a letter to Brandon Marshall

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Brandon,

Even though you have the most alpha male career in life being an extremely accomplished NFL wide-receiver for the New York Jets, you have inspired a little girl to put back together the pieces of her life.

A little over a year ago, my older brother Wes told me about you and about your story. I remember distinctly we were at my younger brother’s away football game in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was in the midst of a manic episode, but it was on the decline.

I had just withdrawn for the 3rd time from my semester at Clemson University where I should have been a Junior.

“Have you ever heard of Brandon Marshall?” He asked me. I told him I had heard your name but I didn’t know anything about you. He told me about how you wore lime green cleats during a game the past October for mental health awareness. He told me about how you were fined by the NFL for $10,500 for the cleats and that you matched the fine to donate to mental health organizations.

“The money the league will fine me is nothing compared to the awareness raised tonight,” was what you wrote on Twitter afterwards.

In almost an instant, you had become my hero.

I went home and looked up more about your story. That you struggle from Borderline-Personality Disorder and went through the difficult but necessary journey of piecing back together your life and making sense of it all at McLean Hospital in the off-season.

But you didn’t stop there. On the A Football Life documentary, your mom and even your psychiatrist admitted that they didn’t think at the time that you should tell the world about your disorder. That you would be labeled as “coo-coo” as your mom put it, and that people were not going to be understanding.

They then said they were ultimately so glad that you did what you did next, which was telling the world in a press conference about your BPD.

Even though we are so different, we are so the same. I saw myself in your story. I thought wow, this man really understands me and what I’ve been through. Which is strange, because we’ve never met. Also the fact that you’re a pro-athlete and I’m a 5’3 college student. We look different, but we feel in the same ways. I have lashed out. I have felt like I didn’t belong. I’ve felt rejected. I’ve been unsupported. I’ve been misunderstood.

But I also have the same impulsive desires that you did to inform people of what I’ve been through. To give people an opportunity to understand. To not hide. To use our story. Your wife Michi said as she was getting wrongfully arrested, “Someone is going to learn from our story.”

She was right.

Not just someone, many someones. And I am one of them.

I cannot thank you enough for putting down your pride to put the whole team of mental illness on your back. You said no one was stepping up to the plate, so “Let me be the face of this.” And you are.

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in a career that is the opposite of what people would ascribe to the mentally ill.

Thank you for unknowingly welcoming so many out of their shadows and into the light.

Thank you for messaging me back today and telling me how you were so proud of me. I nearly fell over in my class and that’s not an exaggeration. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face or the joyful tears from welling in my eyes as I flashed back to that moment this time last year when I first heard your name.

Thank you for all that you’ve done for this community and for the world. Can’t wait to paint the world lime green together.

Sincerely,

The young woman you inspired to break free from the shame and chains of her illness.

ps. I’ll be keeping the Lego Brandon Marshall figurine that my brother got me on my dresser, always.  🙂

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