Terry Bradshaw is a common name among football followers.
From 1970 through 1983, Bradshaw was the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers after being drafted first overall in the 1970 NFL Draft out of Louisiana Tech. He amassed four Super Bowl victories in just six seasons.
Together with his club, Bradshaw won eight AFC Central titles. He has been named the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl twice, and he has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. In 1989, his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Also suffering from clinical depression is Terry Bradshaw. In 1999, a diagnosis was made.
Some of the serotonin in his brain isn’t regulated properly, so he takes medication for that.
“When you’re clinically depressed the serotonin in your brain is out of balance and probably always will be out of balance. To restore equilibrium, I must take medication. I anticipate needing to take it forever.”
He’s Not Alone.
More than 20 million American adults experience major depressive episodes each year, with women about twice as likely to do so as men, as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
These illnesses include major depressive disorder—often called clinical depression—dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder. Major depressive disorder is the main cause of disability in the United States.
According to Bradshaw, “depression is a medical ailment.” “The beauty of it is that there are drugs that work. Observe me. My constant good mood makes it hard for others to believe that I suffer from depression.”
After retiring from the NFL (a topic for another story), Bradshaw was able to talk openly about his struggles with serious depression. After games, he would frequently have panic episodes, he said.
When Terry went through his third divorce in 1999, things got even worse. Unlike after his first two divorces or a bad game, he couldn’t seem to shake his despair this time around.
People with mental illness aren’t immune to this “awareness of no control,” as I call it. High school freshman year was the worst point of my life when I completely lost control. Bradshaw experienced it much later than I did, but it still hurts just as much.
Bradshaw lost weight, cried frequently, and had trouble sleeping before his breakdown. He has been able to control his symptoms with the help of the antidepressant Paxil.
The signs of clinical depression include:
- Feelings of depression and/or anxiety that won’t go away
- Negative emotions such as despair, shame, and helplessness
- Anhedonia—loss of interest or pleasure in pleasant activities, including sex
- Symptoms such as low vitality or exhaustion
- Difficulty focusing, remembering, and/or making a choice
- Problems falling asleep or staying asleep
- Alterations to eating habits, loss of appetite, or development of appetite
- Suicidal ideation and behavior
The Hall of Famer has admitted, “It’s hard for me to put into words the horrible feeling of being sad.” “Believing that you are miserable and alone is the sickest feeling in the world.”
Bradshaw, like many people who struggle with depression but aren’t properly diagnosed, turned to alcohol as a means of coping.
I was drinking a lot and I didn’t like the direction my life was going in,” Bradshaw says. “I was worried about the future. Death by alcohol might have been imminent, but I couldn’t be sure.”
In a pastor, Terry Bradshaw found the first person who was able to provide him with sound advice. He took the first steps toward seeking professional assistance by researching potential therapists and psychologists.
Readers should be aware that there is no one, effective treatment for mental illness. Another powerful resource for helping people with depression manage their emotions and go forward with their lives is talk therapy.
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While depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide, far too few people seek treatment for it. Following Terry’s motivation and example, I’ve taken charge of my recovery from bipolar and borderline personality disorders. I know it’s hard for Bradshaw and me, and I’m sure it’s hard for anyone dealing with mental illness, but it has to be done.
Taking responsibility for your mental health is a brave and courageous step.
If you are suffering from depression, and it has lasted for more than two weeks and contains several of the symptoms above, you should probably contact your family doctor. Your doctor can then send you to a therapist, psychiatrist, or both. Check out NAMI.org if you don’t have a regular doctor.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
I pray that others struggling with mental health issues might find inspiration in Terry Bradshaw’s experience. Despite his struggles with depression, he has established himself as a legend in the National Football League, a respected commentator, and a doting dad.
Losing the worry that others would disapprove of you is not easy. Discover the transformative power of friendship by befriending a person who is struggling with mental health issues.
I appreciate everything you’ve done, Terry.