Eagles offensive lineman Brandon Brooks revealed Wednesday that he suffers from anxiety, a condition that caused the stomach illness which kept him out of two of the last three games.
"What I mean by anxiety condition is not nervousness or fear of the game," Brooks said. "I have an obsession with the game. It's an unhealthy obsession right now. I'm working with team doctors to get everything straightened out and get the help I need."
The diagnosis came after Brooks, 27, was hospitalized with an illness on the morning of the Eagles' Nov. 28 loss to Green Bay. He experienced another incident Sunday, when he awoke on the morning of the Redskins game with uncontrolled vomiting. Brooks returned to practice Wednesday and coach Doug Pederson said the guard is slated to start Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Brooks said he is taking medication to "tone it done." He's also seeking professional help. Brooks said he needs to determine "why I'm constantly searching to be perfect," and how it affects him when he falls short of those standards. He said he must learn to deal with imperfection or substandard performance, and for Brooks, that means being able to "chill" and "turn my brain off."
The anxiety causes vomiting and other symptoms that inhibit him from playing. When he showed up to Lincoln Financial Field before Sunday's game, he needed intravenous fluids and said he did not have the strength to stand.
"It's nothing I'm ashamed of," Brooks said. "I'll get the help that I need and life will go on. I'll be fine. Career will be fine. I am concerned about it, obviously, but I'm not 'woe is me' at this point."
Brooks has missed four games in his career because of illness. After the Packers game, he sought help. He did not know the problem before last month, so he does not know how long he has been afflicted. He underwent endoscopies while playing for Houston but did not consider anxiety as the source of the stomach illness.
"For the longest [time], I thought it was an ulcer, something physical in my stomach," Brooks said. "I didn't know it could possibly be something else."
He said he reached out for help when he realized "I couldn't defeat it myself." He was honest and candid on Wednesday, inviting questions and offering explanations. He emphasized that the first step in solving the problem is acknowledging there is one. He insisted that depression is not a problem and that he is a happy person who enjoys football and being a part of the Eagles.
The clarity is helpful for Brooks. It's also helpful to the Eagles, who signed Brooks to a five-year, $40 million contract in March with the expectation that he would be a fixture on the offensive line. Brooks said the topic did not come up in contract negotiations because he and the team thought his problem was stomach ulcers.
Brooks added that teammates and the organization have been supportive about the condition. He specifically mentioned Pederson, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, and top executive Howie Roseman.
"In the short term, my teammates have rallied around me," Brooks said. "I get the help and treatment I need. I don't think it'll impact me at all, my football career. I'll be fine. I'll come out better from this, a better person."
Pederson had been vague about Brooks' condition since Sunday. He said Wednesday before Brooks disclosed the problem that it was in the "hands of the medical staff and they're dealing with it." Pederson put the game plan together for this week expecting Brooks to be in the lineup.
"I have full confidence in him, that he'll be ready," Pederson said. "… Now that we're kind of on the right track … this hopefully doesn't happen again."
Brooks said he had the problem again Sunday after the initial diagnosis because the medication had not kicked in yet. But now he knows what the problem is, he believes he has found ways to manage it. The Eagles need Brooks healthy for this year and years to come. And with his condition discussed in public, Brooks wants others to benefit, too.
"Hopefully it can reach around [to] some other kids out there dealing with the same thing and they'll know it's OK, life goes on, fight through it," Brooks said. "Just like I'm trying to do."