A Man
Overboard

 

 

An interview with Terry Bradshaw


This four-time Super Bowl Champion has done it all - he's been a record-setting quarter back, actor, author, motivational speaker, singer, and football analyst for CBS and FOX.

Terry Bradshaw has also been clinically depressed. (See www.terryandricky.com)

I happened to see Bradshaw, one of my childhood heroes, on HBO the other day talking with Armen Keteyian for Real Sports. When I heard the Hall of Famer talk about his depression, I had to ask myself "did you know he suffered with a mood disorder?" I had to answer "I did not know that."

The two-time Super Bowl MVP was on a promotional tour in Los Angeles for the anti-depressant Paxil when I spoke with him by telephone. I might as well have been leanin' over the fence in Shreveport, Louisiana (where he grew up) and talkin' with him like a next door neighbor.

"Talking about depression is such a hard thing to do," he chuckled. "It's so depressing."

With his outward good 'ol boy persona, he didn't seem so depressed to me later that night shucking and jiving with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. Then again, Bradshaw told me he was a loner when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, going home after games and crying "for no apparent reason."

"It didn't matter if I'd won or lost the game," he explained. "I had horrible anxiety attacks. Those were killing me, wearing me out. You see people that you think are happy,but they're not."

Throwing a career 27,989 yards and 212 TDs passing just wasn't getting the job done for Bradshaw.

"Winning didn't make me happy," he continued. "Nothing fulfilled me. I thought maybe if I won a Super Bowl ... then maybe two Super Bowls will make me happy, or three or four ... but nothing pleased me. Nothing relieved me. I couldn't escape it."

Bradshaw said he didn't seek help until he came to a personal "crossroads."

"I looked at who I was and I didn't like the person I saw," he said. "I had to find out if this was the way I was going to be for the rest of my life, because I didn't like it. That's when I sought help."

The football great said he discovered Paxil, an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. (See more info at http://www.paxil.com)

"Before the medication, I'd be in a crowd and come away with this feeling of anxiety," he recalled. "Only later do you see you had a problem."

So, do "real men" take pills to be happy?

"That's depression and you don't explain it," he declared, "but when you get the proper medication, and for me it was Paxil, all of a sudden you see the sun come up and feel the breeze and feel the joy of living and loving people. You give instead of take. Plus, you think things through carefully before going out and buying another horse."

Bradshaw operates a 400-acre quarter horse breeding farm and cattle ranch in Grand Cane, Louisiana.

"I'm still doing everything I've always done," he said. "I'm experiencing life as it should be."

The man who called his own plays in the NFL said he is still driven to be successful.

"Being successful is fun," he intoned, with a big laugh. "The more you make, the more you can give away and help people.

As he nears the age of 50, Bradshaw said he sleeps better, feels healthier and more content now than at any time in his life.

"If I wasn't on Paxil, I'd be married again," he exclaimed, chortling. "If I'd been on Paxil 20 years ago, I'd never have been married!"

Coming from a close-knit family has also helped support Bradshaw with his mood disorder. He said he still plays horseshoes and cards with his uncles, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers at family get-togethers.

"My grandfather had no enemies," he recalled. "He was a sweet man who never said an unkind word about anybody. And he was funny. I also remember my Uncle Carl, we'd call him 'Uncle Duck' because he combed his hair like a duck's butt. "

Bradshaw said he communicates regularly with his mom and dad.

"I love my dad to death," he said. "I was like the little buzzard who didn't want to leave the nest."

If #12 is getting a negative reaction to talking about his disease, he said he's not hearing about it.

"I don't think people dare send them to me," he said, laughing. "And if it is a negative thing, it's their thing. Why be upset with someone who's trying to help people? I do know of a radio station in Texas that hammered me, but then again they never liked me anyway. And in the end, nobody can say I didn't come clean. You gotta come clean if you're going to get help."

So, this is where I come clean. My doctor scolded me more than two years ago for refusing to try an anti-depressant. I was experiencing paralyzing physical ailments that nobody could identify. I saw a series of specialists. Somebody suggested it might be stress related. I refused to believe I could possibly have a mood disorder. I was too tough. Only weak men took pills to be happy, I thought. Finally, however, the emotional and physical discomfort humbled me enough to try an SSRI.

Like Bradshaw, I currently treat my anxiety with Paxil. I too am nearing 50 and am healthy and happy again.

Now if I can just get my throwing arm back ...

© 2005 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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