Let’s flashback to performing as a kid. Whether it be in a sport or a show, emotions quickly gather. Hours, sometimes days before taking the field/ice/stage, you get the “butterflies” in your stomach. The angst to just begin the event takes over, as excitement and anxiety overcome rationality.
Now take that feeling, and multiply it by 10. Imagine those pregame jitters, but they happen on a daily basis. The eagerness, yet flustered feeling of anxiety impacts your day to day life. Your routine tasks begin to turn into troublesome projects.
Now, multiply that feeling by 10 times more. You are about to enter the biggest stage in all of professional sports. The NFL field is calling your name later that same day, and the excitement is being overcome by stress. The game you love is becoming a daunting task for your body. The love for the game stays prevalent, but your brain just can’t seem to calm down.
Anxiety is just a wonderful idea, isn’t it?
This past Sunday, soon to be three-time pro bowler Brandon Brooks anticipated the typical Sunday routine. He “woke up, and did [his] typical routine of morning vomiting.”
Side note, could you imagine having to vomit before each game, just to curb the feeling? Score one, anxiety, I guess?
Brooks later went on to explain,
“It didn’t go away like it normally does, but I figured it would calm down once I got to the stadium. It did, but I felt exhausted.”
Now the starting guard for the Eagles, without his buddy Lane Johnson alongside him, was expected to play to his full ability. The 6’5, 335-pound big man still made an attempt, no matter what his body was telling him, to play Sunday. This past Sunday’s game was going to be one of the biggest of the season, and Brooks knew he didn’t want to miss it.
“The nausea came back, and I tried to battle through it and went out for the first drive,” he wrote in a Twitter post after Sunday’s game. “The nausea and vomiting came back until I left the field, and tried everything I could to get back for my teammates but just wasn’t able to do it.”
The feeling of fight or flight is a battle that can be overcome. Despite the climb to conquer this dreaded battle, more often than not, anxiety can be beaten. However, in the case for Brooks, it got the best of him on Sunday.
Nevertheless, the strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about. Brooks doesn’t let his struggle to become his identity.
Coach Doug Pederson and the rest of the Eagles’ team did not blink an eye in their view of their starting guard.
“This is a real-life issue that he has come out and publicly acknowledged and kind of shared his story a few years back,” Pederson told radio station WIP in Philadelphia on Monday.
“It’s something that he’s dealing with each and every day of his life. You never really know what triggers it. We’re here to support him, we love him. It is unfortunate that it happened, but it’s something that he deals with every single day. We’re just going to continue to support him.”
Plenty of fans have taken to Twitter as well, fully supporting Brandon on his public announcement of this (deservedly so).
Coach Pederson hit the nail on the head. Anxiety is not something that can be defined. There is no true way to understand it. But what we can do is begin to understand it, and remember that these athletes are humans too.
Performance and health off the field are just as, if not more important than performance and health on the field.
If you have been sitting back, wondering how someone who is paid so much money can choose to sit out because of anxiety, it’s important to simply be aware. More likely than not, just like a normal human being, these athletes are battling off the field, arguably more than on the field. The stigma behind mental health needs to become an everyday conversation, and Brooks acknowledges this.
His ability to not allow it to affect him is an inspiration.
Being in Philadelphia, we should know plenty about a “process.”
Mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going. Brandon Brooks understands this and deserves the utmost respect for doing so.
Writer’s note: Being someone who has battled anxiety, Brandon’s ability to not let it affect him is baffling. Anyone else who suffers from this understands the difficulty in operating on a day-to-day basis. Bouts of shame typically mix with the already dreadful feeling, and it’s not fun. His ability to not let it phase him is truly inspirational, and he has earned my utmost respect.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports