I wrote this one year ago on Bell Let’s Talk Day. I’ve decided to share it again this year in hopes that it may help someone going through a dark time.
It was a late winter night in January of 2013. I sat alone in my car, parked in my parents garage. I had turned the car off and was about to go inside but something held me in my seat. It had been a year and a half since I had surgery done on my shoulder to repair a torn labrum. The surgery took place on May 10, 2011 and I did my best right from the get go to put on a brave face and use positive thinking to keep my fear of never getting to pitch again at bay. The truth is, I was terrified as soon as I received the news I needed surgery. I remember reading a quote prior to the surgery from James Andrews (who performs practically every professional pitcher’s elbow and shoulder operation) saying, “if pitchers with torn labrums were racehorses they would be shot.” Upon reading that I fired my laptop across the room against the wall.
I sat in my car in the garage thinking about everything that had happened the past eighteen odd months. It was past 2 a.m. and I looked in my rearview mirror, out down the driveway into the cul de sac. It was snowing and miserably cold – a typical January night in Edmonton. I questioned if all of this was my fault; perhaps in some sick twist of fate I had lived out a self-fulfilling prophecy. Was the crippling fear of never pitching again that had been inside of me since the moment I woke up from the operation the very reason I was never going to get to do what I loved most again? I had tried so hard every day since the surgery to be positive but I just could not shake the ominous feeling I would never pitch again.
So there I sat, pondering how a year earlier I had to leave Arkansas and a group of guys I had forged a lifelong bond with. We were brothers, but I left to try and rehab with a physiotherapist back home and had to follow their season on the internet. I thought about how I didn’t get to stand on the field on Senior Day and how I never would get to. I thought about how when they went on an awesome playoff run I was more angry at the fact I wasn’t there, than happy for them, and what a piece of shit that made me.
I thought about how every day since surgery I did everything I was supposed to do and more. I thought about once I came home a year earlier I did all my exercises and threw every day with my younger brother but the pain in my shoulder only worsened and how I never got close to returning. How day after day I’d ask him if today my arm action was better than the previous time and I could tell in his eyes he was lying to me when he each time he said, “yes” because he was trying to save me from the painful reality I wasn’t making any progress. I remember watching video of me throwing and watching how my arm worked like a twelve year old who had never played competitive baseball. I remember desperately attempting to persevere through all of it, and trying to convince myself that I would find a way to work through these obstacles. The harsh reality was that with each day that passed I wasn’t getting closer to pitching again but I was realizing more and more my only choice was to give up and move on.
I became trapped in misery and drank and drank to escape it but that only made me more enraged and disheartened. On the surface I’m sure I seemed fine; I had become good at putting up a façade. However, inside I was I was beyond miserable. Even when I was having fun with my friends I had no reprieve from my regret of never getting to play my senior year and the fact I had left all my teammates and friends in order to get healthy again, but that didn’t even happen.
People would tell me, “it’s just baseball” and “things could be worse, you just need to accept reality and find a new passion.” The person who was closest to me at the time even told me that there was nothing wrong with my shoulder and it was just all in my head. As I sat in my car on that cold, January night I thought with hatred at that comment that maybe, just maybe she was right and a bit of hope flickered in my head. But it was quickly extinguished by how fruitless all of my efforts up until that point had been.
What haunted me the most though was the sad realization I was never going to achieve any of my lofty goals I had dreamt of my whole life. I was never going to get drafted, never going to play in the MLB. I felt like I was getting better each year and that if I could just get healthy at least I’d have my senior year to try and get noticed by pro scouts. It may sound ridiculous to some but I truly believed I could do it. I wasn’t a very talented player in high school and simply had to outwork everyone. I had a high school coach who flat out told me I would never play college baseball. For years I was fuelled by perceived (real or imaginary) slights from anyone and everyone. The smallest comments of doubt from even a teammate would gnaw at me and make me work harder. Not making an All Star team would fill me with anger unexplainable. I burned with a desire to prove every single motherfucker wrong.
The fact that I wasn’t going to prove my doubters wrong was just way too much for me to take. And so as I thought about all of this at 2:30 a.m. on a miserable winter night in January, 2013, a terrible idea began to take shape. I started the car again. I’m ashamed to say that I had driven home after a night of drinking in an effort to escape my reality. The alcohol hadn’t helped me escape my demons, but brought them out in full force. As I clicked the button in the car to close the garage door I thought perhaps this could be my escape.
Not a moment goes by now that I’m not incredibly grateful I stopped the car and got out. It took me another six months to overcome my deep depression but this night in January was certainly the lowest point. It makes me so sad to think of the 22 year old me who was ashamed to seek help and in turn came very close to causing so much pain to all the people I love so dearly.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have people that care about you, and I promise it gets better. We need to end the stigma around mental illness. It’s not weak to talk about what is eating at you inside. I wish I hadn’t been so scared to talk about what I was going through.
Fight the darkness with light
Fight the despair with hope