I hope that this week’s post doesn’t come off as too dark, but I also think its something that deserves to be talked about. I haven’t thought much about this until the racing community lost Bryce Townsend. Although Bryce and I were not friends on a personal level I was lucky enough to know him. Many moons ago we raced against each other when I got to travel to New Zealand and every year, he would bring his tour group by my shop. It seemed like he really was one of the good guys of the sport it seemed like and when I heard the news it caught me extremely off guard because I didn’t expect it. Unfortunately, I also know a couple other guys who have taken their own lives as well. My uncle Steve who we spent weeks at a time with in Texas during our childhood summers also feel victim as well to this as well and he was one of the smartest people I knew. Along with one of my first true sponsors and funniest dudes on the planet Joe Zierolf who I could tell stories about for days.
I will be the first person to tell you that I didn’t understand what depression was or how it affected people. Until it happened to me.
After my shop accident I went through a whirlwind of emotions. I started off as happy go lucky Brad, always been just hoping for the best. The first surgeon told me I would have a full recovery, which made me think everything would be normal soon enough. Reality quickly set in that this wasn’t the case. Today I still can not bend my wrist, have 50 percent of my grip, and have constant pain on a daily basis. I had now lost the only life I knew, RACING. It wasn’t my choice to lose that I had it stolen from me. Was I ever going to the next level of racing? No and I knew that, but imagine the one thing you absolutely love being taken away.
I had a lot of issues after my surgery consisting anywhere from complications with pain medicine to loss of sleep. I would only get about 2 hours of sleep a night and each time I closed my eyes the events from the accident would play out over and over until I woke up. These two things together literally made my life a living hell. It was the first time I can say I dealt with a deep level of depression, I was in a serious funk and couldn’t get out of it. I had zero motivation, I only left the house to go to rehab which was almost a bigger kick in the balls as I was seeing almost no progress and I was forced to look at my wrist each rehab session which once again gave me doubts. I wondered if I would ever be able to use it again and at this point knew my racing career was over, but what about normal life? At the time my daughter was still young and the thought of me not being able to play with her ate at me. Every father wants the chance to ball with their children, and honestly throwing a ball today is still not the easiest thing in the world for me to accomplish.
So how did I recognize this and get out of the funk? First of all, I didn’t notice, the people around me did. My wife Cassie and my mom were the first people to notice. I just thought this was my new life. Luckily, my Father in Law, a psychologist told my wife that I should go back to living my life as normal as possible. So I started going back to work everyday.
Getting back into the shop is what really saved me. I wouldn’t do a thing at work because I literally couldn’t for well over 6 months but it gave me somewhere to be. Most days I would end up falling asleep in a chair because just getting out of bed and picked up by someone to bring me into work wore me out.
I am lucky enough to have a big support system. My family was clearly my biggest cheerleaders out there and without them I am not sure where or what would have really happened. As you would imagine although this affected me it has had a ripple effect on my entire family because of it. I will never be able to thank each of them enough for helping me during that time. Two other people that deserve recognition are Tony Stewart (all around badass racecar driver and person) and Steve Ott (NHL Hockey Player and Stanley Cup Champion Coach). These two went out of their way and would check up on me almost weekly and gave me inspiration to start kicking ass.
So, although depression in men seems to be looked at as something bad, I think we all need to start being more aware of not only the people around us, but also ourselves. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for yourself if you think you are in a funk you can’t get out of. At the same be aware of the people closest to you and don’t be scared to ask how they have been. If you don’t think there is anyone out there for you there is and by all means reach out to me and I will do my best to help you out. I am by no means an expert of depression, but I do know a little encouragement goes a long way.
More information with people who are much more educated than me can be found HERE.
Until next time….