Wrestling With Depression

I am writing this as not only an editorial, but a personal piece. Let’s be real, we have all either suffered from bouts of depression, or know someone who has. Depression comes in many forms, with many faces. Some are able to hide it, and smile and be active. Some folks hide in their beds. Others just barely are able to do the bare minimum to survive.

Depression can last a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, months or a whole lifetime, depending on what environmental and chemical factors are in play. Some folks do well on medicine, others are sick of being zombies, or guinea pigs  for the pharmaceutical companies. Some turn to “drugs” or alcohol to self medicate. Others are fitness junkies, workaholics, or seem to be addicted to something whether it be gambling, gaming, or sexual behaviors.

This is something we have seen in wrestling, but maybe have not recognized as being related to depression. Not only that but the link between tramatic brain injuries and depression. From TramaticBrainInjury.net:

“…major depressive disorder (MDD) may be the most common and challenging mental health condition that patients encounter following a TBI—53.1% of TBI patients in the study experienced MDD at least once in the first year after their injury. Another study showed that suicidal thoughts and attempts are also common reactions to TBI—23% of the participants had thoughts of suicide, while 17% actually attempted suicide after their injury. These higher rates of suicidal behaviors may also be connected to MDD following TBI.”

How many of us have had TBI?  I know I gave myself a concussion for sure once, I have it on video… Botched sunset flip, I had never done one on a person my height before, and landed right on my head… Warning graphic video!

The night of this injury my head was severely swollen, but the roads were also incredibly icy. Power lines were down, it was late, and going to the hospital in a state I did not live in did not sound fun. So I went home with my friends, and stayed up all night watching cartoons with their cat, with ice on my head, propped up so I wasn’t laying down, as we looked up what to do in case of head injury. By the next day I felt better, but my head hurt, and was swollen and bruised. I took at least two months off from in ring work, and a couple weeks off managing, until the bruising went down.

The thing is, I never felt the same again. I have had issues with short term memory loss since then, something was never an issue for me before this. I also have noticed in the years since this happened, my anxiety issues grew, as did my depression. It became hard to do many of the day to day activities I had done in the past. It has become hard to interact with people, to be cheery, and even to feel that my work had any merit. I started to feel stagnant in my jobs, and went back to working with animals full time, training horses, teaching riding lessons, and other farm related duties. I also found solace in doing office work, and writing. But working with people became problematic, as I had developed even more social anxieties.

It took a while for me to notice how my interactions with other humans were becoming an issue for me. Sometimes I blank out, or can’t focus, sometimes my reactions seem rude, even if I do not perceive them as such. I seem short with people or even angry when I speak. I don’t mean to, but it just happens.
Learning to notice this is happening was not an easy task, and I still struggle with this at times, so I tend to limit my interactions with people when I am feeling stressed out, as no good can come from it.

When i started recognizing these issues, I also started reading more on TBI, and its effects on people in the long term, and there has been some research done on the potential for these issues to become worse over time. This makes me think of Chris Benoit who in 2007, shockingly killed his wife Nancy (Aka Woman) and his young son, before killing himself. This was shocking to not only wrestling fans, but the entire wrestling community. It was so horrendous, that WWE doesn’t list him on any of the WWE Network programming, nor is he mentioned on the website, his wins, championships, and all have been erased from the history books, as if he never existed.

At least 21 known professional wrestlers have committed suicide. This list doesn’t account for lesser known independent wrestlers who may have taken their own lives. Chris Kanyon was 40 when he committed suicide in 2010. He came out as gay in 2004, at first claiming it was a gimmick, then admitting it was true. Another notable suicide was that of “Sweet And Sour” Larry Sweeney in 2011. He suffered from Bi polar depression, and in 2009 had a breakdown, he was quite open about. Larry was not only a great wrestler, but an inspiring personality, and it seemed unreal to wrestling fans that a man who cut such engaging promo’s, was suffering from serious mental health issues.

Whether or not these suicides were the product of head injuries, or other issues can never truly be determined. What we can do is look for signs of depression, check in with each other. Also those of us who put ourselves into the ring, should think about wearing protective head gear during training at the very least, and should take an honest look at the danger we put ourselves in for what generally very little compensation. Even those who make it to the top, won’t be able to undo damage done to their bodies. We all need to look out for ourselves and each other.

A good resource to learn how to support those in crisis can be found through the Icarus Project at:  http://icarus.poivron.org/uploads/2015/02/FMTBM_final_wcovers.pdf