I have learned that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, and there is no shame in having either — although it’s tough for many people to get their arms around that concept. When I struggled with both in my last couple years as the Texas Rangers’ baseball play-by-play announcer, the few people in whom I confided expressed genuine shock. “Depressed? About what? You’ve got a great job! Legions of adoring fans! A wonderful family! Dude, what’s your problem?”
Growing up, I had always been, quite naturally, the life of any party. But over a period of several years, I began to stay away from such parties. When I did go and fake my way through, I would usually leave upset, gripped by the weight of having been such a fraud.
Scared, Lonely, Exhausted
At my lowest moments, everything and everyone in the world was a threat. Not just people I knew, but people I knew I’d never meet. Brad Pitt’s looks? A threat. Same for Peyton Manning’s arm, Josh Groban’s voice, Justin Timberlake’s talent, the neighbor’s house...all things to threaten me, instead of for me to simply enjoy.
In an anxious state, all I could see were the things I couldn’t do or didn’t have, and people I couldn’t be. I had no appreciation whatsoever of anything I already was. No matter what I did, the foreboding sense was that it would never be enough. And if the people in my life who mattered had the “gall” to appreciate or acknowledge the talents of others, I took it as a punch in the face. It was a scary, lonely, exhausting way to go through life.
The crux of an anxiety disorder is the complete inability to be at peace with the present moment. Always expecting the other shoe to drop. Waiting for something to go wrong. I’d be racked with guilt about things I’d done poorly and trembling with worry that I’d soon screw something else up too. Professionally, that would all come crashing down within an hour of air time. Quite routinely, I’d seek refuge in the press box bathroom, head in my hands, trying to remind myself “it’s okay. I’m okay.” Sometimes I was…most times I wasn’t.
Therapy and the Small Purple Ribbon
After a diagnosis of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and depression, and lots of therapy (CBT) and hard work (self-help), I stumbled upon a small purple ribbon — 25 cents at a thrift shop. It’s for little kids who wipe out at field day, I’d guess, but it works for me. It simply says “I Tried My Best.” And crazy as that sounds, there are still days when if I don’t look at that ribbon, I forget where this path to salvation is located. Finally, slowly, I am coming to understand and live that dynamic: All anyone can do is his or her best. And no matter who’s suggesting otherwise —- if it’s other people telling you, or your own addled brain — that’s got to be the thing you remember. Live to your fullest potential, and let that be enough. Whatever has happened is immaterial. Whatever might happen is rarely in your power.
The fear of being “never enough” is a painful full-body throb. With the Rangers, I had days where the gravity of that thought would keep me in bed, under the covers, unwilling or unable to get up. What a wasteful, unfortunate way to spend time. I beg anyone who has experienced worry, or “lack” or “threat” to A. get some help, and B. go get a purple ribbon and fly it like a flag. If you tried your best, it is, indeed, enough. That’s all anyone can ever rightfully demand of you anyway.
Looking Forward Forever
What does the future hold? Who knows? What a scary thought for the already-threatened, but there are no cheat codes one can acquire and apply to real life. Will my kids turn out okay? Will my wife still love me? Will I stay gainfully employed? How scary, even to this day, to type the words “I don’t know.”
The only thing I do control is to be the best possible version of myself. And to surround myself with people — professionally and personally — who are kind, nurturing and understanding. I have done that now, accepting a job with the New York Mets and continuing as the voice of the San Diego Chargers. I like the jobs, I like the people, and most importantly, I’m learning to like myself again.
Josh Lewin, a sports broadcaster, announces for the San Diego Chargers and the New York Mets. He is the author of several books, including Ballgame!: A Decade Covering the Texas Rangers from the Best Seat in the House (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2012).