BC Lions QB says mental health almost took him away from football
Christina Heydanus, CTV News Vancouver
Published Thursday, July 4, 2019 8:11AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 4, 2019 7:33PM PDT
There is no denying the player and person BC Lions quarterback Mike Reilly is. And while fans across the league have gotten to know the football star over the years, there’s something he’s kept to himself until now.
Reilly struggles with his mental health.
It started back in January of 2018, while he was home with his family during the offseason. It’s a time he says is usually relaxing. This time was different.
“It just kind of came out of nowhere,” Reilly recalled to CTV News. “I had a panic attack and a ton of anxiety because of that, which kind of got me into a vicious cycle of being concerned about it and that triggered more panic attacks and a ton of anxiety, and not knowing how to deal with it. It was something completely new to me.”
Used to being in control on the field, Reilly suddenly found himself out of control. He didn’t know how to handle the attacks and tried to do so himself, which he said was the worst thing he could have done.
“At that time, I didn't really want to believe what was happening,” Reilly said.
So he turned to the team he was currently on, the Edmonton Eskimos, to get some help. He also found support from someone even closer to him: his brother.
"Luckily for me my brother is a psychologist so he was eventually who I reached out to,” Reilly said. “Being that he's a family member of mine, it was good and bad because I knew I could trust him, but I also didn't want to be vulnerable to a family member. I just felt it was past the point where I knew I couldn't deal with it alone."
Reilly said that help gave him the tools he needed, ones he still uses every day.
“I'm sure there will be multiple times where it's that scenario and any other kind of mental health issues that come up, but I'm not nervous about it anymore. It doesn't scare me and I know there are people who can and will help,” Reilly said.
He also says if he didn’t get help, he’d likely no longer be playing the game.
"I always feel like I can take a tremendous amount of difficulty in my life - physically or mentally - but there are certain things, no matter how strong you are, how tough you are, it'll break you, and honestly that was the situation,” Reilly said Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Surrey.
“Football is great and I love it, but there's a lot more to life than football. And if I hadn't gotten the help I needed, I don't think I would be having a productive life - let alone playing football."
It’s a story he feels is important to share. And since it was posted on the CFL’s website, Reilly says he’s already gotten a lot of positive feedback.
“I got a lot of response from people who say I went through the exact same thing, the words I was reading were literally exactly what I was thinking or going through. So it just reaffirmed what I had found out earlier and suspected, and it's that there's a lot more people out there dealing with this type of stuff than I think anyone of us really understand or know,” Reilly said. “But that's the intention, is to get people talking about it and to do my small part to help break the stigma."
His head coach, DeVone Claybrooks, agrees, applauding his quarterback for putting himself out there.
"I think it's imperative as an athlete, you get put on this high pedestal, that you're not human and you don't deal with human things, and I think that was the humility about it, is that it showed he is human and deals with issues and that there's nothing wrong with identifying those issues and working through them,” Claybrooks said.
“One kid might read that article and be like, ‘oh I'm not this and I'm not that, somethings not wrong with me, I'm not an outsider, these feelings and emotions I'm having are normal, and now I have to understand I cope with them’, and it's an inspiration to others, and I think it’s great.”