Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I am a former professional football player. During my career as a punter, I enjoyed stints on the Oilers, Lions and Ravens and led the NFL in the yards-per-punt average three times. I was even selected to play in the 1994 Pro Bowl. Despite my success on the field, life off the field was more challenging. For years, I suffered in silence with a debilitating illness. Due to my extremely high expectations, I was constantly consumed by an “unquiet mind” and the performance anxiety that came with it. Prior to the 1997 season, after nine years in the NFL, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is an illness in which people alternate between feeling very good (“highs” or mania) and very bad (“lows” or depression). The mood swings can be quick and severe, ranging from extreme energy to deep despair. These variations are different from ordinary mood changes. Bipolar mood episodes disrupt normal life activities.
As a man, and even more so as a professional football player, I was taught to work through the pain and tough it out. But after a decade of ignoring my symptoms, the disease began to take its toll. I was spiraling out of control, feeling supercharged one week and exhausted the next. A year after my diagnosis, I left the NFL. Now, nearly 15 years later, I’ve learned to respect my illness and take it seriously. I’ve found the strength to navigate through the disorder’s gauntlet and learned that it’s not a death sentence, but actually a gift. But getting help is key.
While my story has a happy ending, I know the majority of those living with bipolar disorder and depression are not getting the help they need. Oct. 6, 2011, is National Depression Screening Day. On this date, thousands of community organizations, colleges and military installations will host screening events for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder. At these screenings, one can take an anonymous assessment and receive information about local resources. I encourage anyone who thinks they or someone they know might need help to go to www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org to find a screening event or take an online screening.
It is imperative that people realize these mood disorders are not weaknesses or character flaws, but real illnesses that can be successfully treated. Sincerely — Greg Montgomery Jr.
Dear Greg: More than 20 million American adults suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, but many do not get the help they need because of the stigma and misinformation associated with mental illness. The screenings at HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org are completely confidential and can be enormously helpful. Thank you for letting us spread the word.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Unhappily Married to a Flirt,” whose husband of 21 years has suddenly developed the habit of ogling attractive women. To make it worse, he then asks his wife to dye her hair and get a tattoo.
My husband of almost 47 wonderful years used to do the same thing. When it first started happening, I began pointing out younger and prettier women in short shorts, tight T-shirts and tight jeans. I’d say, “Honey, check that one out.” Not long afterward, he stopped. I took the fun out of it for him.
This is what women should do to have a long and happy marriage like ours. — Used To Be Married to an Ogler, but No More
Dear Used To Be: This might work for some women, and playing along could certainly alleviate a great deal of annoyance. But we worry that more than a few men would take it as an invitation for a threesome.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.04.11