Herschel Walker visits, offers hope to those in pain
“Just because you admit a problem, it doesn’t mean you are weak. I think I’m very macho,” said Walker, who was diagnosed with a multiple personality disorder a few years ago. He spoke at Alexander Hall on May 13.
The National Institute for Mental Health said that about 26 percent of the adults “suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” Despite that, mental illness still has a stigma associated with it.
Walker said he realized he had a problem when a vendor kept delaying getting something for him for a couple of weeks. Walker’s anger reached the point that he grabbed a gun and headed to meet this person. “I prayed – God help me. I’m about to do something really stupid,” he said.
Walker said his problems started as a child. Walker grew up in Wrightsville, Ga. He was overweight and had a speech impediment.
“I could not put a sentence together,” he said. “Even my teacher put me in a corner. I used to get beat up every day.”
He used writing as a coping mechanism. At the age of 12, he decided he’d had enough and began to “put on blinders.” He started exercising and did 5,000 pushups and sit-ups a day. He also worked on his speech problems.
In high school, college scouts began to look closely at him. He was valedictorian of his class and went on to attend the University of Georgia, where he was an All-American and set 11 NCAA records, 16 Southeastern Conference records and 41 UGA records. He gave up his final year of eligibility to turn professional, but he finished his bachelor degree at the University of Georgia after his first year of professional football.
He played for the USFL and then spent 11 years in the NFL with teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2008, Walker’s memoir Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder was released. His condition was formerly known as multiple personality disorder.
His faith in God and the doctors who’ve treated him have helped in his healing process, he said.
Walker said he didn’t start out to write a book. He had written down his thoughts and feelings over the years. He allowed one of his friends to read it, and the friend suggested he have it published.
He talked with Simon and Schuster about publishing the book.
“I had 1,500 pages. They cut it down to about 300 and asked me to write about football,” he said.
The book has done well financially, which surprised Walker.
“I didn’t write the book for money,” he said. He donates proceeds to hospitals.
He said Dallas Cowboys coach, Tom Landry, had taught his players to give back to the community rather than just taking from it.
His visit to Fort Gordon was designed as part of that giving back, he said, and he hoped it would help others to seek the help they needed.
“If you are suffering, get help,” he said.