Charles Haley: Knew There Was Something Wrong, But I Never Reached Out

Pro Football Hall of Famer and five-time Super Bowl champion Charles Haley dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday to discuss his new book, “Fear No Evil: Tacking Quarterbacks and Demons on my Way to the Hall of Fame,” which discusses Haley’s career, as well as his battle with bipolar disorder.

“I always kind of knew something was wrong with me, but I never reached out for the help,” the 52-year-old Haley said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “In the 2000s, I started realizing there was consequences for my actions and that what I was doing – the way I was feeling – wasn’t normal. What you have to understand is I had ups and downs. What helped me a lot was I did a lot of running, I did a lot of exercise, so that managed the manic part. I would come into the locker room on top of the world for a few days and then for 15 or 20 days I wouldn’t speak to nobody.”

That became the norm.

“That was the cycle always in my life,” Haley said. “I wanted to hurt you before you hurt me. I was always in a reactionary mode. I could not grasp what I was doing. The only reason now I know some of the things I did was wrong is because I take my medicine and it gives me the opportunity to listen to somebody else’s opinion without exploding. When you see your kids, and some of them are grown and teenagers and you go out to eat dinner and you explode and hit the table, the people by you get up and leave. From then on, your kids (aren’t) talking. I didn’t want that anymore, so I went and sought help and I got help.”

Haley now wants others to do the same. As a child, he struggled to form relationships and became isolated, which plagued him throughout his life. He doesn’t want other people to endure that, especially not football players, who may be afraid to seek help because they play a tough-guy sport. For them and others, there’s still a stigma.

Haley, who had suicidal thoughts, worked to overcome that.

“Words don’t hurt me no more,” Haley said. “I’m a man of action. It’s time now to deal with real problems, real issues. Football is not one of those things that I really care about. I care about the player now. I’ve done some things I’m ashamed of. I did a lot of things that I’m proud of. I want guys to know from high school all the way to the NFL (that) they don’t have to suffer from the disease alone. I want the parents of these kids to reach out for help. They know the kids. They know what the kids are going through. They need to be proactive, too.

“I want the conversation,” Haley continued. “I want guys to (open up). Together we can search for help. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. But I can tell guys how I feel, how I felt, how I dealt with it. They don’t have to wait. They don’t have to wait until they get in their 40s or their late-30s before they figure this out. Like I tell these guys all the time, I was a grown man with a 16-year-old kid inside of me, screaming, kicking me in the butt, beating me upside the head saying, ‘Help! Help!’ I wouldn’t do it. That caused a lot of (bad things to happen).”

Haley, a two-time Pro Bowler, won two Super Bowl titles with the 49ers and three with the Cowboys. He is relieved to have shared his story with others.

“My teammates, the people that I love – my Super Bowls rings mean more to me than my Hall of Fame ring, because my teammates, we were together, we bonded and we won,” Haley said. “The Hall of Fame is an individual goal, but my teammates, they mean more to me than anything else. But I stepped on them and I belittled them and I made them feel bad. I regret my actions and now I get an opportunity for them to see my walk, to see my talk, and realize that this is for real.”

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