Public Affairs Officer Chad T. Jones
Jibber Jabber - Strong Men Do Cry
Strong men do cry … and have anxiety! That’s another reason why we recognize the effect that mental health awareness has on our lives and is so important to our community health.
Shortly after 5 p.m., Sunday afternoon, Dak Prescott threw another first half interception. It was a pick-6 that put the lowly Giants up 17-3. I know this because sometime before 6, I posted on Facebook that “Dak has to stop being horrible in the first half.”
You probably know where this is going, but for those who don’t, let me remind everyone to be careful what you wish for. With about six minutes to go in the third quarter, Dak’s season came to a crushing halt when his ankle snapped sideways. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrHlMvxRXJc (You can watch the follow-on video if you want more details on the actual injury, and your stomach can take it.)
My first thought after seeing Dak on the ground was “Oh-oh. We are in trouble.”
Even though Dak made every game an accordion of emotions – Early mistake to get us behind; ball out to build up our hopes, then throw a late pick to crush us – I knew he was the best we had.
As my QB stayed on the turf, however, the fleeting concerns of a fan thankfully gave way to my concern as a human. Here was a big, strong, 27-year old man lying on the ground crying. Not just from the excruciating physical pain, but more so from the real fear that his lifelong dream was potentially as shattered as the foot he was literally trying to put back into its place.
I couldn’t help but think Dak was living through something far worse than anything I’d ever gone through in my 46+ years on this planet.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t even the worst thing Dak had gone through in the past six months. In April, Dak’s older brother, Jace, committed suicide.
Last month, in what can only be described as a courageous interview, Dak admitted that he was having a hard year even before his brother’s death.
“All throughout this quarantine and this offseason, I started experiencing emotions I’ve never felt before,” Prescott said. “Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression. And to the point of, I didn’t want to work out anymore. I didn’t know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn’t been sleeping at all.”
Now I’ve neither broken a leg nor fulfilled my dream of being the Cowboys QB like Dak, but I do know plenty about anxiety, depression and the stigma that comes along with suffering from either.
I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night shivering and certain you were dying because your heart was beating in your ear drums and your left arm was going numb. I know what it’s like to need a pill just to grab a few moments of peace and be still.
I know what it’s like to look for alternative medicine because the side effects of that pill makes your legs lose any spring as you lumber through the fog of life.
Mental illness is real. Anxiety is real. The fear you have at the thought of your boss finding out about it is real. So is the inadequacy you feel when you can’t just “Shake it off” or “Suck it up” like your friends and loved ones suggest.
I’ve admitted my issues with anxiety before, but I’m not Dak Prescott. Sure, I worry about my boss and coworkers finding out because worrying is what I do, and people are judgey.
But at the end of the day, the chances of me actually losing my good government job due to anxiety is somewhere between slim and none. I have a decade’s worth of 1-block ratings to support my ability, plus firing me for anxiety would be illegal.
That’s not necessarily true for athletes like Dak and NBA all-star Kevin Love, who first spoke up about his battles with anxiety a few years back.
To be frank, not long ago, admitting anxiety could have easily ended Dak’s career quicker than a broken ankle because football players are tough; real men who don’t cry, right?
Wrong! What Dak did last month was more “manly” than any hit he’s ever taken. The tears streaming down his face on Sunday weren’t a sign of weakness. It was another sign of the courage that has me, and almost everyone else, convinced that Dak will be back throwing TDs in 2021. And I’ll be right there rooting for him … except when he throws a first half interception.
If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @CTJibber.