September 29, 2016

Former Webster University athlete determined after struggles

Bryan Enger was sitting in a solitary cell in the St. Louis County Jail when a policeman walked up to him and asked him if he had thoughts of suicide.
Enger responded without hesitation.

“Every day,” he said.

A few hours prior to his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol on the night of Feb. 10, Enger was having thoughts of suicide. He remembered wishing he was dead at that moment.

Almost two months later, Enger, a senior history major, said he no longer has those thoughts. Now Enger’s thoughts are focused on the non-profit organization he plans to start with his family. Although in the early stages of creation, the organization, Enger said, will educate and raise awareness about Bipolar Disorder and other issues of mental health.

“If I need to go out there and fight for the education and awareness of mental health, then that’s what I’ll do,” Enger said.

Photo by Tim Godfry/The Journal

Photo by Tim Godfry/The Journal

But on that February night, he was trying to drive home following an afternoon-turned-night of drinking. He was out celebrating a friend’s job interview. Although he knew it was wrong to get behind the wheel, he didn’t care. In that state of mind, he said he believed he was invincible.

“It was to the point where, going through all the crap I had been through, not taking my meds, the suicidal thoughts — I knew it was a bad idea, but it was the thought of, ‘Who cares?’” Enger said.

Soccer, self lost
As Enger drove, visions of his past replayed in his head. He thought back to when soccer was still in his life. Enger remembers playing soccer at Webster University under family friend and Head Coach Marty Todt from 2009 to 2011. Enger described his time on the team as one of the best experiences of his life.

The 2011 season was Enger’s athletic senior year of college soccer. Enger was without soccer, again. At that time, Enger said, his depression got worse.
Sue Wiesehan, Enger’s mother, said without soccer to provide a release, she feared his anger issues would get worse.

“It was a risky time because there was no physical element. There wasn’t any structure,” Wiesehan said.

Wiesehan recalled Enger’s anger when he was younger. She even remembered her 9-year-old son raising a baseball bat to her, but she thought his anger resulted from her divorce from his father.

A soccer player since childhood, Enger said the game was his sanctuary. The soccer field, he said, was one place he felt he could be himself. It was a safe haven.

Bryan Enger’s older sister Stephanie Enger described soccer as a place where her brother could be in charge of his own domain.

“His natural talent was soccer. He felt alive on the soccer field, and he had control. He knew what to do,” Stephanie Enger said.

Before he came to Webster, Bryan Enger played at St. Louis Community College — Meramec for one season. He said he burned out on the game and walked away. Bryan Enger felt like the coaches forced him to stop being himself on the field.

“I felt like I was losing control of (my playing style) because I was being forced to play in a certain way that I didn’t want to. It became more of a chore, and I didn’t want to play soccer anymore,” Bryan Enger said.

During his two-year break from playing, Bryan Enger was never too far from the field. He refereed games at Midwest Soccer Academy from 2007-2009. But Bryan Enger felt his playing days were not over and reached out to Todt.

Deserving of pain
Bryan Enger thought of his ex-girlfriend when he was driving home drunk on Feb. 10.

He said she was by his side when he was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in spring 2013. He scheduled a doctor’s appointment after talking to his mother about his mood swings and depression. One moment he would be full of energy and the next, he wouldn’t want to do anything.

“Instead of lasting one day, (my depression) would last a week. That’s when I talked to (my mom) and said ‘Maybe I should go see my doctor,’” Bryan Enger said.

Bryan Enger described his then-girlfriend as a caretaker, doing what she could to make their relationship happy. But Bryan Enger’s manic and depressive episodes, symptoms of his mood disorder, made that difficult. Bryan Enger said some days he would be depressed about their relationship and then feel anger towards her.

“I started to make the relationship feel bad, even though it wasn’t,” Bryan Enger said.

That July, Enger’s girlfriend broke up with him. He said he was surprised she stayed as long as she did.

After his breakup, Bryan Enger stopped taking his medication and substituted pills with alcohol. He thought he deserved the emotional pain to compensate for the pain he had caused his ex-girlfriend.

He also thought he deserved physical pain, which he sought through bar fights with strangers.

“You are in such an irrational thought process that you think, ‘This guy is going to kick my ass, maybe it will feel good,’” Bryan Enger said.

Seeing the light
As he drove home under the influence of alcohol, Bryan Enger wondered if his future would get better or if he even had a future.

Then the flashing lights of a police car flickered in his rearview mirror and Bryan Enger was thrust back into reality. The policeman did not put him through a Breathalyzer test.

“He knew (I was drunk),” Enger said.

The next day, Wiesehan received a call from her son. It was a call she was all too familiar with.

“We would get a phone call about this bar fight or that bar fight or that he was downtown and didn’t have the money to get home,” Wiesehan said. “It was always one thing after another.”

Wiesehan drove her son to her home, where Bryan Enger said he told her everything that was on his mind. As much as she loved her son, Wiesehan said she had reached a point where there was nothing more she could do. It was all on Bryan Enger to change his situation.

“I said to him, ‘You got to decide whether or not you want to live,’” Wiesehan said.

Bryan Enger made the choice to live.

 

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