Joe U

I’m a soon to be 44 year male and have been a stay at home dad for the last 5.5 years. There is already a stigma in our society with men staying home and taking care of their kids… I’ve had no problems dealing with that because it’s been the greatest job of my life. I used to own 2 companies and sold them and we made a family decision that I would be the stay at home dad.

I played full contact sports and martial arts since I was 8 years old and got serious about playing rugby at 13 or 14. I played competitive rugby for 20 years until I had a serious physical injury than ended my career. I also continued to do full contact martial arts and worked security at nightclubs during this time. Prior to my injury I was 6’1″+ and 245 lbs and cardio for days, I thought I was invincible. Since the injury I have had multiple surgeries and finally at 42 I had a spinal fusion that gave me back full use of my legs and eliminated my back and leg pain. I thought to worst was over…..

I never thought my 70+ concussions would ever matter during my playing and fighting days, it made me tough and they were badges of honor being knocked out and staying in the game. About two years ago I noticed minor changes in my mood and overall mental attitude, I didn’t think much of it. I then began getting migraines on a frequent basis. My mood has slowly begun to change over the last 2 years to the point where I recently woke up one morning and couldn’t remember my daughters name for about 3 seconds. That doesn’t seem like a long time to many people but to forget the name of your baby you have spent every moment with since birth is the most terrifying feeling you will ever have in this world.

I frequently forget to do common errands around the house including getting breakfast for my daughter and getting her morning vitamins etc. and often forget to take my pain medication until my symptoms kick in and then it’s too late. I was always known to have a very good memory and remembering anything I have ever read or seen. Specifically in the last year I have noticed and heard people in our “really friendly and loving neighborhood” make comments about my mood and my irrationality and have recently found out that one of my close friends who didn’t have the courage to say anything to me told a friend of ours that he doesn’t want to bring his kids around my house because of my “mood swings” and that I yell at his kids. This was very heartbreaking for me to find out because I’ve known him for 12 years and he was always the person that said if you have something to say to somebody say to their face… I then find out he’d say anything about me behind my back. I don’t feel too badly about what he said since he doesn’t discipline his kids at all. All of the other parents I’ve spoken to a neighborhood disagree with his comment and say that if a kid is not listening or breaks your child’s toys on purpose and talking to them doesn’t work then yelling at them is the next best option. I have never laid a finger on any woman or child in my life and never intend to, I find that thought deplorable.

The point I’m trying to make here is since keeping a journal for the last two years I’ve noticed days where I feel stressed out, don’t get much sleep or have headaches later that day or the following day my memory and mood varies greatly. Prior to two years ago the thought of ending my life had never even entered my mind but there are some days that for no logical or good reason I will be sitting there and have these types of feelings or urges.

I have recently signed up for a clinical study with the NHI regarding CTE and after I read all the criteria and symptoms of CTE I had all of them. If me getting studied helps in anyway some young man or little lady or even existing person find solace or help or a cure I will be very a happy and content person. Brandon Marshall on the commercial I watched today on Nickelodeon while holding my little angel in my arms gave me the courage to write this letter.

Like many men we do not want to admit our invulnerability or the fact that we are not invincible but it’s time that we drop that stereotype regardless of the fact that you are a superstar athlete or a computer technician. Unfortunately for me all the questions I was asked when applying for the CTE study made me fall into the category for me to have CTE and I should be receiving an email within a week to see if I qualify for the trials. I think everybody’s greatest fear is to wake up one day and not know who they are or where they are or who the most important people in their life is. I know that is my greatest fear. For many if not all of the people that feel this way they know there is eventually only one way out.

Since telling my wife last week what and why I have been feeling for the last 2 years I lifted a huge weight off my shoulders, not talking and hiding the truth or your secret doesn’t help you…the ones that really love and care for you will be there for you, for the ones that aren’t….you don’t need them anyway because they aren’t real friends. We are all the same regardless of race, nationality or gender…we all bleed red, we all laugh when happy and all cry when sad.

I hope this letter will help any “tough guys” out there that are keeping this secret or ignoring the symptoms to open your eyes and talk to someone before it’s too late.

Warm regards,

Joe

One response to “Joe U”

  1. Vicky says:

    I injured my back 14 years ago and have nerve damage in my left leg. Because of these injuries, I would fall as I tried to simply walk. At least twice I have hit my head so hard that it knocked me out. I had concussions from these falls. It caused me to lose 27 IQ points and causes me to have short term memory loss. I forget vocabulary words all the time! Even simple ones. So now, it seems like I’m stuttering when I’m really struggling for the right word. It causes me to have migraines as well. And on and on. So, I kind of understand what you mean.
    I will pray for you as you continue your fight for whatever is your new best!
    God bless.

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