Tag Archives: Junior Seau

How Can You Tell If Someone Needs Help?

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Earlier this week we discussed the difficulties that men have when it comes to asking for help.  If you read the blog then you know one of the examples we looked at was Junior Seau.  At the time I wrote the post I had yet to pick up my copy of the GQ this month.  I was surprised to find an article about Junior in its pages.  If you are a man there might be a lot of emotions that run through your body as you read it.  Two of the most prominent should be sadness and anger.

I was sad and angry for several reasons.  First, the man died way too young and still had so much to offer people.  Up until the point when he passed away he was an inspiring man.  Someone who had made it out of the slums of San Diego to an ocean front view and a lively foundation to help kids just like him escape poverty.  Second, there were people (especially men) who thought something wasn’t right and suspected something bad might or could happen.  I wouldn’t say they did nothing but at least from the article it certainly sounds like they could have done more.  If you ask your friend if they are okay and they say yes, but you know they are lying why would you just drop it?  Why wouldn’t you follow-up with them?  Organize other friends to intervene and talk openly with him about what is going on.

I would be the first to agree that Junior had to want help.  According to the story he asked for it but it doesn’t seem his friends offered any solutions.  When a person’s life is on the line sometimes we have to be more concerned about their health and safety than fearing we might offend them or lose their friendship.  Maybe they were afraid Junior would stop paying for things when they went out?  Who knows.  Regardless of the reasons more should have been done (again at least based on what was in the magazine.)

“He made terrible business decisions. He abused pills. He drank. He gambled away terrifying sums. It was clear to those who knew him well that he was struggling, but no one foresaw his suicide on the morning of May 2, 2012.” 

A  real friend doesn’t let that other bullshit stand in the way of getting things done and trying to help his friends.  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17  A true friend will accept whatever adversity comes his way if it means he is looking out for a friend.  The challenge is trying to decide when a friend needs help, even more as men because we aren’t likely to come out and say “Bro I am really having a hard time and need help.”

I am not a professional when it comes to dealing with issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts and similar afflictions.  Anyone who is dealing with those and similar issues is strongly encouraged to seek professional help.  However, as a caring and compassionate person it is important we try to figure out what are some of the indicators that a person (especially a guy) is in trouble without him telling us.  As a lawyer, lay pastor and friend I have had plenty of opportunities to minister to and give counsel to many men over the course of my life.  While I haven’t seen it all, I have seen a lot.  I can say without a doubt what follows are the key things I have missed, overlooked or caught just in time when men I have cared about were in a bad spot.

1. Withdraws From Life or Activity

“But after retiring as a very wealthy man in 2010—he earned more than $50 million over the course of his long career—he began to behave uncharacteristically.  He withdrew from family and friends.”

It is human nature that we live our life in certain patterns.  Back in high school I used to work at Tom Thumb (which we lovingly called “The Finger”.)  After only a short time working there it was easy to see that my “regulars” always came in and bought the same thing every day.  It got to the point when I would see them pull up and I would have their lottery ticket and pack of smokes ready for them.  They always acted surprised that I knew what they would be purchasing, as if they had no idea they had bought the same thing every day for the last 6 months.  The truth is we often don’t realize the patterns we create in our daily lives.  It is done subconsciously because despite a desire for spontaneity we also find comfort in doing the same thing, the same way day in and day out.

Perhaps one of the most, if not THE most obvious signs that a guy is struggling with something in his life is when he withdraws from his normal patterns in life.  If he regularly attends church (other examples, softball, bowling, poker night or golfing) and then suddenly he hasn’t shown up in two or three weeks in a row something is almost guaranteed to not be right.  It might not be as serious as depression or suicide but it is a safe bet something is has gone haywire in his life.

We as men withdraw because we don’t want other men to know we are struggling and sure as hell don’t want to let them think we have a weakness or aren’t perfect.  Also, we have the idea in our heads if we show up to softball every guy is going to just figure out what happened or where we screwed up and then we have to add being embarrassed to the list.

One of my mentors as a young man was Joe Warfield who we loving referred to as “Pops.”  Sadly he passed away a few years ago after losing a long time battle with cancer.  Pops used to always refer to this as “going off into the weeds” and it is an abt description.  The idea being once a man gets too far into the weeds you can’t see him anymore as the weeds completely hide him.  I have seen it happen so many times and I am telling you the first sign is ALWAYS a withdrawal from normal activities but especially withdrawing from doing things with his guys friends.  This is why it is essential a man has guy friends he can hang out with.  Guys will hold other guys accountable in a way that women just can’t.

2. Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse – Other Addictive Behaviors

There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying some beer or having a scotch and cigar.  Nor is there much harm in heading to the track to bet on the ponies.  That isn’t what I am trying to say.  However, many people (not just men) try to use alcohol, drugs and other addictive behavior (i.e. gambling) as a way to escape the pressure they feel in their heads.  Men chase that high from  those activities as a brief and enjoyable break from the stress, depression or other problems plaguing us.  However, most of the times those very things that give us a “break” come back and haunt us making our complicated situation now untenable and usually with few alternatives for a way out.

“We landed in Vegas one time and immediately, within hours, he won 800-something thousand dollars.  I said, “Let’s go home, surf, chill, pay some bills.” But after dinner a whale-watcher [a casino handler charged with roping in big-money gamblers] comes up to the room. Not even two hours later, he comes back up and hits the table with a glass and starts cussing.  He had lost it all. He’s lying on his bed looking at the ceiling, and I go, “Buddy, you gotta stop this, man.” He goes, “We got this. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.” The next morning the whale-watchers show up. June got another half-million dollars, and he goes back down and loses the whole thing.”

You don’t need to blow that kind of money that quickly for your friends to be concerned.  Clearly this is an unlikely situation for most anyone who reads this blog.  It just illustrates not only a potential addiction problem but also that your friend has quit caring what happens to him (i.e. his money.)  I doubt you have many friends that make the kind of cheddar where they can walk away from dropping $1000 (or whatever amount) and NOT care.  Which leads into our third point.

3. Careless or Reckless Behaviorjunior-seau-gq-magazine-september-2013-sports-05

Granted drug and alcohol abuse could fit into this section but there are other signs your friend might be in trouble even without the drug and alcohol abuse or gambling.  I am not talking about a friend suddenly deciding he wants to go skydiving when he has never done so in the past.  Unless of course he wants to go alone and without a parachute.  That should probably tell you something is not quite kosher.

Several months before he ultimately killed himself Seau drove off a seaside cliff and somehow managed to survive the crash.  He claimed he fell asleep at the wheel and drove off by accident but to do so without cranking the wheel intentionally is just not possible at that part on the highway.

I have had several friends who, when struggling with depression and other things have behaved in extremely careless ways.  One friend in particular purposely would drive recklessly just hoping he would get into an accident whereby he would be killed.  He purposely didn’t wear a seatbelt while doing so and often had been drinking too much.  How he never died in a crash and rarely even managed to get into an accident is a miracle (and I don’t use that phrase lightly.)  Another friend started picking fights with the wrong kind of guys when we would be out somewhere.  Eventually one night while out alone he finally picked the right guy and almost had his head caved in.  He was in a coma for two days, broke an arm, a few ribs and a lot of brain cells.  When his friends (including me) found out we got him help – once he finally was released from the hospital.  He didn’t like it and cursed us out like a sailor for forcing him to get help but it was the right call.  He managed to pull his life together, got married and even has a few kids and has stayed on the straight and narrow ever since.  Fortunately, both of those stories have a happy ending but many more do not.

4. Sometimes You Just Know

Sometimes you just know that something isn’t right.  You might not be able to point at any particular set of circumstances or activity but there is just something in your gut that tells a person their friend is in some kind of trouble.  Don’t ignore that feeling.  If you have it, it likely means you are on to something, especially if that feeling doesn’t go away.

So if you have that feeling what should you do?  First, be sure you are taking time to really observe your friend’s behavior.  I don’t mean stalking them I simply mean try to be more observant about the things they say and what they do when you hang out.  If they are the kind of person who returns calls or texts, are they doing that?  Or have they stopped?  Or has it been infrequent with no real reason for the delays.  Second, you have to discuss your concern with them and don’t simply take “everything is fine” for an answer right away.  Finally, I know I mentioned it before but you can’t be afraid to upset your friend with your concern.  If you have to be a jack ass and really force them to open up to you about their life than do that.  True friendships with deep roots can survive any storm and getting in a friends face about their behavior is the kind of thing that a friend is supposed to do.

We are our brother’s keeper and it is important we take that role seriously.  Everyone needs a hand up at some point in their life even if they never realize it.

Here is hoping you have a great weekend!  Until Monday make it a better day!

Andrew

Why Is Asking for Help So Difficult for Us?

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The upcoming football season is fast approaching and like most men (and many women) I am getting very pumped for the season.  The start of football season is always a reminder to me that playoff baseball is just around the corner and if I am anything it is a baseball junkie.  I can’t get enough of America’s Favorite Pastime.  I am heading to Boston tomorrow for work and I am sad that the Red Sox are on a road trip as I could use a relaxing night at the ballpark.

Unfortunately, the start of the football season is also a reminder of so much tragedy that has befallen that sport in the last few years.  I am not talking about Aaron Hernandez (although that is tragic for so many other reasons) nor am I talking about the other legal struggles of many star players.  Rather I am referencing all the recent suicides that have taken the lives of men like Junior Seau, Dave Dureson and Jevon Belcher.  I am not failing to mention Belcher’s girlfriend whom he killed nor the child he has left behind to be raised by her grandparents on Long Island.  However, this blog is targeted towards men so please don’t think I am being insensitive to the women victims of any of the above tragedies.

Yes it is true that all of these men played football professionally.  Yes it is true that to a certain degree they all struggled with the pressure to perform at a high level and/or the inability to do so as they got older.  There is also the likelihood that at least in Seau and Dureson’s case there might have been depression linked to concussions etc.  However, they also share something much more alarming: no one in their lives knew how badly they were struggling with life.  Close friends and family are quoted saying things like:

“He’d assured me everything was in order” – Brady Quinn talking about Kenny McKinely (McKinely killed himself in 2010)

“He was the last person in the world you would expect” Jevon Belcher’s agent, Joe Linta.

“You think you have this bond as a teammate.  You go through all this stuff together, you get through injuries, you get through tough losses, you feel like you can say or do anything with that person, but it’s not the case.  We don’t admit that kind of stuff.” – Karl Mecklenberg talking about his friend Shane Dronett killing himself in 2009.

“There was zero warning that anything was wrong with him.  He seemed happy and at peace.  This is when his life should have been great.” Hank Bauer friend of Junior Seaujunior-seau_2

Read any of their stories or stories of other men who took their lives and you will read similar quotes.  When we as men struggle in our lives it is very difficult for us to open up and talk about those struggles.  No matter how many friends we have, how close we are to our families or how successful we are, discussing our personal struggles (especially mentally) with another person is very difficult for us.

Even men who have a strong Christian foundation (Junior Seau seems to have been a very serious Christian especially since retirement) have issues with sharing their lives with others.  The more we struggle the harder we work to make it seem like everything in our lives is great.  Clearly this doesn’t help the situation.  I have seen it over and over again with men that I have ministered to and have been friends with.  I am thankful that none of them have ever gone as far as to take their own life (although a few have tried).

So how do we as men overcome this particular issue?  I am not claiming any of the below are simple  or easy solutions.  These are just steps in the right direction to try to get our heads straight and ultimately be able to get help with whatever we are struggling with.

1. Talk to Someone

I know it is not easy.  There was a time not long ago that for no obvious reason I was really struggling with life and my career.  I have a beautiful wife, live in a great city, attend an awesome church and am involved in many activities outside of work.  Yet I felt like I was just drifting through life alone, adrift on an ocean with no land in sight.  Did I tell my wife?  No.  Did I tell my close buddies? No.  Did I pray?  I did, but I didn’t see immediate results.

I couldn’t figure out why no one else in my life was noticing that I wasn’t being myself.  I think my wife knew and she probably even said something to me about it at some point.  However, telling our wives or the women in our lives is rarely going to happen.  How can we be strong and protect them if we think we look weak in their eyes?  I wanted to tell a guy friend of mine but I also needed someone to actually listen to me and not just say “Stop being a pussy!”  He wasn’t a good candidate to talk to about it and the rest of my guy friends just always seem too busy to make time.  That doesn’t mean it was true but it is how I felt at the time.

It did get serious enough that eventually I did talk to someone and opened up about my struggles.  Somewhere along the way something amazing happened: I felt better.  It turns out what I really needed was another guy to take the time to listen to where I was in my head and not judge me.  I don’t even recall if he gave me any advice, he just listened and asked questions. 

I know it seems too simple to work and that many times professional help is what is needed.  However, talking to a counselor or similar professional already comes with a social stigma and that stigma is heightened if you are a man.  My point is that a first step is opening up to someone you can trust.  There must be someone in your life you can talk to about what is going on in your life.  It might be a family member, a co-worker or a friend.  If all else fails walk into a church and ask to speak to a Priest or Pastor.  Someone.  Anyone is better than staying in your head.

2. See a Professional

“Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:21-22

When I was in college my girlfriend and I were having a terrible time in our relationship.  I mean a terrible time.  It was by far the most unhealthy relationship I have ever been in.  I will spare you the details but it got so bad I started to think all of our issues were my fault and I was the world’s worst boyfriend.  I felt like I wasn’t a man but a child (which honestly I still kind of was) and it started to take a toll on my grades in college.

She thought everything was my fault and that I was just being stubborn and was refusing reasonable requests (they weren’t reasonable trust me.)  After a particular nasty weekend of arguing where she jumped out of my moving car (we weren’t going fast but still) we decided we needed to seek a counselor.

Turns out she was crazy and I wasn’t nearly as bad of a guy as I thought.  While things ultimately didn’t work out between us, the counseling helped both us a tremendous amount.  She started to recognize some of the issues she had suppressed most of her life and was able to start working through those.  Likewise, there were unresolved issues I had with my parents and family that I was able to acknowledge and started to work on overcoming.  In addition, counseling helped us realize we were two very immature people trying to have a mature relationship.  It was like trying to light a fire built with wet wood.

It was hard admitting that I needed (or we needed) to see a counselor and it took a while to really open up and trust the process but I am a better man today for having done so.  I am not afraid to tell other guys that I have seen a shrink in the past.

3. Have a Best Friend

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

Okay I know what you are thinking: “I already have a best friend, heck I have several best friends!  Sloss, you are one crazy mo-fo!”  Relax bro, I am sure you think you have a best friend.  You probably even have another guy friend who calls you his best friend.  Let me ask you this though: When was the last time you told him you were struggling with something (other than getting laid)?  The answer is probably never or if you have confessed anything it was relationship problems with your wife or girlfriend but even then you probably bbraff_faisonlew it off as being “her fault.”

A real best friend is someone who cares enough about you to be up in your business and not to let you get away with simply saying: “Yea bro I am good” and leaving it at that.  You need a friend that notices when things aren’t right or that you haven’t been coming around lately and will pick up the phone and call you.  Granted it is ultimately up to you to communicate with your buddy about your life, but having someone who isn’t afraid to be a dick in order to get you to grow a pair and open up is a necessary survival technique for every guy.

Most importantly (especially if you are married or in a serious relationship) you need another guy in your life who your wife/girlfriend/significant other can go to when you are acting like a knucklehead.  There has to be at least one guy in your life who fits the bill.  My wife has a small list (basically two guys) she knows to call and rat me out if I am not treating her like I should or if I am not acting like a man should act.  One (or both) of them will then be responsible for being sure that I talk to them about whatever is going on in my life.  It isn’t always a pleasant experience but it is needed if you are a guy.  Otherwise we will end up off in the weeds getting into all kinds of trouble we ultimately cannot handle on our own.

Few things are more scary than a man who has no one to be accountable to.  You aren’t a little boy any more.  Take responsiblity for your life.

4.  Pump Some Ironpumping-iron1

When life gets stressful it is important as men that we find constructive ways to deal with it.  There are a few really great ways to do this and one of my favorites is working out.  Research has shown that working out releases stress and anxiety and improves our mood.  Whether you are lifting weights, hitting the heavy bag or going for a run be sure you make the time to work out, especially when life is feeling stressful.  If you catch yourself thinking “I am too busy to find time to work out” that is exactly when you should be carving out some time to exercise.

Another unusual thing about hitting the gym is that many guys are more willing to open up and talk about their lives at the gym.  Apparently there is something about lifting heavy things over our heads that makes our mouths more willing to discuss other difficult tasks in our lives.  Back in the day when I used to lift 5 – 6 times a week I would always spot one guy on the bench press who would mention something that was off track in his life.  It was even helpful to hear other guys going through difficult times to make me feel better about my own struggles.

In addition to working out, a healthy sex life is also a good way to reduce your stress levels.  It also has plenty of other benefits.  If you have to ask what is a “healthy sex life” you shouldn’t be having sex.  I am a firm believer in only having sex when married but am also realistic that not all of you share that belief.  Thus, for those of you who are married or aren’t married and having sex, this is also a great tool for dealing with stress.  Although fair warning, sex outside of marriage can lead to a lot of additional sex related stress (i.e. pregnancy, STD’s etc.)

A NOTE TO THE WOMEN: I know you are reading this because it is the only reason guys are reading this so let me be honest with you for second.  I am sad to say but your man isn’t going to open up to you about everything.  I know this is offensive to you.  Your husband/boyfriend/man probably denies it.  He  is doing so to save the pain a truthful admission would cause.  You have to be okay with that.  More importantly you need to encourage him to have bro time every once in a while.  A guy does better when he can blow off steam with his friends (that isn’t an excuse to engage in destructive behavior of course).  Whether its golf, fishing, happy hour or riding bikes (or whatever he does with the boys) let him out of his cage for a day.  You and your relationship will be better off.  If in the event he acts like a douche please read #3 above and proceed accordingly (or kick his lame ass to the curb.)

Whatever you do men, you have to start opening up.  We are losing too many great men with a lot to offer this world to the business end of a 9mm.  If you need help, get help.  There is nothing wrong with taking steps to become a better man.  If you are needing resources you can email me or there are plenty of them online.

Until tomorrow, make it a better day!

Andrew