Bears WR Brandon Marshall wide open about personality disorder
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org March 16, 2012 10:40PM
2012 Pro Bowl
Updated: April 19, 2012 8:38AM
Over the last couple of years, six-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald has developed a friendship with new Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.
He has watched Marshall grow on and off the field — they are two of only three NFL receivers to top 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons — and he has brought him in to speak at his football camp for middle- and high school students in Minnesota. Afterward, Marshall patiently advised the aspiring athletes on proper technique. He passed out the gloves off his hands and the cleats off his feet.
‘‘I have only had positive experiences with Brandon,’’ said Fitzgerald, who stars for the Arizona Cardinals. ‘‘He is misunderstood. Once you get to know him, he will give you the shirt off his back.
‘‘My thing is this: Get to know him, the man, before you pass judgment.’’
At his introductory news conference Friday at Halas Hall, Marshall graciously answered the sort of personal questions nobody wants to endure: If he can guarantee he won’t be involved in another incident such as the one last Sunday in New York, where a woman alleges he punched her in the eye at a nightclub. If he could explain why two other teams ultimately traded him.
And if he — a soon-to-be 28-year-old man — should have a self-imposed curfew.
‘‘My arriving here comes with so much controversy,’’ Marshall said afterward. ‘‘But all I can do, moving forward, is to continue to stay on the track that [I’m] on.’’
Marshall insisted that ‘‘in due time, the truth will come out.’’ He acknowledged his history of off-the-field issues brings added scrutiny. Yet he doesn’t shy away from that spotlight.
On Friday, he talked about reuniting with quarterback Jay Cutler, winning a Super Bowl and even retiring as a Bear. But he has a grander goal: to be the face of those with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that — according to his website, ProjectBorderline.com — affects up to 5.9 percent of the population.
‘‘That’s my purpose,” Marshall said, ‘‘and that’s what I’ll do after I’m done playing.’’
Before he was traded to the Bears on Tuesday, he was preparing to begin classes toward a masters in psychology near the Miami Dolphins’ training facility.
On Friday, he showcased his profound understanding of the disorder, dropping statistics, symptoms, treatments and — unfortunately — consequences when BPD is improperly treated.
‘‘A lot of people are afraid to talk about it — it’s taboo in our communities,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’m willing to use myself, make myself and my family vulnerable, to break the stigmas.’’
He noted the staggering number of prison inmates, both male and female, who have been diagnosed with the disorder, and he spoke passionately about the significance of his revelation at McLean Hospital in Boston last July.
‘‘Since I’ve been in the league, things have been very rough for me,’’ he said. ‘‘From Day 1, I’ve always wanted better for myself, on and off the field. To finally get an answer — to finally be in a place where someone can help me — that was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. But it was scary because someone is telling you, ‘Hey, you have to go through this therapy. You have to stay up here and talk to me.’ But the outcome was amazing.’’
Nicknamed ‘‘The Beast,’’ Marshall noted that his anger was ‘‘my gift and my curse, because without that passion, without that intense approach to the game, which comes from a lot of my pain, a lot of my anger, I wouldn’t be here today.’’
He said he has learned to channel and control those emotions.
Others, however, aren’t as fortunate. Eight to 10 percent of BPD sufferers commit suicide, according to Borderline Personality Today.
‘‘This thing is bigger than me. We’re losing lives,’’ he said. ‘‘When I was in treatment, there was a young lady who took her life.
‘‘It’s one of the most devastating disorders out there, but it’s the most treatable, and with the proper help and the proper treatment, we can make a huge impact in our community.’’
He recognizes that he’s not cured, that he still needs treatment. But, given his prominence, Marshall is willing to put himself at the forefront.
‘‘There’s a lot of people who are pushing to get healing in our community,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just the guy with the fame, so it brings light to it quicker, and it spreads faster. So that’s why I was excited to use my celebrity and platform to raise awareness.’’
Those are admirable aspirations. But, as Marshall knows, actions speak louder than words.