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August 15, 2014 at 10:36 am ET
The Error of Mental Illness

Forgive me baseball; it’s been some time since I last saw you. In fact, I have not watched an entire game since March when I went to the Big O to see the Blue Jays play the Mets in an exhibition game.

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s been a weird year for me. Things got out of control. Not in like a, I dunno, bench clearing brawl kinda way, but in like a Joe Maddon walking Josh Hamilton kinda way.

I’ve been in a rundown with myself, caught between second and third. For years I’ve been doing stuff that some people might describe as weird. Everyone washes their hands. I just assumed that when everyone does it they too had to count 10 Mississippis twice. Not 20 Mississippis. It has to be 10 at a time. I assumed that everyone listens to the same Billy Joel song at the same time everyday. I mean, he is the friggin’ Piano Man. However, for most people hearing Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) might give them a heartattack-ack-ack-ack. Not me. My day will be ruined if I don’t hear it. Robin Williams

Before I continue, I would like to point out that I am not superstitious, just incredibly unhappy. Unlike Barry Zito who apparently brought scented candles with him on every road trip, or the golden thong said to be worn by one of the Giambi brothers during a slump, I don’t believe outcomes are determined by me plucking out all the hairs on my legs. It’s just something that I’m compelled to do.

Besides the behavior stuff, I’d spend a lot time crying. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed. There were panic attacks in public places. This wasn’t the first time either. I had been previously hospitalized for depression in 2005 and spent three days in the psych ward of the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. If you’re thinking it was akin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, you’d be mistaken. It was more Girl Interrupted and it was fine. Nobody kept chicken carcasses under their bed, the food was bland (Kosher nosh, amirite?), there was the obligatory sassy black nurse, and all I did was read for three days. Although, a nice woman suffering from a horrible eating disorder did ask me to play cards with her. I declined. Point being, this wasn’t my first time stepping into the batter’s box of self-hatred and wanting to die.

Things got dark in the spring. I’m talking lights out. In between bouts of compulsive showering and hair plucking, I googled some stuff. Not good stuff like “Keanu Reeves nude”, stuff like, “how to build a noose”. “Not cool, Elisabeth”, one part of me would say. “Naw dude, you suck at living, just do it,” the other would say. Thankfully, my brain got its shit together and I made a doctor’s appointment before I had permanently struck out.

Here’s the really wacky part: While I was battling my brain and contemplating a perpetual walk-off from my life, I was maintaining one heck of a social media presence. Updating my Facebook and Twitter almost daily. Pretending that I was having a great go of this life even though it kept throwing me unhittable curves. I even went to visit some friends in New York and attended a game at Citi Field. Although, we only got there in the sixth because the 7 Train should actually be called the “Never Comes Train”. (That’s what she said!).

To the untrained eye, I was enjoying every moment, carpeing the eff out of that Diem. Yet, on the inside and to those who know me well, they had an inkling that I had reached the bottom of the ninth with runners on and was down to my last out.

I got help. It took a while and Gatorade bucket full of courage, but I did. I have a great support system in place between my folks (pop is a psychologist and ma is a good listener), my brother (funniest guy on Facebook, besides myself of course), my friends (seriously guys, could I BE anymore of a Chandler?), and my boyfriend (who it should be noted deserves the MVP award for not giving up on me when I almost slid into home head first without a helmet).

By now, baseball, you’re like, “Um, why is this relevant?”. It is more relevant now than ever. This week we suffered the tragic loss of San Francisco Giants super fan, Mork from Ork. I wasn’t a super fan of Robin Williams. I liked him fine, I thought he was hilarious in interviews, his stand-up is great and Good Will Hunting’s ERA is under 2, but if I could get my money back for Bicentennial Man that’d be swell.

Mental illness sucks. Period. No matter who you are or where you live, it can find you and tag before you reach the bag. You’ll never be safe with depression but you can wear protective gear. There’s therapy and medication that won’t cure you totally but will keep you in the game. I’m lucky that I was able to see through the fog and run the base path clearly into the doctor’s office before it was too late. For some people it’s not that easy. There’s a stigma attached to feeling down and there shouldn’t be. I kept my feelings bottled up like one of those $12 beers they sell at the Rogers Centre until one day I couldn’t. Now I know: It’s okay to be sad. Scratching and picking at your wrists until they scar isn’t something that everybody does but you don’t have to be ashamed of it because you’re not alone. We need to start a dialogue about mental illness so that people like me, and probably you, know that we’re not crazy.

Things are okay now. I have medication that I take every day at 6:30am. The best part? It gives me wicked bad dry mouth and when your mouth feels like the inside of a rosin bag (pre-AJ Burnett), you have to stop smoking. So I did. Two months no smokes. Breathing is so friggin’ rad. I love it. I want to do it all the time now. Look at me inhale and exhale like a BOSS. I still do the Mississippi thing when I wash my hands and definitely plucked some leg hairs this morning but I am proud to say that I haven’t scratched the old wrists in while. I’m committing less errors like instead of keeping everything inside, I’m like, “I feel crappy today, and I don’t like it. Let’s talk about this.”  These may be baby steps but you take enough of them, you’ll eventually get on base.

So baseball, I used to watch a ton of you. I would look forward to the All Star Game even though it’s a total waste of time and seems to be a showcase for CJ Wilson’s hair. I would watch you on FOX on Saturdays when you’d show the Yankees and Red Sox. FYI FOX, there are other teams in Major League Baseball. I get it, though. If you don’t verbally fellate the classy bag of supermodel fluids that is Derek Jeter at all times, the Great Lakes will dry up. (No disrespect to DJ3K, one of the greatest to ever put on a pair of cleats. I can’t wait until 2015 when he manages the Staten Island Yankees to their seventh title.)

Sorry baseball, I had to give you up for a while so that I wouldn’t give up on myself. But guess what? I’m ready now to watch the Blue Jays implode. I’m pumped to see the Royals potentially take the AL Central. And even though the Cardinals may not make the post-season, I am stoked to yell “Take your shirt off!” at the TV whenever there’s a cutaway to Mike Matheny standing seductively on the dugout steps. I’m back, baseball, and I’m coming for you. I’ve got a date with my couch for the next 2.5 months and I’m gonna savor every minute of it (which, by the way, since I quit smoking is really easy to do because I can taste again).

Depression, because of you I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life. But at least now, I want to have the rest of my life. I haven’t hit for the cycle yet, but with the proper treatment, one day I just might.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go google “Keanu Reeves nude”.

If you’re having trouble running the base paths contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or just dial 911. I don’t know you but I’m pretty sure, I don’t want to lose you.

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5 Responses to “The Error of Mental Illness”
  1. Ty says:

    This is the best piece of “sports” writing I have ever read. To tackle a topic as difficult as this, with an honest approach is inspirational in more ways than one. I don’t know you but I’m sure glad I saw this to wrap up a difficult week.

  2. Editor’s Note: we’re proud that this is on our site.

  3. Elisabeth Galina says:

    The amount of support I’ve received from friends, family and strangers since posting this article has been tremendous. My hope is that even though we can’t cure “the blues”, we can at least let people know that they’re not alone in their suffering.

  4. Ryan says:

    Props to you for sharing this publicly with people you don’t even know. Sportswriting needs more discussion of these kinds of issues. Keep adding to the conversation :-)

  5. Bosoxphan says:

    Well written, well thought out, and courageous. You deserve an ovation.

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