Jolly, 38, was given life membership at the Pies’ annual general meeting on Wednesday and delivered a speech unlike any other on the night.
“Normally they get up and they thank the bootstudder, the coach, people who have been around them – their manager, their family, et cetera,” Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said on Triple M.
“The room was completely captivated, totally immersed in what he had to say.
“The thing that resonated with me was it was a written speech. Darren has thought about it, he’s put it on paper. He’s had to think about it, he’s got up there with great courage and he’s delivered it.”
Jolly retired from football at the end of the 2013 season with two flags – his first with Sydney in 2016 – to his name.
But leaving the game led to few highlights as stints on The Block and opening a building business were followed by legal troubles, health issues and the breakdown of his marriage.
“One day I finally acknowledged to myself I couldn’t get through this mess on my own and needed help. It was the day I almost did something stupid and ended my life,” said Jolly, speaking through tears and a lump in his throat.
“Everything was too much to handle and I lost control. I lost my drive to keep going, I lost my purpose in life. I lost my direction and I lost my path. I thought it was easier just to go.
“I’m not ashamed to stand here tonight and tell you that I spent time in hospital to deal with my issues.”
Read Jolly’s speech in his own words below
Since 2015, I’ve been thrown some extremely difficult challenges in my life that I’d never thought I’d have to deal with. Challenges that have tested me in every single way. Those include being admitted into hospital to remove a brain tumour after I was told by a GP that I just had a sinus infection.
Having A Current Affair completely defame my new building business just as I was getting started over a build I did in Kew. Having everything I’ve ever made in footy and after footy invested into a two-and-a-half-year legal battle due to clients I built for not paying.
After spending extreme amounts of money fighting for what’s right and winning, I’ve had to sit and wait the whole year because the same clients appealed their loss. Spending three weeks in a mental facility to deal with depression. Leaving my 15-year marriage because I fell out of love and wanted a happier life.
I can stand here tonight and say everything I was going through broke me. After a long slow burn, I had this unrealistic expectation I could fix everything on my own. ‘It’ll be right, I’ll fix it,’ I was telling myself. I was constantly telling myself and other people I was fine and acting like everything was ok, when in fact it wasn’t.
One day I finally acknowledged to myself I couldn’t get through this mess on my own and needed help. It was the day I almost did something stupid and ended my life. Everything was too much to handle and I lost control. I lost my drive to keep going, I lost my purpose in life.
I lost my direction and I lost my path. I thought it was easier just to go. I’m not ashamed to stand here tonight and tell you that I spent time in hospital to deal with my issues. I look back now and can say it was the best thing that I could have ever done.
I learned a lot about mental illness, including depression and the coping mechanisms to get back on track as there is still some challenges to go through. I’m in a much better head space now to deal with them.
I now enjoy talking about my experiences, because one it helps me with my recovery and two I hope talking to people about my experiences might help them with their issues and difficulties and show them that men who have played AFL or men in general aren’t immune to life’s struggles.
I have great people around me to help me now, the three people who are here with me tonight, my mates and my mental professionals. I’m taking each day as it comes and continuing to work towards a happy and more fulfilling life. I know one day I’ll get to see my girls, I pray that’s sooner rather than later. I will get through this and be a better man for it.
This article originally appeared on 7NEWS