Thursday, May 23, 2013

Brave's Baseball Rookie Talks About Depression

{Boats Docked in Mexico, by Craig Borchers}
It is really difficult for me to hear people joke about depression and suicide.

I will admit to two dangerously close attempts at taking my own life.  However, for years my mind was occupied with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.

Even though I believe laughter is good medicine, and I promote humor as a part of recovery, I can’t laugh about reality of depression and suicide.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to laugh at it, or even if I should.  I know too many people who have suffered extreme pain because of depression and suicide.

I can’t help it, but I withdraw into myself when I hear people exaggerate their feelings to be funny.  If someone loses a game and jokes that they are depressed, something inside me twitches and cringes.  I would never say anything because I have a plank in my own eye.

Don’t joke about killing yourself.  The subconscious language (speaking without thinking) can affect others and ourselves more than we know.

I read a great article the other day about a rookie baseball player who shared his own personal story with depression.  I thought it was awesomely good timing considering my new found mission to try and break the silence of mental illness and suicide.  You can read the whole article for yourself hereThanks, Husband, for sending it to me. J

Out of all the helpful things, I find the most encouragement from reading stories about people, like me, who have struggled with depression and yet recovered.

If someone can recover from depression enough to end up playing major league baseball, then there is hope for me too.

In the article, Braves baseball player, Evan Gattis, says:

"I was in a mental hospital," he tells USA TODAY Sports. "I couldn't sleep for an entire week, and I knew something was wrong with me. So I got admitted. I was so depressed, all I could think about was killing myself.  I wanted to kill myself for a long time."

In this quote, I thought Gattis revealed a bit of insight into the mind of a severely depressed person.  At first, it can be difficult to know what is going on.  He went an entire week of not sleeping.  What was he thinking after day three or four?  But then, as he said, he then knew something was wrong after a week.  It wasn’t necessarily the fact that he had wanted to kill himself, but the fact that he physically couldn’t sleep.  Often times, when someone is struggling with depression, the mental turmoil is not enough of a reason to get help.  Mental suffering has been viewed as a “lesser” suffering or a kind of suffering that the person brings on himself or herself.
In the article, Gattis never really says what caused his depression.  Most people, it seems, don’t have a specific reason why their mental illness started.  Some people can recognize a trigger that sets it off.  But for the most part, it is, usually, a building up of events over time.  This ambiguity is difficult for friends and loved ones to understand.  They want to blame the suffering on something.  In the article, the author writes:

Gattis says he started abusing alcohol and marijuana during his senior year of high school. He sank into a deep hole, torn by his parents' divorce, his father says, and, his mother says, self-imposed pressure to excel at the game he loved.

My guess is that his depression was the result of both those things plus many others working in conjunction with off-balanced brain chemicals and hormones.

Even though I don’t play baseball (chuckle, it’s OK, you can laugh too), I can relate to Gattis’s words about expectations and anxiety:

Yet the better he became in baseball, the more he played, the greater the expectations and the more anxiety and fear he felt.  "I was terrified," Gattis softly says, "of being a failure."

I often felt this kind of anxiety at my job, when I painted, when I ran, and when I did just about anything.  I had these expectations of myself to be perfect.  Pretty soon my fear of failure grew so strong that it crippled me from doing anything at all.
Depression can keep you from enjoying life and anxiety can keep you from doing the things you enjoy.
If you take all the purpose and meaning out of life and nothing is enjoyable, then what is there to live for?  Even though, it was not baseball or softball that I wanted to be good at, I could still relate to Gattis’s story.

At the end of the article, Evan Gattis is called a hero; not because of his baseball success, but because he beat depression.  Gattis even admits that overcoming depression is one of his greatest accomplishments.  He is now using his experience to try to encourage others struggling with the same things.
"Hopefully,” Gattis says, “I can be an inspiration to kids going through the same thing. There are a lot of kids out there depressed. You read about teenage suicides and the things kids go through, and it's so sad.  Maybe, when they know my story, they'll see there's a way out.”

Maybe not in baseball, but is something else.  That’s the beauty of telling your story.  That’s the beauty of the human race.  We can relate to one another through suffering.  Breaking the silence of depression and suicide can cause so much good.  Depression causes one to feel so much isolation.  By breaking the silence, other people can realize that they are not crazy, and that people, like them, struggle with some of the same things.

Gattis, who was drafted in the 23rd round, softly smiles at the memories, wondering if perhaps it was ordained that the potholes and barriers were necessary to find his path to success. "When I look back," Gattis says, "I'd probably do everything different. But I don't regret any of it. There's supposed to be a reason for everything, right?"

Yep.  I agree, Evan.  There is a reason for everything.


  1. Great post. Truly, I find lots of people use the expression..."if...then I will just kill myself." And they use this phrase lightly. I have a close friend and someone I loved very much (both the same person) who committed suicide in his early twenties. I will never forget the pain that stunned me into silence and constant tears for days afterward.
    I myself attempted suicide as well. Twice. And so I also know the pain of wanting to end it all and the crying out for it to just stop. It feels so hopeless. And now, husband and four kids later, I am glad I did not succeed. I DO have so much to live for. Shameful I did not know this sooner. And still, I have my days...but, somehow I am able to tell myself that it will pass and trudge ahead. Plus medicine, yoga and therapy are a big help.
    Also, check out an amazing pianist named James Rhodes. He has an amazing story of beating the odds through his own depression and he is an incredible musician. Worth a listen to. Check him out on YouTube if you get a chance.
    Thanks for listening to my rather long comment. This is a topic close to my heart.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry that you've had to go through what you did. I am glad you found help and things that ease the suffering some. You have nothing to be ashamed about. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe if you hadn't gone through all that pain and suffering you wouldn't be able to appreciate what you have now. Suffering from depression has taught me so much. In one way, I am glad I had to go through it. I love more deeply, cherish the time I have, and appreciate those close to me. I don't think I would feel the same way had I not struggled and grappled with the meaning of life.
      I will definitely check out that Pianist. Thank you for the recommendation.
      Keep fighting the good fight. It is worth it! You are worth it!