regardless of their role in an abortion decision, men often experience grief, anger, depression and anxiety after the procedure. But they feel they have nowhere to turn with the pain. Like Jonathan Martin struggling with his abuser Incognito, they have no idea that others feel like they do, or where to turn for help.
For Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, understanding his BPD, and getting the right help to treat his condition was life-saving:
With treatment and understanding of his condition, Marshall feels that he has a new lease on life. Now, he wants to help others with his condition get to that same happier place. When he went public with his diagnosis, Marshall said that he wanted to be the “face of BPD,” and he’s living up his word with a foundation that tries to facilitate treatment and understanding. (Yahoo Sports)
Given the nature of his illness, this will be an ongoing process with the help of friends, teammates and professionals to keep his life on track. Now he wants to reach out to help others.
This is the same trajectory you find in the abortion healing movement as groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign educate, raise awareness and provide a forum for women and men to share the truth of their abortion loss and recovery, and reach out to others so they can find healing.
Brandon Marshall points the way for the millions of men who have been involved in an abortion decision. Just like bullying in NFL locker rooms, it is a difficult issue to confront, and sometimes people will try to silence your voice and shame you. But Like Marshall, unless you understand the symptoms and nature of your condition and reach out for the help you need, it will continue to cause problems in your life.
If you are a man who was involved in an abortion decision, don’t try to go it alone.
Like Marshall, if you can get past your fear and reach out for help, you will emerge a stronger and more productive man.
There are times when a man needs to fight, to ignore his pain and stand tall in the battles of this life. Football players like Brandon Marshall do it every Sunday in the NFL.
But a wise man knows when to step back from the battle and with the help of others recover from his wounds.