Stop Walking on Eggshells

When someone in your life has borderline or narcissistic personality disorder

Football Player Brandon Marshall: The New Face of Borderline Personality Disorder

Athlete discloses diagnosis to help others and raise awareness

"My pain, resentments, and sadness give me my strength. My strength ruined my mind, body, and soul. I've been trapped all my life--not by man or cages, but by my own emotions. Where I have been, what I have seen, when I travel inside myself, can be summed up by one word. Damn!"

These are the words that open a trailer for a documentary about Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall and his struggle with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Marshall revealed his diagnosis at a Miami press conference on July 31, 2011. Newspapers and television stations quickly picked it up.

Marshall credits McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., where he spent three months undergoing intensive evaluation and treatment, for finally identifying his problem.

There were a number of times when Marshall's volatility made headlines. Marshall has been in therapy for years--league-mandated and otherwise--and has been consistently in trouble with the law since his days at the University of Central Florida. He says, "If I hadn't have been in treatment, I would have thrown away my career, and possibly my life."

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The award winning football player, nicknamed "The Beast," was arrested in March 2007 following a domestic dispute, and later in October 2007 for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was ticketed in June 2008 for a traffic offense. He also had encounters with police in Georgia.

In this article from SB Nation (which also explains BPD quite nicely), author Ali Mohamadi writes, "Picture a man who one day in training camp vows to help his team win a championship by any means necessary, then another day is suspended for punting balls out of practice and refusing to catch passes thrown his way. A man whose reputation as one of the NFL's most generous contributors to charities is rivaled only by his having compiled one of its most notorious rap sheets. A man who is considered by some reporters one of the league's most enjoyable interviews, by others its most stressful."

I've taken the transcript of Marshall's press conference and massaged his words and edited it so it reads fluidly and omits other sports talk. To read the actual transcript and see the video of the press conference, click here.  To see a trailer for the video, called "Borderline Beast," click here

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Today I am making myself vulnerable to help others who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD). I have seen my life with BPD and how it played out. My goal is to walk the halls of Congress to fight for the insurance coverage for this, and walk the halls of the National Institute of Mental Health to raise the awareness of this disorder. That is my mission moving forward. I love the game, but it's not my priority anymore. Today my journey begins.

I want to be the face of BPD.

I've accomplished more than I ever dreamed of. Not only did I become a Pro Bowl player, I became one of the highest-paid football receivers. I graduated from college and am pursuing a master's degree. I am married to a beautiful, educated woman. I have a dream home, two nice cars, and three beautiful dogs.

But I haven't enjoyed one part of it. And it's hard for me to understand why.

My wife has been affected by this more than anyone else. I can see sadness, confusion and pain in her eyes. She told me, "Someone will learn from our story." She's handle this situation with grace and love. She has exhausted herself trying to help me and trying to love me. I may lose her still, and that hurts me.

People who suffer from borderline personality disorder are not crazy. What we feel is real. People with BPD react at a high emotional level and it takes us longer to get down to baseline. I am going through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, an intense program that is teaching me how to regulate my passionate emotions, how to sit with myself and deal with things.

Yes I have been a good football player because I don't think on the football field. I just react. And with that said, I didn't think much off the field either. Everything has been all reacting. People say football players have to be able to turn the switch on and off between thinking and reacting, but there has never been a switch for me. It's always been impulsivity and just reaction. It made me who I am today. I appreciate it, my strengths, but they have also ruined me.

There is one day I just exploded and I told everybody how I felt. And then afterwards I felt really bad. I went to my teammate Ricky Williams and said, "Do you think there is something wrong with me because I can't control myself?"  Ricky said, "You say the things that we all want to say but won't ever say."

There was dysfunction in my childhood. Borderline personality disorder usually presents itself in early adulthood, and that's where it manifested in me after traumatic relationships with family members and a past relationship. That's when I felt the shift of the isolation and the depression.

People see me running around the football field with a lot of emotion. But at home I would just sit and be stuck there in one place. Right after dinner I would go in my room and go to sleep.  That was my life for so long. My wife used to say, "I want my old Brandon back." She would say that I am not affectionate, I am not there emotionally. 

During the season last year I really thought something was wrong with me mentally. There was a lot of conflict between me and my coaches, and I handled it inappropriately. I knew I needed help. So I called Dr. Gunderson and McLean Hospital and asked him if he would see me.

I flew out to Boston every couple weeks for a couple of days. But during that process I stopped believing in working on myself.  The behavior may have changed-I would get angry and I could walk away, but inside I was boiling. I was a ticking time bomb. I left treatment.

After I exploded at someone in May or April, I got this email from Dr. Gunderson and he said, "I heard what happened. Now call me and let's see where we can go from here." A couple days later my agent and assistant flew in town to persuade me to go back. They were shocked in the state I was in. Even then I thought I would be all right, pick myself up again and be able to be better.

But they said 'Brandon, we really want you to go back, we really want you to go back." I prayed on it and prayed on it and I said ok I will go."

I flew to Boston and had a neurological evaluation. Within a couple of days I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I immediately felt better because there was a treatment for it. No one had ever diagnosed me with anything before. That day brought excitement and confusion.

As you go through therapy and skills training groups, you begin to peel back layers and get to the root of the problem. You realize that what is on the surface is really not the problem. Where I grew up, we learned to react, not think. My stay at McLean Hospital helped me process and interpret things.

In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy I learned skills like radical acceptance, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and communication skills. They taught be how to see the gray in between the black and white. I learned to deal with my emotions and sit with myself and not making the situation worse.

I am not saying I am cured. But I can live an effective and healthy life. My goal is to continue the program and at the end of the year I will re-evaluate myself and I will see where I am and where I want to be.

I am not grappling with it anymore, I understand it. This has been my life for the past three months. I am learning a lot about the neurological part of psychology. As a Christian, you not blessed until you bless others. There are a lot of people out there who suffer from what I suffer from, but never had the opportunity to get the right help. And now that's my purpose in life.  

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Sportswriter Omar Kelly had the best reaction:

"Brandon Marshall isn't the bravest athlete I've covered. After admitting to the world he's struggling with a mental disorder it's more fitting to describe the Miami Dolphins receiver as the bravest person I've known. Admitting to your family something is wrong with the way your brain's wired is courageous. Telling the world you have a mental disorder is fearless."

Randi Kreger is the co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells.

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