Dr. Aaron's Blog

What about Herschel Walker?

February 29, 2016 All by Aaron Van Gaver

Struggling with mental illness is difficult and many people feel as if they are weak, are alone with no one understanding what they are experiencing or feel as if they will never experience a quality of life they truly desire. There are however many who have done just that! Overcome their feelings of weakness and gone on to live not only a quality life but one filled with extraordinary accomplishments.

One such person is Herschel Walker. Walker suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder, (formally called Multiple Personality Disorder) for years and it wasn’t until his football career came to an end did it present itself to the public.

Walker was a professional football player who also played college football for the University of Georgia. He was the 1982 recipient of the Heisman and was awarded “All American” three times. After retiring from football in 1997 he began a mixed martial arts career.

His struggle with mental illness came to a head when after his retirement from football he ignored friends and loved ones who were pleading with him to get help for troubling behaviors that were not more evident from not having football to help him cope with his mental issues. Finally after coming dangerously close to killing a delivery man who Walker felt had disrespected him.

He explained in his book “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder,” it was the voices in his head telling him people need to quit disrespecting him that spurred him to go after the man, and it was those voices that began to make him feel as if he was losing his mind. It finally led him to admitting he had a problem and to seek help. It was then doctors learned he was suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As most people who discover or are afraid they have a mental disorder, Walker did not want to accept it, but he started seeing the light and checked into a state hospital. He has shared with many there are certain games, and experiences through his life he doesn’t even remember, including whole periods of his life like when he won the Heisman Trophy.

Walker’s story is inspirational and gives hope to many who are living and struggling with mental illness. He is an example of what taking the first step of admitting there is something wrong and seeking help can achieve.

It is possible to overcome the struggles of having a mental illness regardless of what that illness may be. Life can be wonderful and great things can be accomplished with the help and support of others.

Walker stresses to those he speaks to, “I never knew how lost I was until I went to the hospital … and found other people struggling like I was. If you are struggling, you are not alone. If you are struggling, if you are hurting, don’t be ashamed. I’m not ashamed.”

If you are struggling remember you truly are NOT alone even if you may feel like you are. There are people who have gone through the struggles and come out on the other side and there is hope and help and a wonderful life ahead.