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Tara Sullivan

By opening up about his struggles, Jay Glazer has done a world of good for both himself and others

Jay Glazer (left) recently published "Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety into Motivation and You Can Too."Gregory Payan/Associated Press

On the set of the FOX NFL pregame show, on the set of the hit HBO series Ballers, or on the mat of an MMA workout or fight, Jay Glazer is always in motion, delivering news, delivering lines, or delivering hits in rapid fire fashion.

The perpetual motion is physical, yes, but it is just as much metaphorical — an approach to work that has helped propel Glazer to heights of success he would have never imagined, never mind predicted, in his earliest days of journalistic hustling. Trust me when I tell you, Glazer hustled in the truest sense of the word, working at a pace to which I can personally attest.

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Covering the Giants in the early 2000s was largely an exercise in chasing Glazer, his relentlessness not some byproduct of a big-time job or big-money salary. He was barely making a living wage, working for magazines trying to stay afloat or websites trying to find an audience. It was the foundation of a driven professional, a reporter who was the first one on site, the last one to leave, and a visionary when it came to using the fledgling Internet to report real time news from the locker room.

As fellow Jersey natives with similar sports obsessions turned career paths, I admired Glazer’s devotion. I celebrated his ability to scale the national sports media mountain, knowing from whence it started. I figured, like most of us, that he really had life figured out.

Then I started listening to his recent revelations about the book he authored, which was published last week. “Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety into Motivation and You Can Too,” details the mental health battles with depression and anxiety that were at the core of everything he’s been doing these past two-plus decades. I admire him now more than ever, applauding the way he is using his platform not only to share a personal journey we continue to acknowledge is far more universal than ever realized, but to help remove the stigma from a conversation that for so long was in the shadows, to share methods and ways to overcome the barriers our brains put up, to shine light on the parts of life he came to refer to as “the gray” so that they never turn to black.

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“The reason I worked so hard was because of this gray, this depression, this anxiety,” Glazer said over the phone this week. “I don’t know how to love myself from the inside out, and the roommates in my head were constantly telling me I’m not good enough. This is the narrative that is still with me when I wake up every day. As a result, I had to work so hard, to outwork the world, to get some love and validation from the outside. I’m still doing it to this day. I still struggle seeing the person you all see. I see the worst person in the world, unworthy of being loved. I’m trying to open my heart to the point where it’s not so bad, before I even get to good, just to not so bad, to feel worthy of receiving love.”

If there is personal reward in doing this project, in being so open with his struggles, it is that Glazer is feeling the love. Messages of gratitude have poured in from football fans, from grandmothers, from corporate executives, from NFL players and coaches alike, all of them saying thank you for giving them a language to describe what they, too, are feeling.

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“It’s lifting me up. Beyond my wildest dreams,” Glazer said. “This is really important. We’ve talked about mental health. We talk about depression and anxiety. But no one ever describes it. I describe it in this book. I do a lot of treatments, a litany of things every day. It’s a daily battle. I guess I was born this way; I don’t have any memories from before it.

“But I stopped my treatment and therapy and everything during the writing of this book, so I could be so deep in the gray to describe it for people. That was a year ago, and I’m still trying to get myself back. It’s been a really hard year. I should never stop my treatment, never stop therapy. I did it for too long. It put me in a bad, dark, dark, dark gray and I’m still trying to work myself out of it. But I felt I had to do it, that I needed to be of service to everybody.”

No surprise then, that our conversation Thursday was interrupted when Glazer had to return to helping a friend find placement in a mental health facility, navigating insurance regulations, and providing support, tapping into experience he gained through another passion project, his charity Merging Vets & Players (MVP), that connects combat veterans and retired athletes to support them in their next phase of life.

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Glazer, like the sport he covers, sees the world in teams. His journey has been buoyed by the teams around him — family (including the pit bull Alma he rescued from being used as bait in a dog-fighting ring), Fox Sports, MMA, MVP, and friends. One of his most famous buddies is fellow Fox broadcaster Michael Strahan, a man who used to give the broke Glazer a lift back from Giants Stadium to New York City all those years ago, but with whom Glazer did not share his mental health vulnerability until recently.

They were supposed to meet for dinner, but as Glazer put it, “the monster got out of the box.” He couldn’t get up, never mind go out, completely exhausted physically as a result of the struggle mentally. He finally told Strahan why, and in the ensuing months, their bond of friendship only deepened. It’s a reality Glazer only wishes he could have crafted sooner.

“He said, ‘why have you never told me about this?. In our 30 years as friends, I didn’t admit it to him, I masked it. I don’t make up the rules, I just told him I felt ashamed with you. He said, ‘Why me?’ And I admitted it: I don’t know why. What’s the point of shame? Had I not been ashamed, I would have had someone to support me in the last 30 years. Instead, I was out here faking I was good even though I was in so much pain.”

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Glazer still doesn’t slow down much, and he often references his own ADD while talking, knowing his thoughts dart and switch course as often as his body does. But he understands himself so much more now, and in sharing his journey, is out to help others.


Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.