Retired receiver Steve Smith Sr. details battle with depressionAugust 7, 2018
Steve Smith Sr. is getting real.
In a piece titled “My personal battle with depression” published Tuesday on NFL.com, the retired wide receiver detailed his mental health struggles that date back to the early years of his NFL career.
Smith started by noting the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain that shocked the world in early June and commended retired safety Brian Dawkins for touching on the subject during his enshrinement speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony last weekend.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to be honest about mental health,” Smith wrote. “The first time I stepped into a counseling session was in 2002, when I saw a sports psychologist. I was able to retain what helped me reach my peak performance and able to get in the zone, shutting out the noise and negative thoughts on the field. I did that with flying colors, but I wasn’t able to grasp that concept in my life outside of the game. I couldn’t quiet the noise and negative thoughts in my mind. It wasn’t until I stepped away from the game at the end of the 2016 NFL season that I really began to take ownership and understand my personal journey with depression. …
“One common question I contemplated through the highs and lows was simple, but felt so complex: What’s wrong with me?”
Smith revealed he “routinely felt trapped, inferior and alone,” which overwhelmed him and made him feel “mentally, physically and emotionally broken.” Despite his success on and off the field, the inner struggles continued to weigh him down until he sought advice.
“Generally, throughout much of my life, unhappiness, constant self-criticism and an inability to let old blunders go weighed so heavily on my mind,” Smith wrote. “I can recall hundreds of these moments, on and off the gridiron, when I felt inept. It really took a toll on my mental state.
“In 2013, my final year in Carolina, I hit a point where I was so overwhelmed that I wasn’t sure what to do or how to handle my emotions. Small things in my daily life impacted me in a big way, and I was a cynic of everything and everyone. It was at that point I decided — with hesitancy — to try counseling for non-football related matters for the first time in my life.”
Smith, who spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Panthers and the final three with the Ravens, began to notice a difference as he continued to seek help.
“I continued counseling sessions when I got to Baltimore the following year,” Smith wrote. “I saw small changes in myself, but even more, I started seeing all my flaws. That’s a hard thing to accept for anyone. After tearing my Achilles midway through what was to be my final season, I remember sitting in the hospital bed recalling dropped passes from 10 years prior. Mind you, at the time of my injury, I needed just 49 catches to hit 1,000 for my career.
“But now, a year and a half has passed since my last NFL game, and for the first time in my life, I finally feel free.”
Smith’s full story can be read here.