By David VergunMay 16, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, May 15, 2013) -- Widely regarded as one of football's greatest running backs, Herschel Walker, now 51, led a successful career on the gridiron.
But off the playing field, the NFL star and Heisman Trophy winner struggled with dissociative identity disorder, a mental illness that impairs memory and can sometimes cause destructive behaviors.
The disorder left him angry and deeply depressed. He said he felt like his life was spinning out of control. At his lowest point, he nearly committed suicide.
Voices in his head told him that if he sought mental help, people would disrespect him, he said.
But despite his shame, Walker said he eventually did seek help and that was one of the most important decisions he made in his life, besides finding God.
"Seeking help saved my life," he said, speaking at the Air Force Academy, May 15, during the wheelchair basketball finals at the 2013 Warrior Games.
Besides physical injuries, many of the wounded warriors at the games are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
They are receiving help, just like Walker did. But many others in the military have yet to do so.
"I realize there's a stigma in asking for help," he said, admitting it's a tough step to take.
"You think by asking for help that makes you less of a person, less of a man. But you've got to overcome your shame, get tough and seek help. Look at me, I did it," he said.
INSPIRED BY WOUNDED WARRIORS
Walker said he's impressed by wounded warriors and everyone in the military who has sacrificed for their country.
"They're a big inspiration to me and I want to continue going to events like this and meeting them," Walker said.
Although Walker still maintains a rigorous daily fitness regimen, he admits to trying out wheelchair basketball during practice with the athletes and being "terrible at it. The guys out here do it really well. They're still putting it all on the line."
People sometimes say to him that today's generation is going downhill and that, "we're losing our young people," he said.
"I tell them 'guys, have you met our wounded who've sacrificed so much for our freedoms?' They'd be so grateful if they did," he said. "America is still beautiful and they've made it that way."
Walker's message to wounded warriors and people everywhere:
"Every one of us has the Lord's DNA. You're a gift from God. We don't always know the reasons why bad things happen, but you've got to keep looking up. Don't let anybody or anything get you down," he said.