Red Wings' Johan Franzen fights depression: 'It quickly gets dark. Very dark.'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Toronto — Johan Franzen revealed Sunday he is in a daily battle against depression, anxiety and panic attacks, in his post-hockey life, and has been diagnosd with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Franzen, 38, disclosed his condition in an interview with Swedish website SportExpressen, and its reporter Gunnar Nordstrom.

Red Wings forward Johan Franzen says he struggles with depression, in a Swedish report.

“All I can do then is to sleep and lay in my bed. I take antidepressants and try to feel better again. But it quickly gets dark. Very dark,” Franzen said in the interview.

Franzen last played with the Red Wings Oct. 10, 2015, his second game in the NHL that season, but complained of not feeling right.

Franzen was hit Jan. 6, 2015, in Edmonton by Oilers forward Rob Klinkhammer, a blindside shoulder hit, that was at least the fourth concussion Franzen suffered, he said, after that season.

Franzen remains under contract to the Wings through the 2019-20 season, an 11-year contract worth $43.5 million.

In the SportsExpressen interview, Franzen talks about the difficulty retaining any memory and his struggles with PTSD.

Franzen said he can easily understand anyone caught up in substance abuse.

Franzen said late in his career, he “started getting concussions from nothing. But I kept a lot secret. I could stop on the roadside on my way home after games and have a panic attack. I sat crying for an hour by the side of the road. No one knew about it.”

The issues with memory frustrate Franzen.

“It’s embarrassing,” a tearful Franzen said. “I can be speaking with somebody one night and the next day forget that person. The brain didn’t….get it in. So, it’s…hard.

“It’s embarrassing. Everything is embarrassing. Now I’m very open about being forgetful.”

Franzen has visited numerous doctors and specialists in the world of concussions and last spring visited the Brain Health Institute.

“Sometimes my whole world falls apart,” said Franzen, “and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Most of the time I think I am moving in the right direction, but when I have down periods there is nothing positive. I almost give up then and it is even worse because you think you have been better for a while.”

Although he returns to Sweden regularly and travels, Franzen has kept Detroit as his primary home — for now. Franzen wants to start his life over in Sweden.

“It’s hard being in Detroit. It’s very hard. Many bad memories,” Franzen said. “I still have many of my best memories here (in Detroit), but the last few years I have just wanted to leave. I don’t want to be inside these walls. There has been so much anxiety, panic and depression.

“I go to the mountains in the west sometimes. It’s enough to see mountains to feel a little better. As soon as I see a mountain I feel better. Just to be outside in the nature.”

Franzen gives much credit to his wife Cissi, who gave insight to the family’s struggle earlier this month in her blog. The family has two sons, ages 7 and 5.

“I can’t understand that my wife is still with me,” Franzen said. “She’s been amazingly strong.

“I don’t know how she can sit here. She hates me pretty often,  but … she’s pulling a lot of weight. I don’t know how she does it. She’s had to put up a lot.”

Franzen said he doesn’t have much contact with the Red Wings these days, adding Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg are former teammates who visit him.

Franzen was part of the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning Wings’ team. He had 13 goals in that playoff season, and for his career, had 42 goals in 107 playoff games.

In 602 regular season games, Franzen had 187 goals and 183 assists (370 points) with a high of 34 goals in 2008-09.

Twitter: @tkulfan