Joined in Progress
Mark Schwarz, guest host - ... an uncommon talent, a stellar student. But suddenly, her success vanished and her behavior baffled even those who loved her most.
Ned Bishop, Kassidi's father - We had no thought that we had a sick child, particularly, we just thought that suddenly she had gone bad.
Schwarz - Like millions of Americans, Kassidi Bishop suffers from bipolar disorder.
Kassidi Bishop, former college athlete - It is absolutely terrifying to wake up every day and not know if you are going to kill yourself.
Schwarz - Now, Bishop wants to play Division I ball, though she must first convince the NCAA she was disabled without the benefit of X-rays. A fatal illness, a young woman's dream, the NCAA's decision. Battling an invisible foe -- next on Outside The Lines.
Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Joining us from ESPN studios, and sitting in for Bob Ley, Mark Schwarz.
Schwarz - Alonzo Spellman and Dimitrius Underwood are defensive linemates for the Dallas Cowboys and that's no accident. Underwood says he chose Dallas because last season the Cowboys rescued Spellman's career. But what links Underwood and Spellman is not only their uniform or their position, but that both have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Commonly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is not easily diagnosed and there is no known cure. It is marked by radical mood swings that dive into the tortured depths of depression and then soar to the thought-racing diluted heights of mania.
Imagine feeling on top of the world and then a moment later contemplating or even attempting suicide. Two and a half million Americans suffer from this form of mental illness. Among them is Kassidi Bishop, a promising 22-year old athlete who appealed to the NCAA that bipolar disorder stole her dream to play college basketball. Well, last week, the NCAA ruled on Bishop's appeal. Its decision not only impacts Kassidi's life, it also reverberates in the lives of all athlete coping with the ravages of mental illness.
Schwarz - Kassidi Bishop says it is amazing that she is even alive because without effective treatment, an estimated 20 percent of those who battle bipolar disorder will take their own lives.
Kassidi Bshop - I think the hardest thing about being bipolar is feeling so low, on a daily basis, on a moment-to-moment basis, that you will do anything to end your suffering.
Schwarz - What did you do to try to end the suffering?
Kassidi Bishop - I slashed my wrists three times. I - and I tried to overdose.
Ned Bishop - And it wasn't Kassidi. That was the problem - It wasn't the Kassidi that we knew and loved.
Schwarz - Certainly, it wasn't the Kassidi Bishop who says she got her first recruiting letter from college when she was in fourth grade. And it wasn't the Kassidi voted All America after her sophomore year at Littleton High School in Colorado, six years ago.
Ned Bishop - Kassidi was probably one of the five best players at her position in the whole country her sophomore year.
Schwarz - She was also an honor student, popular with her classmates. But in a matter of weeks following her sophomore year, Ned and Elaine Bishop say they lost their daughter. She dropped out of high school, began to use alcohol and drugs, ran away from home repeatedly and into the arms of an abusive boyfriend.
Ned Bishop - We had no thought that we had a sick child, particularly, we just thought that suddenly she had gone bad.
Kassidi Bishop - I didn't know what was going on. I hadn't been diagnosed so I didn't know why I was feeling the way I was. Being abused made things just worse. Your self-esteem is completely destroyed.
Elaine Bishop - I think our first concern was trying to save Kassidi from herself.
Kassidi Bishop - And it is absolutely terrifying to wake up every day and not know if you are going to kill yourself within two hours of getting out of bed.
Elaine Bishop - Not knowing minute to minute if your child's going to be there - it's horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. And it's her hell, but we can't understand the hell that she's going through.
Schwarz - Hearing that Kassidi would take her own life, the Bishops committed their daughter to mental hospital where she spent 10 days.
Ned Bishop - To wrestle this person who was probably as dear as anything that has ever existed in my life to the ground and literally hold her until they can shackle her and get her into ambulance while she is screaming things at you for what you've done - and you're doing it because you believe it's right because that's what the psychiatrist had told you - it's a tough, tough thing.
Elaine Bishop - She's pleading with you not to hurt her.
Schwarz - Over the past seven years, Kassidi Bishop has seen five different psychiatrists who have prescribed 14 different medications. And although she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder five years ago, it was years before she accepted she was mentally ill.
Meanwhile, armed with her GED, she attempted to pursue her education, but dropped out of junior colleges in Texas, California and Colorado. Each time, she says, her illness prevailed, never allowing her to compete academically or athletically.
Kassidi Bishop - I would describe bipolar as if you were on a little raft in the middle of an ocean, in the middle of a hurricane. And, you know, the waves are hitting you right and left and you finally get above the water surface and you're able to grasp for a breath of air and the next thing you know, you're forced back under.
Schwarz - Last year, Bishop discovered there was some relief. Her condition improved dramatically after she began using an experimental mineral and vitamin supplement. She was able to complete two terms at a Wyoming junior college, played college basketball for the first time and averaged 14 points per game.
Now on scholarship at the University of Louisville, Bishop practices, but has not been allowed to compete in games because, according to NCAA rules, she has used up her eligibility. Athletes are given five years to complete four seasons and the clock begins with their (audio gap) -- because Bishop enrolled at a junior college in January of 1996, the most recent semester would have been her final opportunity to participate. Louisville has asked the NCAA to grant her two and a half years of eligibility. After all, the NCAA has extended the five-year clock for athletes who miss time due to incapacitating physical or mental circumstances deemed beyond their control.
Dr. John Lock - When they deal with mental illness, they can't ask for the same standards that their dealing with, with physical illness.
Schwarz - Dr. John Lock doesn't think the NCAA should be any less receptive to an athlete disabled by mental illness than to one sidelined by a torn ACL. But he knows Bishop's case is more difficult to present.
Unidentified Male - It's like the insanity plea in court. Although people can be insane, and certainly, in the manic phase, people would not know what they're doing, that plea has been overused. And now we look at it and, even as laymen, we kind of get very suspicious when we hear that type of plea. And I think the NCAA, being laymen, look at this and they get a little suspicious of it.
Schwarz - In September, the NCAA rejected Bishop's initial appeal citing inadequate documentation, ruling she did not provide conclusive medical proof she was incapacitated and receiving treatment throughout her illness.
Unidentified Male - I think the NCAA wants to be very careful that they don't open a can of worms that just would allow anybody to come out of the woodwork saying, "Well, you know, I'm 28-years old now and I had this and I had ..." - you know, that's why I think everything has to be documented.
Schwarz - Bishop says the nature of bipolar disorder makes such orderly record keeping virtually impossible.
Kassidi Bishop - I didn't want to go back to the doctor because of the medicines I was on. It didn't make me feel good, so I stopped going. Well, then you have this gap of time where there's no documentation of seeing a doctor and no documentation of being on medication.
Schwarz - So the NCAA is understandably skeptical.
Kassidi Bishop - I would be.
Schwarz - Last week, Bishop's case was reviewed. The documentation was now sufficient. The NCAA ruled her eligible immediately.
Sports Announcer - From Louisville, number 42, Kassidi Bishop.
Schwarz - She made her Division I debut this past Thursday.
Kassidi Bishop - Fortunately, I've gotten through the battle with the illness, survived it, gotten through the battle and came back on the court, survived it. Now I can move on and live a normal life.
Schwarz - The NCAA, which declined the opportunity to appear on camera, cleared Bishop to play for this season only. With more documentation, she may well receive a second year of eligibility. Her case is not unique. The NCAA says that, over the past five years, it has had nine such requests to extend the clock from student athletes plagued by a mental disability. The NCAA did not reveal the outcome of those nine cases.
Schwarz - Next, we'll meet a former pro ball punter who says his career was sabotaged by bipolar disorder. And a doctor who has treated eight thousand people with mood disorders. Also, an athletic director from Kassidi Bishop's school, when Outside The Lines continues, in a moment.
Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Schwarz - Greg Montgomery played nine seasons in the National Football League. He played for the Ravens last, in 1997. Before that, he punted for the Lions and six seasons with the Houston Oilers, the team that drafted him. Greg says he fought depression every day of his NFL career, and he joins us from Chicago. From Kentucky, Julie Hermann, an Associate Athletic Director at the University of Louisville -- Kassidi Bishop's school -- and Dr. Raymond DePaulo from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. DePaulo is now trying to discover the gene that causes bipolar disorder. He has written books on the subject.
Greg, let's start with you. What was the single lowest point for you, professionally, that you can attribute to your bipolar disorder?
Greg Montgomery, former professional football player - Well, it seemed like during my whole career, it was a roller coaster of ups and downs and I actually had to take a year off in 1995 after going into severe depression. My spirits got up a little bit. Went into some type of a hypomania and started working out again and, due to my dad's determination that was instilled in me, I made the football team with the Ravens. And after my first year with the Ravens I, unfortunately, went into a deep depression the day before camp. And in 1997, there wasn't a day in camp that I didn't think about suicide. All I wanted to do was get cut. That was the whole story. I mean, I remember specifically going out to a preseason game in Philadelphia and I couldn't even catch the ball to punt. It was really -- it was really, really tough.
Schwarz - It must have terrified you.
Montgomery - Yeah. It was ridiculous and it was something that I self-medicated and many things like that and it just got out of control. And, luckily, my - I have great family support, especially with my dad, and they intervened in January 21 of the last year and I'm coming up on my first year of recovery of -- off alcohol and drugs on that date.
Schwarz - That's great. Julie, Kassidi Bishop also suffers from the disorder that Greg outlined and Kassidi outlined in the piece. What is in place at the University of Louisville if, for some reason, Kassidi relapses into a manic or a depressive episode?
Julie Hermann, Associate Athletic Director, Univ. of Louisville - Well, fortunately for us, we have a wonderful medical partner in Jewish Hospital Health Systems, who helps us create a team of Ph.D's that surround a student athlete, who create the best support system, I think, one of the best in the country, and we have several medical review officers -- Dr. Burn Brady, Dr. John Lock, who has helped with Kassidi's case. And so, it's really been a wonderful system for the student athletes. I only wish this system had been in place in the other places that Kassidi had landed. You know, we might have discovered it earlier.
Schwarz - I should point out that Julie is, obviously, under the weather, and we thank her for coming with us this morning. Julie, there is no psychiatrist, though, on campus. Dr. DePaulo, are you comfortable with the fact that there is no psychiatrist close by that is attending Kassidi in Louisville?
Raymond DePaulo, Johns Hopkins School for Medicine - Well, I think that it's not so much the idea of whether there's a psychiatrist. We would like to make sure that she's going to be able to get the treatment she needs and have somebody close by who's familiar with the illness. If a physician who's not a specialist is very familiar with the illness, that will work out fine. Certainly, there are a lot of Ph.D. psychologists who work very well with the patients. But you know, the more help the merrier.
Schwarz - Dr. Lock, who we saw in the piece, told me that, you know, it's quite possible that Kassidi could have a manic episode, get in her car and we wouldn't know where she was. Julie, what exactly would the University do in that kind of a situation?
Hermann - Well, I think the important thing is to educate everybody that's around Kassidi -- her coaches, her teammates, all of our physicians -- to what she's dealing with. And that way, you're hoping to be able to intervene at an earlier level. We've got to educate people, then we have to intervene. So, hopefully, you don't have a crisis episode. But, if so, we certainly have tremendous medical systems around her that can go look for her and find her and there's a lot of people that care about making her successful here and I think that's the important thing.
Schwarz - Greg, you have spoken about your bipolar disorder publicly, as well. As an athlete, as a public figure, as Kassidi's come forward -- how difficult is it to bring this in front of the world?
Montgomery - Well, actually, at first, I really didn't treat it as a priority, but now it's something that really needs to be publicized and there needs to be more public notification of this disease because it is a disease and it's something that's treatable, but it can be terminal.
Schwarz - Do you think that playing in the National Football League, Greg, intensified the pressure that you already felt from the weight of this bipolar disorder?
Montgomery - Without a doubt. I mean, I'm a very competitive person and you get out there in one of the most stressful jobs in the country. And with a manic state or a depressive state, it's just - it's a living hell. And I'm lucky I lived through it and I'm possibly looking forward to making a comeback in the year 2002.
Schwarz - OK. We'll talk to you more about that comeback. Greg Montgomery, also Dr. DePaulo, who has done research with athletes, and Julie Hermann from the University of Louisville -- as Outside The Lines continues with more discussion about bipolar disorder after this.
Schwarz - Back on Outside The Lines with Greg Montgomery, Julie Hermann and Dr. Raymond DePaulo from Johns Hopkins University. Greg, experiencing a disease as disabling as bipolar disorder, how much should coaches and trainers and other players really, realistically, be able to help a person who has this disease and is playing big time athletics?
Montgomery - Well, I mean, many players need a kick in the butt and many players need a pat on the butt. Most of the time, I think, bipolar (unintelligible) need a pat on the butt because they get into depressive states and any type of real hard criticism can really set them off. Where, at the same time, they need to be calmed down a little bit when they get manic. But when most of -- when coaches and players know about this disease, at least everybody can kind of keep an eye on them to make sure everything's cool.
Schwarz - Dr. DePaulo, what would you like coaches and trainers to know about this disease -- especially given the case of a known athlete at the University of Louisville?
DePaulo - Well, I think that, first off, I want to second what Greg said. I completely agree with that and I've certainly had a lot of young athletes have just the experience he's had. But I would like them to know, one, is that they have patients -- players with the disease now on their teams. This illness affects about one percent of the population. It is not something that you can pick up by looking at somebody. Kids function extremely well when they're well. It's an episodic illness and, when they're ill, they can very quickly become very, very disabled, behave badly, as we've already heard.
Schwarz - Julie, do you consider having Kassidi Bishop in the program, playing big time college athletics, to be a risk of sorts?
Hermann - Well, not any more of a risk than any other student athlete that may come into your program. We feel that we're prepared for Kassidi's situation and feel like it's a wonderful place for her to have an opportunity to hopefully participate in the sport she loves.
Schwarz - Were you surprised that so many schools who knew of her basketball talent sort of gave her the cold shoulder, once they discovered that she was behaving erratically?
Hermann - No. Not at all. I mean, each recruiter's got to make an evaluation of the element of risk with any number of things that a student athlete may be dealing with. And I think a lot of people are afraid when you're dealing with a disorder of this magnitude. And also not recognizing it. I mean, we're fortunate that Kassidi's kind of on this side of the mountain of understanding what she's dealing with. We're just pleased that we've got a medical situation that we feel like we've got the right people surrounding her, that she really can be successful. And that gave us some confidence in our ability to create a situation where she could be successful.
Schwarz - Greg, what concerns would you share with Kassidi about trying to manage this illness while also competing, performing with the pressure of the spotlight.
Montgomery - Well, first off, I'd like to congratulate her. She's really climbed a mountain here. But one of the main things is just to really know the direction the illness can take and always just - be always aware that it can take you, you know, in the bottoms and the highs. We definitely tend to run into problems when we're not really sure what's going on. But it sounds like she does know what's, you know, what's happening and I think she'll be OK.
Schwarz - Now, you told me that you had never played football sober. How much is the substance abuse a function of your disorder?
Montgomery - Well, I mean, I was always on medication, but I was always using drugs and alcohol, so it never really took effect. I was lucky Dr. David Goodman in Baltimore has given me a good cocktail where I'm located right now. But I think it's just the self-medication. I mean, I was just looking for an out. I just wanted to feel good and I never did. I mean, to give you an analogy, it's almost like a lawyer waking up and realizing he slept through the bar exam and that's how I felt 24 hours a day.
Schwarz - What was the most dangerous situation that you ever felt you were in, professionally, because of your disease?
Montgomery - I put myself into a couple of bad situations, running around with the wrong crowd. You know, being mugged in Las Vegas and having a jaw broken and things like that. It was pretty scary. I've crashed numerous cars. And just, basically, was trying to commit slow suicide with drugs and alcohol. But, you know, like I said before, I've got a great family, great friends and my support system really saved me.
Schwarz - Dr. DePaulo, are you surprised that the NCAA has a different ability to accept documentation of a mental disorder like this as compared to the X-rays that they would get from the anterior cruciate ligament tear?
DePaulo - Yeah. It's not a surprise, Mark. The whole country, the whole Western world has really only come to accept and understand manic depressive illness or bipolar disorder as a disease in the last 15 to 20 years. It is also true that we don't have an X-ray for this disease or a blood test, so that you have to, as with any disease, though, look at what evidence you can and put it together through all the sources available to you - certainly, doctors' reports - but everything else. I mean, what I hear is that Kassidi was really just a different person, up to the point that she became ill, and then really didn't get back to herself until a couple of years ago.
Schwarz - Dr. DePaulo, we thank you so much. Good luck in your research on bipolar disorder. Julie Hermann, good luck to you and Kassidi Bishop and the teams at Louisville.
Hermann - Thank you.
Schwarz - And Greg Montgomery, we wish you luck as you try to make a comeback a comeback in the 2002 in the NFL and sober.
We'll return with Outside The Lines in about a minute as we finish our program today.
Schwarz - Outside The Lines is online at ESPN.com. The keyword is OTL Weekly. Type in the keyword, and reach us. So visit our site that features complete transcripts of all Sunday morning shows. And if you've missed a particular program, video on demand of all the shows, as well.
We welcome e-mail here to us with comments, criticisms and suggestions. Our address, email@example.com. And Kassidi Bishop will be online for an ESPN.com chat about living with bipolar disorder. That's Thursday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Click on the link at the top of the ESPN.com front page and pose your questions to Kassidi.
Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Schwarz - And if you missed any of today's program, it will re-air at 12:30 Eastern on ESPN2, 30 minutes from now on ESPN SportsCenter. NFL countdown, 90 minutes away. Keyshawn Johnson can't wait to tell all to Chris Mortensen. From all of us at OTL, a happy and a safe New Year. Now we go to the ESPN Zone in Times Square to Dick Schaap and the Sports Reporters.
Send this story to a friend
BROADCAST OF SUNDAY, DEC. 31, 2000
Host/Correspondent - Mark Schwarz, ESPN.
Producer - Mary Sadanaga
Guests - Greg Montgomery, former NFL kicker; Julie Hermann, University of Louisville, Dr. Raymond DePaulo, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Coordinating Producer - Artis Waters