BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, LA (KSLA) - Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL legend Herschel Walker spent Monday on Barksdale Air Force Base sharing his struggles with mental health.
He uses his battle to encourage others not to be afraid of finding help.
“When I got out of football I had anger problems. I didn’t know where it stemmed from,” explained Walker, “When I was small I was bullied. I was overweight, had a speech impediment, I was really goofy little kid, I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like who I was, I didn’t like how I looked, I didn’t like how I sound, and because of that I was picked on a lot at a time in my life I said enough was enough and I created this invincible person that can do some amazing things athletically and academically.”
It was just a matter of time before those issues would resurface.
"I really didn’t deal with the pain or anger I had back then, but because I was getting out of sports, it started coming into my home life, into my business world and that was a problem," he explained.
Herschel found himself in the midst of some of his darkest days.
"You know one thing I don’t talk about is I had a gun to my head, and I played it and I didn’t realize how far lost I was."
Finally enough was enough and he decided it was time to get help.
"Sometimes you think you can medicate yourself, you think you’re the doctor for yourself and I’m here to tell you you’re not. You have to go to professionals, I had to go to professionals. Like I tell people I won a Heisman Trophy how could I have a mental health problem? I’ve been on an Olympic team, man I've won debates how can I have a mental problem, but I did have a problem and you can’t do it yourself."
Doctors later diagnosed him with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Something he continues fight to this day.
"I want to be an example for someone else to say you can get better. I still go and talk to my doctor I still go and talk to people," expressed Walker, "What's wild is people think because you go to a hospital you're weak and you being a macho man being in the military or police officer you’ve got to be these tough guys or these tough women and I’m just as tough as I’ve always been, even tougher."
For those struggling, he knows how hard those first steps can be.
“There’s no shame to ask for help I did it.”
As an advocate for mental health, he encourages others not to be afraid to seek help.
“We all have problems, we all have those problems. Some people hide their’s better than others, but you can’t hide things before God and so you might as well go ahead and admit it and get through it, and that’s the best thing in the world because there’s a brighter light out there, there’s a much brighter light out there.”
His visit leaving an even greater impact on those who work in the mental health clinic on base.
“For someone like him, that I know I’ve looked up to just from the stories I’ve heard and from what I’ve watched about who he is as a person to have a leader out there that’s really pushing it forward is just amazing,” said SrA Steven Arthur, Barksdale Medical Laboratory Technician.
"Sometimes knowing your weakness is what’s going to make you stronger," said Walker.
Walker is in town as part of Brentwood Hospital’s Patriot Support Program which provides specialized care for active duty military members and veterans.
If you or someone you know is struggling Brentwood Hospital has a 24-hour crisis line to help you and your loved ones get the help they need (318) 678-7500.