BY BILL PHILLIPS
Michael Landsberg talks a lot.
He’s the first to tell you he loves to talk. As the former host of TSN’s Off The Record he made a living out to talking. And he says a lot of things.
However, one thing he says over and over again is:
“I suffer from depression and anxiety. But you know what, I am not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed. And I’m sure as hell not weak. I will say those words a few words because they are the most important words I’ve ever said.”
Landsberg gave a rousing hour-long speech to 450 people at the Timberwolves Legacy Breakfast Monday, detailing his ongoing battle with depression.
“I have given up years of my life to this illness,” he said. “I have been so sick that I understood why people take their lives.”
It was back in 2000 when anxiety and depression really took hold of him.
Even though he was a very successful television host, he had, and still does, days where his depression crippled him.
Like most people with depression, he hid it for years … putting on a mask, never knowing from day to day whether he was going to have a good day or a bad day.
“The worst thing that I have experienced in my life, by a mile, is depression,” he said. “I believe if you believe that if you suffer from depression so severely that you’ve lost the ability to experience joy, that while you may be alive, you’re really not living.”
It was after the 2008 Grey Cup game when he found himself in a hotel room in Montreal at 4 a.m., sitting on the edge of his bed and came to the understanding why people choose to end their life to escape the pain of depression.
He had had a bad year. His daughter was dealing with an illness that robbed her of the sight in one eye. He had a great job, great family so it wasn’t that he had nothing to live for and yet he understood why people commit suicide because of depression.
“It had nothing to do with ‘I’m done here,’” he said. “It had everything to do with this illness that was so painful that the idea of thinking another day was way more painful than the idea of jumping.”
That was when he decided he needed to get help, which he did.
It wasn’t for another couple of years when he was interviewing Montreal Canadiens’ star Stephane Richer that he publicly announced he had feelings of depression. He did it to coerce Richer into talking about his depression. Richer, a Montreal boy drafted by the Candiens who went on to score 50 goals in one season and win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, felt no joy in his accomplishments.
“That’s depression,” said Landsberg. “… Depression is an illness. It robs us of hope. Everybody who feels depression loses hope. Everyone who feels depression feels lonely.”
His message is the comment that he says everywhere he goes … it’s an illness, it’s not something to be ashamed of, and it doesn’t make you weak.
He encourages everyone feeling depression to seek help.
“It can get better because it got better for me,” he said.
And, he adds, find what works for you. That may be medication, which works for him, or it may be something else. But find what works.
“You should fight for your happiness in every way that you know how,” he said. “Regardless of what your treatment is, you should be open to it because I can tell you that nothing is worse than being in the hole and looking up and not seeing any light.”
Landsberg uses the hashtag #sicknotweak in tribute to his mental illness.