I didn’t know I was depressed. I didn’t know what it meant to be anxious. Looking back, I think I always felt the way I feel today. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like this. This is my normal. Before, I had bought into the lie that depression was merely sadness. I don’t feel sad. What I feel is an overwhelming burden, apathy, lethargy, and exhaustion. It attacks me in a number of ways but mainly manifests itself as extreme procrastination coupled with extreme guilt over said procrastination. In times of great stress, my brain has felt like it is on fire. I become frustrated which leads to agitation, anger, and despair.
So why am I writing this? Who is this for?
Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the United States and it affects everyone a little bit differently. I didn’t know something was wrong with me until about 6 years ago. Looking at my life, things appeared to be trending in the right direction. At the age of 32, I had just lost 80 pounds in the past year, dropping from 280 pounds to a low of 198 pounds. I had finished most of my prerequisites for PTA school and had taken a telemarketing job while finishing up online classes. The job was terrible but I brought home around 4K a month after taxes and had started getting a lot of attention from female co-workers. Oh yeah, I had been married for about 3 years at this time. What a guy! The foundations for everything I thought I knew about myself were starting to crack.
Religion had played a substantial part in my college and post-college 20’s. After college, I lived in the Middle East for two years as a missionary. The time was rife with internal conflict and ended with heartache, as the Southern Baptist Mission Board decided that my sin was just too offensive to continue our relationship. (I drank one beer with other like-minded individuals). When I returned to the US, I spent my 20’s toiling through life aimlessly, working terrible sales and customer service jobs, I stopped taking care of myself and started gaining weight. At some point, the religion faded away, but the guilt did not. I thought that “If I could just get right with the Lord, I’d be happier.” I looked at other Christian friends and often thought that if I could just have a fraction of their faith, I would feel whole.
Ultimately, my wife inspired me to turn my faith around. I joined an amazing church full of intellectuals that challenged my theology and gave me an outlet for service. Fast forward a few years. The 80 pounds was gone. I was in the best shape since college. I had quit the exploitative culture of sales and customer service. Then the rift happened.
Relationships and people are messy and that messiness is everywhere, especially in church. We ended up leaving the church and those relationships. The anger festered and my new 4K a month telemarketing job exacerbated my internal conflict. I remember going to a doctor and telling him that “I feel like I am constantly white-knuckling life…I’m going to snap.” One night, after some heavy drinking and flirting with a co-worker via text (all this while attending the wedding of my wife’s work associate), I drunkenly stuck my hand in the garbage disposal and tried to turn it on. She stopped me from hitting the switch. My wife, whose father is a raging alcoholic and not part of her life, was at her wit’s end. At the time, I thought to myself: from the outside looking in, my life is trending upward. We have money. We are buying a house. This bullshit job pays well and is temporary. So why did the temptation to douse my home, marriage, and life in gasoline and stand there with a torch, ready to burn the whole motherfucker down, persist daily?
My wife forgave me. I quit/got fired from the job. We closed on a new house and found a new church. I was accepted into St. Petersburg College’s Physical Therapist Assistant program and the doctor had prescribed me Prozac. I didn’t feel any better but I no longer wanted to destroy my life. Life settled down and became quiet. I gained 40 pounds over the next few years in school. We had enough money to pay the bills. Our new neighborhood was amazing and we eventually stopped church altogether. I stopped taking Prozac (it never worked anyways) and found myself able to go to a Sam’s Club without having a meltdown. Had I turned the corner?
While things improved, the underlying chip on my shoulder was still there. The need to burn bridges was still there. I had found some purpose with a new job. A job that helped people instead of trying to rip people off. The overwhelming guilt of sin was all but gone. That 40 pounds and then some. I was running Spartan and Savage races, eating great, and I still wasn’t happy. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know how to treat myself. I knew the depression and anxiety were still my faithful traveling companions.
Things started to change in June of 2017. I received a text from Scott Greene, the owner of Prospects1500.com, asking if I was interested in going to the 2017 Florida State League All-Star game. I thought he was coming to Florida and wanted a buddy to hang with. It wouldn’t be the first time. We had gone to a Yankees Spring Training game together a few years ago. When he told me that he had a media pass and wanted me to provide coverage for the event for his site, I was even more ecstatic. I had never done anything like that before. When I walked into Joker-Marchant Stadium that day at 3pm, I was escorted to the field and the first person I met was Baseball America’s Josh Norris. I had never been on field before much less for BP. The experience was surreal and Scott allowed me to continue to cover the Florida State League. Was this the missing link? Before I knew it, I had built a small following on Twitter and started to garner recognition from larger websites.
Going into 2018, I wanted to attend as much baseball as possible. Baseball had helped me manage these negative feelings in 2017. Not only that, during the off-season, I found myself depressed because there was no baseball outlet. I started going to D2 and JUCO games and started writing for a large site. With expectations come excess burdens. My time there didn’t last long but I continued to grind and build a Twitter following. Going to games became more about building a brand and less about just enjoying being outside and enjoying the purity of minor league baseball.
The depression and anxiety fought hard against my happiness. I had Tuesdays off work and would plan out my schedule on Monday nights. A Gulf Coast League game in the morning, video editing at the FSL stadium, batting practice, and a night game. The next morning, the fight against procrastination was hard. Multiple times, I was unable to even move from the couch. I came up with all sorts of excuses to skip the GCL game. It’s too hot. The drive is too far. Will I even see someone worth seeing or I’ve already seen all these guys time and time again. I would skip the morning. Then skip BP. Then skip the game. I hated myself every step of the way. I hated myself for allowing depression to chain me to the couch. I hated myself for wasting a day that I would never get back. My wife would get home at 6 pm and I would still be on the couch. No shirt. Hadn’t showered. Wasn’t even at least productive with writing or editing. But I learned a valuable lesson.
I learned how depression was attacking me. It’s one thing to not want to go to work. I love my job but would never go back if I didn’t have to. This was different. This was debilitating, robbing me of the things that brought me joy so that I could no longer relax on a day off at the ballpark. This was my mind actively trying to sabotage me. What I found was that if I missed a game, I couldn’t relax at home. Furthermore, if I decided to skip a game and relax, I couldn’t relax and enjoy my free time. I felt irresponsible and lazy which ruined any chance of recharging and refreshing my mind. So what was once the treatment had now become the tigger.
More strife came, a few more bridges burned, and some fresh scars. I learned how to manage Tuesdays and break my chains. But I did not learn how to relax when I wasn’t at the field. I didn’t learn how to manage relationships. I didn’t know what I truly wanted out of all this. The tipping point was September 1. I had driven 3 hours to Jacksonville, FL. Ian Anderson was on the mound. A panic attack hit me about an hour into the drive. At the game, I was useless. I was in the midst of negotiating a relationship for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019. I did not want to continue with this relationship but I did not want to burn any bridges. This relationship was toxic from the beginning. Instead of just walking away from negativity, I found myself sticking around in order to not burn another bridge. My thoughts were along the lines that if I burn another bridge then that is a personal indictment on my character and I must be the problem. I worked hard and put up with a lot of unnecessary bullshit in an attempt to end my term with them amicably. That did not help things. Sometimes, you just have to ghost some people and not ever look back.
The next few weeks, I actively avoided going to games. I asked my wife to “talk me out of going” by giving me options at home. I worked in my yard so long that my hands were bloody so that I would be too fatigued to even go. I hoped that would allow my brain to enjoy a night off but I was wrong. I missed Kirilloff going 5-5 in a playoff game. It had seemed that the one thing that had brought me joy was now compromised and I was in a no-win situation.
Then, a friend of mine that I met last year in the Arizona Fall League came to stay with me for 3 weeks. We went to Instructional League games and scouted together. We built our own site with 3 other friends. I remember editing a video of Yankees 2018 11th round pick Tanner Myatt and feeling overwhelming joy and pride. Was I back to normal? No, this is my normal. But it rekindled joy in the little things that I did in the very beginning. I am reminded of the White Stripes song “Little Room”.
Those words ring true in any situation but really resonates with me. If you feel the world slipping away, go back and focus on the little things. Go back to what made you successful in the first place and cut out all the other white noise.
I have decided that too much of anything is a bad thing. Life is about balance. I cannot go to so many games that I compromise exercise and diet. Healthy habits are the key for my survival and the key to keep the monster at bay. Since the season ended, I have fought hard to just be and enjoy time. To convince myself that I am allowed to take time off from the grind. That rest is OK. Do I need to work 40 hours a week and attend 150 games in 6 months? Not if it tips the balance. But not only balancing life and expectations; exercise and diet; relationships and work; but relying on the only real validation that I need. What does my wife think about me? Does she remotely care about trivial baseball strife? It doesn’t pay the bills and it doesn’t make me a better person. Balance. Woosah.
2018 is closing and 2019 is coming fast. My goal is to manage this depression and anxiety by balancing life. Going to enough baseball to continue to build the brand while enjoying the game. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and not allowing the obsession to squeeze diet and exercise to the margins of my life. Recognizing the stressors and triggers and avoiding them. Life has become a process of managing relationships. My relationship to food, exercise, authority, coworkers, baseball, and Twitter. But overall, just being happy and content with what I have and who I am. It’s a life-long process. Depression and anxiety will always follow me wherever I go. And that is OK. Failure is OK.
So if this helps you, great. I hope it does because I know I’m not alone. However, in the end, I think I wrote this for me.