Our look at mental health in the NFL continues with this 2017 third overall pick. Thomas is a free agent this spring and "hungry" as ever to restart his career. But, first, he had to reset his life.
Great stuff, Tyler. Love this: "He’ll rip your face off. He’ll set a physical tone. But he’ll also be emotionally sensitive to anything you’re going through as a teammate."
...and Thomas's quote following: "Tough men understand it’s OK to work through your mental health and get help. We need to change the culture ourselves. We need to stop living this toxic, masculinity viewpoint that our parents lived in. We need to change that and make it normal to talk about our emotions and normalize mental health in a world of strong, tough men who play a violent sport."
I can see you searching for the balance between sharing the hardship -- the serious despair, the devastating facts -- and the hopeful side, the solutions, the coping mechanisms. I am part of an org called The Stability Network (thestabilitynetwork.org) that teaches people with lived experience of mental ill-health how to tell their stories strategically, in a way that will show that people living with a mental health condition can thrive. There is a rule they teach called the "80-20" rule -- 80% on the hope and recovery side, only 20% on the despair side. The point is to affirm the positive, and to try to refrain from being triggering.
Personally I find this a useful guideline, but only a guideline. I do believe in the power of the positive, but I also know from my own and others' experience that reading about or hearing someone describe, with raw emotion, the depths of that despair, the feelings that creep in, the challenge ... there is a kind of community in that, too. There is a kind of hope in knowing, holy shit, this feels so bad and I thought no one would possibly be able to understand, but others have felt it too. And -- others have gotten through it. Indeed it does get better.
Overall I think this piece does a good job of finding that balance (I say this without really invoking the 80-20 rule one way or another). One thing I would say, if I can... there is some logic in some feelings: people will feel more depressed or more anxious if circumstances don't go their way. For example, it's completely understandable that players may struggle to find their purpose after they get cut, or suffer a devastating injury. It is understandable because it is logical.
But there's another side to mental ill-health that defies logic. It is that, even when things "seem" like they should be fine -- when players are still in the league, or are fully healthy; or in the case of a regular Joe, when love and family and finances and work are all "good" on paper -- mental ill-health can creep in. Depression or anxiety exist sometimes because of circumstances, sometimes despite them, and sometimes both. That nuance is important in this case when someone tells a player, "You're in the NFL, you make millions of dollars, you're jacked and loved and famous, why should you be unhappy?"
It truly is okay not to be okay, regardless of circumstance. None of us knows what it's like to have lived someone else's experiences with someone else's brain. The best we can do is be kind to one another and give people the benefit of the doubt.
Love reading these stories and grateful you are continuing to pursue this topic. Looking forward to more, and thanks for letting me spew out all my thoughts on these comments and in the community threads.
Highly recommend subscribing to anyone out there!