I had a seizure. They took me to the hospital and I told them what was going on. They said with the amount of alcohol I had been drinking everyday, I should have been dead. They said I should have died. The way I was living, I should have. I’m not a very religious person, but I believe that the seizure was God sending me a message. That if I kept living like that, I was going to die. The seizure was a taste of it, like “See what this feels like and then decide if you want to keep living like that.” It fucking woke me up. And that’s what keeping things bottled up does – it ends in catastrophe.
The first change I made was to stop drinking, and I moved into a sober house – no drugs, no alcohol. The closest thing to a substance you could have in there was pre-workout. Doug Lawson managed the sober house I went to – he had seen me before and knew I was struggling. He saved my life.
They said with the amount of alcohol
I had been drinking everyday,
I should have been dead.
There were people I had talked with, even before the hospital. People knew. But I had to want to make the change for myself. Even if someone told me to go to rehab, it didn’t matter. Because nobody could force me to do anything. If I still wanted to when I came out, I would have just gone straight to the liquor store. Nobody could force me to do anything. I had to want to stop, I had to have that desire from within.
It’s not easy to get people to want that for themselves. There’s this stigma that we need to smash – this stigma that says you’re a pussy or that you can’t handle your shit if you have these struggles. People think you can’t be in any situation where you need to perform under pressure. That’s just not true. I can only speak from the perspective of athletic performance, but I know. There are athletes winning championships, MVPs, and they can obviously perform at the highest level – but they have these exact same struggles. So whether we’re talking about sports, or any other kind of professional setting, it’s just not true that people can’t be put in high performing situations. People need to know that people struggling with mental illness can still perform, but we also need to support them through the challenges. So, we need people – managers, bosses, coworkers, family members – everyone, to understand that.
I think there’s also a huge shortage of professional help. I talk to people all the time who tell me that they’ve tried to reach out to try to get a psychiatrist appointment, and the wait is fucking 3 months. Well, you know what I would have done if you had told me I was on my own for 3 months? I would have gone straight back to vodka. Because 3 months is a long fucking time if you’re struggling. So I don’t know how, but we need to get the supply of good psychiatrists and therapists to match the demand, because the need out there is way fucking higher than the help that’s available.
Why is coming back after a mental health “injury” weak?
There are athletes who come back from an ACL injury after 8 months, and people look at them and say, “They’re strong.” Why is coming back after a mental health “injury” weak? But I do see that people are beginning to see that coming back from something like this is also strong. Right now, for example, I’m in the best shape of my life. My history is all out there – people know what I went through to get here, they see what I look like now, and they can recognize that comeback.
When I decided to tell my story, I had some fear about what the response would be. But I realized I had already hit my lowest point. 1,500 people saw me have a seizure in front of them – people took their phones out and took a video, and then a million people saw the video online. People made up all kinds of stories about why I had a seizure, and they just immediately assumed it was drugs. I haven’t taken drugs in my life, I don’t even smoke pot, but people just tell whatever stories they want. So, that was already out there, and it was like, it can’t be worse than that, so, fuck it. So, I was honest.
I was overwhelmed by the response – so many people messaged me about how it had inspired them or how it helped them talk to someone and get help. And if I just help one person, man, then it’s all worth it. People talk to me about what they’re going through and they aren’t even telling their husband, or wife, or best friend – sometimes I’m the only person they’re talking to about it. And I’m no doctor, but I’m just answering as best I can, telling them to go make an appointment with a psychiatrist, talk to their husband or wife or best friend, or anyone. Just open up. It’s the only way I’ve found to help.
Since I opened up and shared my story, man – it was like a huge weight was lifted off of me. It’s so fucking liberating. Because now, my story is out there. I’ve already put all my cards on the table. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been right now. So, if I go into any situation – an audition, a business meeting, whatever — if they’ve done any research at all, they’ve seen it all. They know my story, they know who I am, and they can take it or leave it, but at least they fucking know and I don’t have to put on an act.
I have to perform all the fucking time. It’s so isolating.
The crazy thing about the lifestyle of wrestling is there’s no off-season: we have to be “on” 365 days of the year. We’re performing all the time. Acting, all the fucking time. The only time that I get to turn that act off is when I’m alone in my hotel room or driving in my car. Otherwise, from the moment I open my door, I have to be acting, because anyone could be a fan. And this character in wrestling is supposed to be the real me – it’s so real to the fans. So, a hotel employee might be a fan, or when I stop for gas on these long drives, I could see a fan. As soon as I go out into the world, I’m turning it on. I have to perform all the fucking time. It’s so isolating. And I can lose myself in it so easily – like, I don’t even know the guy I was 10 years ago. He doesn’t even really exist anymore. We all change, but on top of that, I’ve been acting, day in and day out, for so long. It affects who I am, to live like that.
Other athletes may be able to be fully themselves during competition, but as soon as they walk off the court, or ice rink, or field — they’re immediately acting again. As athletes, we’ve gone through so much media training, I think we all just instinctively put on some level of an act. I don’t think that’s only true of professional athletes – people going to their 9 to 5 jobs are doing it, too. So many people feel like they have to perform a certain way and put on an act for their job, whatever that is. And maybe even for our families, too. And that’s so fucking hard. How do you know exactly where that act ends? I don’t know yet.
I know I have to workout to maintain my mental health. I get in the gym, I train. When my body is moving, my mind is okay. It’s when I stop and my thoughts take over, that shit starts to come back. So, even when my body needs a rest day, if I’m sitting at home drinking coffee, watching Seinfeld, and I start to feel that coming back, I’ll fucking get down on the floor and start doing push ups. I’ll do 300 pushups if that’s what I need. The second thing I know I need is to talk to people. I’m Facetiming people all the time. I’m preemptive about it – I get out of my house, do errands, talk to people — not even about what I’m going through at that moment, but just talking to someone. I know my brain needs that.
When those thoughts come, it feels like panic. I’m not having a panic attack, but I panic that one is coming on. That’s when I know I gotta do something, I gotta reach out. I was just talking to my psychiatrist about this, andI’ve learned that some anxiety and panic attacks are called reactive, but mine are endogenous. It comes from fucking nowhere – there’s no reason for it. I could be walking up the stairs to the gym, and bam, fucking anxiety, for no reason.
When those thoughts come, it feels like panic.
The overall message I want to send is this: seek help. Bottling it up, deep down, is the worst thing you can do. I’ve been there. I was fucking miserable all the time and it just made me a different person, to my family, my friends, and my coworkers. I look back at pictures and videos and I can see it. I think other people could see it, too, that I was struggling – something just wasn’t right. Then, and now, it’s like night and day.
I’d say to people who don’t struggle with this – try to understand. It’s impossible for you to really know what it’s like, and what I’d want you to know is that it’s so hard to articulate what this struggle feels like. It’s so hard to tell you what my depression or anxiety is really like. I’ve tried to tell someone and I’ve had responses like, “well, just try to calm down.” Like, wow, I’ve never thought of that, I actually was thinking get more wound up, get crazy – yeah, right, thanks for that great advice to just, “calm the fuck down”. So don’t give out that bullshit advice if you don’t know what it’s like; just listen – really listen. And try to understand.
I’ll talk to you. Seriously. I’m here and I’ve fucking been through it, and I’ll talk to you.
If you are going through it, please seek help. Find someone, anyone, to talk to. If that’s not your family, your best friends, maybe it could be a coworker, or a superior. Call a psychiatrist and make the appointment. Reach out to me – you can talk to me. It doesn’t look like I’m active on my Instagram right now (@bigcasswwe), but I am on there, every day, in private messages. I’m talking to people all the time about this stuff, so just message me. I’ll talk to you. Seriously. I’m here and I’ve fucking been through it, and I’ll talk to you.
William Morrissey (aka CaZXL) is a professional wrestler, formerly of the WWE. Now, he is on the independent circuit and often performs with his former tag team partner, Enzo Amore. CaZXL has been a fierce advocate for mental health.
Check out his recent piece with Fox News here.
Watch his fight tonight, Friday 8/15 at 8 PM. Details here.