Why a college football coach hid his bipolar disorder diagnosis for 30 years

Brent Man retired final 12 months after greater than three a long time as a university soccer coach. At age 59, he retired as a result of he had had sufficient. It wasn’t that he had had his fill of the lengthy hours and brief sleeps or that he did not take pleasure in competing or that he not loved working with younger folks.

No, Brent Man retired as FIU defensive coordinator a 12 months in the past as a result of he had had sufficient of maintaining a 30-year secret.

“This was a really lonely illness,” Man stated. “Till now, I’ve by no means had a good friend that I knew of that had what I had, had some sort of psychological sickness, particularly bipolar dysfunction.”

Man has lived with bipolar dysfunction by means of 11 teaching jobs, by means of elevating two kids, by means of his lengthy marriage to his spouse, Shawn. Man has lived with bipolar dysfunction as he developed a status as a reliable coach: a stable, foundational thinker as a defensive coordinator; a cool, analytical presence within the assembly room; an excellent keel within the uneven emotional waters of 100-hour weeks fueled by Crimson Bull and adrenaline.

And nobody outdoors of his dwelling and his medical professionals knew.

“You would have given me a thousand guesses, and this could have been the very last thing I might have guessed,” stated FIU assistant coach Jeff Copp, who performed for Man at Boise State within the late ’90s and coached with him at three faculties.

“A voice of purpose,” Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter stated of Man, whom he employed for seven seasons at Boise State and Arizona State.

“He by no means misplaced his composure,” stated Butch Davis, who coached Man at Oklahoma State 40 years in the past and employed him at FIU in 2017.

He by no means misplaced his composure. Effectively, he did simply as soon as.

In April 1990, Man was a 29-year-old linebackers coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State. He had walked on a decade earlier and earned a scholarship and a beginning job as a Cowboys linebacker. He was younger and doing what he cherished, working for head coach Pat Jones, who had been his place coach.

However all Man knew was that he had stopped sleeping. He would lie subsequent to Shawn, his thoughts racing, and at 5 a.m., he would stand up, bathe and go to the soccer workplace. He did not sleep for a number of days. Shawn recalled them driving from Stillwater to Tulsa, with Man tapping on the dashboard for just about the whole 90 minutes.

On one explicit April morning, Man went into the workers room for a recurrently scheduled assembly. That is what faculty soccer coaches do — they meet, morning after morning, day after day, week in and week out.

This assembly was totally different.

The standard interval for onset of bipolar dysfunction is the mid-to-late 20s. Based on the Nationwide Alliance on Psychological Sickness, 2.8% of People (roughly 9 million folks) reside with the dysfunction, which “causes uncommon shifts in temper, vitality, exercise ranges and the power to hold out day-to-day duties.”

There are 4 fundamental kinds of the dysfunction; some folks exist extra on the depressive finish of the spectrum, whereas others are on the manic, high-energy aspect. Man was the latter. Ideas raced by means of his thoughts. The sooner they got here, the sooner he tried to speak, the sooner he tried to behave upon them. The issue was his thoughts raced so quick that he could not sluggish it down sufficient to go to sleep.

“It began peaking on me,” Man stated. “Once I say ‘peaking,’ I used to be beginning to have hallucinations.”

Through the assembly, Man noticed a battle breaking out, a combat of fine versus evil enveloping his fellow coaches.

“In my thoughts,” he stated, “I may look in your eyes, and I may inform: Are you on this aspect or that aspect? I regarded across the room, and I used to be making notes of who was in, who was out. I began attempting to drag within the people who I assumed had been on the nice aspect. I began attempting to provide a lecture. I used to be simply making no sense in any respect.”

Jones advised everybody however Man and the power coach, Rob Glass, to depart the assembly room.

“I knew it was weird,” Jones stated. “I knew there was one thing occurring that was not regular. It wasn’t any form of wild match. He was simply babbling nonsense.”

Jones referred to as a health care provider, a good friend, who noticed Man and decided that he wanted extra assist than the physician may present. He organized for Glass to take Man to a psychiatric hospital in Tulsa. The physician referred to as Shawn.

“He stated, ‘Brent’s having some points,'” Shawn stated. “I stated, ‘What’s improper? What’s improper?’

“He stated, ‘Effectively, I will attempt to describe it like this: If I am standing right here on this workplace trying on the soccer area, Brent would possibly look on the market and see flying elephants.'”

Three a long time later, Man described his hallucinations as in the event that they had been a nightmare — you get up and attempt to piece collectively the vivid pictures you noticed and occasions you skilled. “That is what it is like,” he stated, “solely you are awake, and also you’re strolling by means of it. I imply, it is that actual.”

Man can bear in mind the trip to the psychiatric hospital throughout a rainstorm. The rain would periodically cease, ship him a message after which restart. In actuality, all that occurred was the automobile traveled beneath overpasses. He remembers deciphering messages despatched to him by means of Michael Jackson singing “Man within the Mirror” on the radio. He remembers being in a mattress in a hospital room with a health care provider attempting to persuade him that he wanted a shot that might knock him out. He remembers considering that if that needle went into him, he absolutely would die.

“This physician gave me a sure look, and I am considering, ‘OK. He is on the improper aspect,'” Man stated. “And I come up out of the mattress at him screaming as loud a shriek as you have ever heard. And he runs out of the room, and I run to the door, slam the door behind him, and I’m simply beating on the door to say, ‘No! No! No!'”

Shawn stood on the nurse’s station a couple of yards away. She heard the screaming, and her first intuition was to get Brent out of there, to take away him from a ward the place somebody is perhaps that critically disturbed. Then she realized that somebody was her husband. Man remembered Shawn coming to the opposite aspect of the door with orderlies. He remembered listening to the radios clipped on their uniforms and deciding they had been Secret Service and President George H.W. Bush had come to see him.

Shawn went into the room and tried to persuade Brent that he needed to take the shot. He finally agreed — however not earlier than he wrote down all his notes about good and evil, folded the notes and caught them in his underwear.

“‘You thought you had been Jesus Christ,'” Shawn recalled to Brent.

“Quick-forward in all probability 16, 18 hours,” Brent stated. “I get up. I am in a distinct gown. I am on a distinct aspect of the hospital. My piece of paper is out of my underwear, and I do not know the place I’m.”

He had regained his lucidity however discovered quickly sufficient that he had been put in lockdown with sufferers who had been in far more dire form.

“The following day, the following afternoon, there is a room the place you possibly can have guests,” Brent stated. “I am going into the room, and my mother and Shawn are sitting there, and I am simply crying uncontrollably, crying as a result of I do not know what’s occurred to me. And so they begin explaining to me as a result of they’ve gone and purchased books.

“‘You’re a manic-depressive.’

“I am like, ‘What?’ I had by no means heard of it.”

Man responded effectively to treatment, remained within the hospital only some days after which resumed his teaching life. But it surely was not the identical life. He had to determine stick with it as if nothing had modified when every thing had modified. He had to determine reside within the macho world of teaching, by which — particularly three a long time in the past — few males admitted weak point.

As Man compiled a file of analysis a number of inches thick, as he learn groundbreaking books by psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison and actress Patty Duke on their experiences with bipolar dysfunction, he by no means learn any of it the place anybody may see. There have been no articles in his briefcase, no books in his lounge.

“I bought into this perspective of ‘I will defend it,'” Man stated. “There have been no lengths that I would not go to try this. I used to be simply paranoid about it.”

The character of his office helped.

“Soccer is quite a bit just like the illness,” Man stated. “It goes up and down. If you’re profitable, all people’s form of giddy. When you have a loss, all people goes down. Being a university soccer coach form of helped masks it somewhat bit as a result of there are such a lot of ups and downs, which is true for folks with bipolar dysfunction like I’ve.”

With treatment and life-style modifications, Man has led a productive life however one lived in perpetual concern of the stigma that may include any psychological sickness. He did not even inform his prolonged household, despite the fact that bipolar dysfunction has a genetic part. Man believes that may clarify why alcoholism has been a part of his household for 4 generations. Alcohol has an extended affiliation with bipolar dysfunction; a 2002 examine by the Nationwide Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that just about half the bipolar inhabitants will abuse alcohol.

“I grew up in a small city. By no means was uncovered to something with psychological sickness,” stated Man, a local of Perryton, Texas. “Had I recognized sufficient to piece collectively that [bipolar disorder] is a type of psychological sickness, and that’s one thing that is in [my] DNA, we would not have been shocked.”

Nonetheless, he stated nothing. After his analysis, even his psychiatrist advised him to not inform anybody. Thirty years in the past, the stigma was too nice. And if he had doubts about whether or not he ought to maintain his head down, the 1991 movie “The Silence of the Lambs” satisfied him in any other case.

“We had been within the film, and we’re watching, and naturally it is scary,” Man stated. “They’re attempting to determine who the unhealthy individual is, and the outline is given. He was 29 years previous. He was a traditional manic-depressive. That’s precisely what I used to be advised in that hospital. I used to be 29 years previous, and I used to be a traditional manic-depressive. I am sitting there and considering, ‘Holy cow! I am within the boat with this man.’

“You already know, it was only a story, clearly. They’re describing my illness about this man that is a serial killer. That was my first time in public of it getting slammed again in my face and considering, ‘Holy cow, that is what folks consider this,’ and that even enforced extra, ‘Do not discuss this as a result of that is the best way that is being portrayed.'”

Man by no means took his treatment outdoors of his dwelling. If a medicine reminiscent of lithium, a standard software for treating bipolar dysfunction, was so sturdy that the each day dosage needed to be divided into three capsules taken over the course of the day, Man did not care. He took the capsules suddenly at dwelling. 9 years of ingesting that top a focus of lithium did such a quantity on his kidneys that, 20 years in the past, he needed to resolve between discovering a brand new drug or finally discovering new kidneys. He discovered a brand new drug.

Going to the pharmacy or to the physician — to most of us an earthly necessity of recent life — offered Man with a dilemma, a minimum of in his thoughts. What if somebody noticed him enter a psychiatrist’s workplace? What if somebody came upon what sort of treatment he took? He deliberate his medical appointments with the identical care and element he used to script recreation plans. Man wore a cap on his bald head. He wore sun shades. He bought to his appointments a half-hour early and sat in his automobile, watching who else walked into the physician’s workplace.

Shortly after he turned an assistant coach at Boise State within the late 1990s, Man made his first go to to an area pharmacy to fill his prescription. The pharmacist acknowledged his identify and chatted him up concerning the Broncos. Man took his prescription, walked out and altered pharmacies.

The itinerant lifetime of an assistant added difficulties for Man. Each new job meant a brand new city, which meant a brand new physician. Treating bipolar dysfunction is as a lot artwork as science. Determining what treatment will work finest can contain trial and error.

“Docs are identical to anyone else, identical to I’m with the zone blitz or the zero blitz,” Man stated. “They’ve sure meds that they like, that they use with their sufferers, the place different ones do not. That is a very high quality line all people has to stroll. You bought to seek out the correct physician and the correct meds to get you thru this.”

Ultimately, after a few decade, Man discovered a psychiatrist in Chicago who agreed to deal with him long-distance. That eased his burden, although he nonetheless had Shawn decide up his prescriptions as a rule.

The bigger burden, the one with which he sat in silence, immobilized by concern of discovery, sat proper on his shoulders.

“He by no means needed me or any of his friends to know there was an issue,” stated Houston Nutt, a longtime coach and faculty teammate of Man’s at Oklahoma State who now serves as a university soccer analyst for CBS Sports activities. “To me, he is been combating issues a lot bigger than I ever even dreamed of.”

At each stage, Shawn stood shut by, monitoring her husband’s moods, reminding him that he merely needed to sleep. When different coaches’ wives organized an in-season journey, Shawn would beg off, saying Brent did not sleep effectively with out her. Just lately, Man stated, when the spouse of one in every of his fellow coaches realized what he had stored secret for therefore a few years, she considered all these journeys Shawn did not take.

“I had no thought,” the lady advised Brent. “I simply thought you had been smooth.”

As Man’s profession prolonged, he realized that he had a knack for speaking with gamers different coaches noticed as troubled or merely totally different: the “undependable,” those “who cannot address strain.”

“I may at all times cope with the youngsters that had some sort of dyslexia or ADHD,” Man stated. “In the event that they had been having to take any form of med, I may talk. I knew precisely how they felt. ‘Hey, you had been born this manner. In the event you’re getting particular assist as a result of you have got a studying incapacity, you understand you are protected. You ought to get assist. It is simply you be taught in a different way.'”

When Man reached out to the gamers with dyslexia or ADHD, he did so quietly. He did not exit looking for them.

“If I requested the improper query or I implied one thing, the highlight would come again on me,” he stated. “‘Why are you aware a lot about this? Why are you asking these questions?’ I had such a barrier round me, a protecting barrier, that I did nothing [so] that highlight may come on me.”

Man escaped the stigma by by no means making his dysfunction public information, however his silence did nothing to fight the stigma itself. That got here with its personal excessive price.

Brent and Shawn did not inform their kids — daughter Madison, now 28, and son Riley, 22 — of their father’s bipolar dysfunction till the youngsters had been leaving the nest for school.

Madison requested, “Dad, are you going to be all proper? Is there one thing I can do?”

Six years later, Riley stated just about the identical factor. However after Brent left for work, Riley turned to Shawn and requested, “Mother, are you scared Dad’s going to harm you?”

“He does not even yell at me,” Shawn stated of her husband, “a lot much less increase a hand at me.”

“That was an actual blow,” Man stated. “[The stigma] had grown in my home beneath my watch. My son was stigmatized. That is once I knew. I stated that day, ‘I will do one thing about this once I’m carried out teaching. If it might probably develop in my home, it might probably occur to anyone in anyone’s household.'”

It took 5 years for Man to behave on his willpower to do one thing. By the top of the 2018 season, a complete slew of causes pushed Man to return out of his self-imposed isolation, to cease teaching, to do one thing constructive to finish the stigma that surrounds psychological sickness.

For one factor, he knew he wanted to transform his treatment once more. When an previous good friend, Butch Davis, referred to as and requested Man to return to FIU in 2017, Man stated sure. When Davis scheduled the Panthers’ practices within the morning, to keep away from the humidity and the midafternoon thunderstorms which can be a fixture of life in South Florida, Man did not assume twice. However these morning practices extracted a toll.

Some individuals who reside on the manic finish of the bipolar dysfunction spectrum take highly effective tranquilizers. Man was one in every of them. In each earlier teaching job, Man had a morning of watching movies, the best way coaches do of their conferences, that allowed him to slowly heat up his motor. At FIU, he needed to be at full vitality for 7:15 a.m. place conferences and seven:45 a.m. practices.

Man started to drink two pots of espresso each morning to yank himself out of his in a single day haze. By the top of his tenure, he suffered a extreme ringing in his ears that he suspects was introduced on by caffeine. The power of the medication — and maybe the power of all that espresso — left him in a continuing state of nausea. Through the season, he put his physique by means of that 16 hours a day, seven days per week. Man knew that when he started to transform his treatment, transitioning off one drug and onto one other would take a number of weeks.

It offered him with one motivation to stop, however he had others. There was the toll of staying quiet by means of the years as his fellow assistant coaches flippantly referred to a troubled participant as somebody who “did not take his magic capsules,” who would possibly “get on a constructing and begin capturing folks,” who “could possibly be on the finish of a rope sometime.” Man thought that if he admonished the coaches who indulged in that verbal shorthand, they’d wish to know why he cared a lot. Then he noticed the NCAA start to concentrate on combating the rise of hysteria and melancholy amongst student-athletes, and he thought possibly he may take part and assist those struggling ultimately.

Most of all, Man had grown uninterested in hiding in plain sight. So, sooner or later in January 2019, he and Davis left a recruit’s dwelling and began driving to their subsequent dwelling go to. Man pulled off the highway and right into a parking zone. The 2 had recognized one another for 40 years, since Man walked on at Oklahoma State, the place Davis was a younger assistant for Jimmy Johnson. Man began crying. He may barely have a look at Davis.

“I’ve bought to step down,” Man stated. “I’ve bought one thing that I’ve bought to handle on the private aspect.”

Davis, a most cancers survivor, supplied to open his handle e book: docs, hospitals, you identify it.

“I did not know if it was most cancers,” he stated. “I used to be form of speculating as to what it might need been. Brent did not wish to get into it. He stated, ‘I will let you understand someday later.'”

Even at that second, with all of the belief and friendship that had constructed over 4 a long time, even when he not needed to reside a lie to guard his profession, whilst he was leaving teaching to start combating the stigma that had intimidated him for practically his complete grownup life, Man could not say the phrases.

He packed up his workplace and went into seclusion. He endured withdrawal from the tranquilizers he took for a few years and transitioned to a different treatment. After a couple of months, when Man began to really feel good once more, he started to inform his teaching associates why he stop. He started to inform them who he actually was, who he had been for all these years.

“When Brent stepped away, nobody may attain him,” Koetter stated. “I used to be involved. I did not know what it was. I figured one thing was improper. I assumed possibly one thing was improper with one in every of his youngsters or Shawn was sick. I referred to as and texted Brent a number of instances over the following a number of months, and he would not reply to anyone.”

At some point in July 2019, Koetter, an Idaho native, was studying the Idaho Statesman, the Boise each day paper.

“They had been speaking about these large Garth Brooks live shows they had been having in Boise, and it simply made me consider Brent,” Koetter stated. Brooks threw the javelin at Oklahoma State when Man performed soccer. “So I stated I will give it yet one more shot, and I randomly referred to as him. I used to be going to depart him a message like I had carried out earlier than, and he picked up the telephone. That is when he advised me, and I used to be shocked however completely satisfied for him.”

Man has been gratified by the best way his teaching associates have rallied to help him. He stated he does not take into consideration what might need occurred if he had made his situation public earlier. He believes his teaching profession has been a mixture of luck and self-discipline. Had he not labored for a person reminiscent of Jones, he would possibly by no means have been welcomed again to the teaching workers so readily.

“He wasn’t a throwaway man by any stretch of the creativeness,” Jones stated. “No matter was occurring inside him, he is a superb individual.”

That was the luck. The self-discipline lived in Man’s willpower to keep up his drug routine. Man stated it is not uncommon for somebody with bipolar dysfunction to really feel so good that they abandon their treatment, feeling with absolute conviction that they do not want it, that they really feel good regardless of the treatment — not due to it.

He tried ditching his treatment as soon as, and as quickly as he and Shawn seen his thoughts racing and his speech attempting to maintain up, he resumed his routine. He made certain he bought his sleep, and if he did not — if Shawn seen his speech starting to rev up — she made certain he bought his sleep. He by no means strayed afterward.

Man, like many soccer coaches, is a disciplined employee, however there’s extra to it than that. There may be the reminiscence of his residing nightmare, his self-described psychotic episode that led him to that psychiatric ward in Tulsa.

“I can nonetheless see that physician’s terrified face working out of the room,” Man stated. “I feel, man, what if I had gotten maintain of him? Or if I had gotten maintain of an object? As a result of I used to be in a way of thinking that I assumed he was attempting to hurt me. I am simply grateful that I did not pay money for him. He was sooner getting out of the room than I used to be getting out [of] the mattress.”

Man does not reside within the land of what-if, however the query helped him keep on his treatment, helped him preserve his lengthy teaching profession. His reply scared him the primary time he requested it and nonetheless scares him right now, as he seems to be again on a wholesome, productive life as a husband, father and coach.

Final 12 months, he and Shawn moved from Florida again to the Tulsa space to be close to their household. They babysit Madison’s 21-month-old son, Beau.

Man, volunteering by means of the Tulsa workplace of the Nationwide Alliance on Psychological Sickness, has given some two dozen talks to first responders and detention officers, telling his story in order that they are going to extra shortly acknowledge the signs of psychological sickness.

He hopes to discover a position as a psychological well being advocate in intercollegiate athletics. He desires to take away the stigma from bipolar dysfunction. He desires to assist. He desires to cease residing his life whereas, as he put it, “hiding within the tall grass.”

He surrendered his teaching profession to do it. “I feel,” he stated, “that if you stepped over the road for sanity, and you have come again, you perceive it higher.”

Brent Man at all times could have this dysfunction. Now it is rather less lonely.

In the event you or somebody you understand has questions for Brent Man about bipolar dysfunction, it’s possible you’ll e-mail him at ilivebp2@yahoo.com.

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