What It’s Like to Have Bipolar Disorder in the NFL

“At one point I went five nights without sleeping.”

Keith O’Neil wasn’t born on a football field, but he might as well have been. He was a scrapper—six feet tall and 240 pounds. He had speed and hit like a train. He also had pedigree: His dad, Ed O’Neil, was an NFL linebacker from 1974 to 1980, primarily for Detroit.

Still, as physically gifted as he was, O’Neil never quite felt right as a kid. “I had a lot of anxiety,” he says. “I first started feeling things when I was nine, but I was too young to know I shouldn’t be feeling them.” He had no idea what was brewing in him. He pushed through it all with football—high school, college, and eventually the NFL. He played for five years as a part-time linebacker and special teams player for the Cowboys, Colts—winning a Super Bowl ring in 2007—and briefly with the Giants (he retired later in 2007).  more

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