More Than a Game: How Basketball Helped Save My Life

I woke up this morning completely drained, irritated, and sad for no reason.  I asked to work a morning shift after working the night before, so I assumed it was exhaustion. It was a beautiful day outside, and I had no desire to enjoy it.  I had plans for the night and canceled them because I didn’t feel like it.  Time was moving slowly and each second made me feel worse.  I went from not knowing why I was sad to thinking of everything that has ever made me feel that way.  Worthlessness began to crawl into my brain, reminding me that I’m still not where I want to be.  Memories of friends and relationships that ended badly danced in my head, telling me I wasn’t and never would be good enough.  I began panicking about moving into my new apartment and thinking I won’t be able to afford anything.  I became anxious and overwhelmed in a short period of time.  Angry at nothing. Frustrated at everything. Bitter and pessimistic about life after being somewhat okay a few hours before. Next thing to come was the headache.  Then, I felt sick, and I just wanted to go home, get in the bed, and sleep away a perfect day.

This is what it’s like to have depression.

I’ve had depression since I was ten (a different story for a different day), when I didn’t quite understand what it was and decided to ignore it for nearly 15 years.  When I would have those days like today I found a solution in the worst possible way: I would either choose to eat away my feelings, just to find comfort in something. Or, I would avoid taking my insulin, because the pain from high blood sugar was better than the mental pain and the voice in my head telling me I shouldn’t be here.  I was slowly killing myself and I didn’t care.  I would fall asleep at night and hope I wouldn’t wake up in the morning just so “feeling” isn’t something I’d have to do anymore.  I gave up on life.  If it weren’t for my mom (and the fact that she had to take me to school “that’ morning), I probably would have ended it.

After deciding I couldn’t do it anymore, I sat in class with a stoic look on my face and just waited for the day to be over.  During our reading hour, I asked my teacher why she was a Kentucky fan since most college basketball fans I knew were Tennessee fans.  Her favorite player was Tayshaun Prince.  After a brief conversation about her love of his play and his high school years, I asked to use the computer to researched everything I could about him.  He, of course, was later drafted by the Pistons, so I found a new joy with the team I grew up watching struggle.  I went from being an observer to an investigator about every player on the team, learning more than just their names and the positions played.  I moved from just the Pistons to every other team because there were other players in the league besides Kobe and Shaq.  I had high hopes for Detroit and kept predicting they’d win it all (and they did, 2 years later, so I wasn’t wrong). I eventually found another outlet.  One where I could scream and stress about something that I could forget about the next day: basketball. Sports have always been part of my life, but always an observer, I used to be able to pass over a game here or there. From my parents, I already had a team and was able to go to my dad about the players, the schedule, and what games he felt were more important.  I found a spark that pushed the idea of suicide out of my mind.  An odd spark, but it was there and it was good.   I transformed from a casual fan to a consumed one and it was saving me.

Back in January, an event that seems so minor now triggered my depression two weeks before my birthday, and I felt like giving up.  I spent 3 days in bed and honestly felt as if nothing matter.  I did, however, get out of bed for the Pistons/Mavs game.  In the first half, Dallas shot nearly 85% from the field, Detroit forgot how to play defense, and in a crowd of cackling Mavericks fans, I watched my team get embarrassed.  And I felt better.  My sadness didn’t disappear, as I burst into tears while walking back to my car, but I had no desire to just crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling.  I allowed myself to cry because I needed to, but I also told myself to get up.  I wrote (but didn’t post) my feelings towards the Pistons game and how they played and felt weight lift from my shoulders.  It did take a week for me to stop being sad, but from past experiences, I know it could have taken longer and there was a chance I would have fallen and never gotten up.

People always ask about my love of sports, especially since I’m a woman, and most don’t understand my “obsession” as they call it.  I’ve had people tell me “it’s not that serious.” I’ve even had a friend tell me he didn’t understand why people love sports so much and referred to it as sacrilegious. When my shadow days, as I like to call them, come up I go to YouTube to watch games I’ve seen and older games that occurred before my team.  I watch highlights from my favorite plays and I read every basketball blog I can find.  Between SLAM and SB Nation, I have enough to keep me going for hours while hopelessness knocks at my door. For me, it’s a way to feel alive.  It sound ridiculous, but it gives me something to look forward to.  I love close, stressful games and watching players give their all in “meaningless” games.  I love buzzer beaters, overtime, and buzzer beaters that lead to overtime.  The squeaky sound the shoes make is comforting for me and I have no explanation for it.  I count down the days until opening night, and I do the same for the playoffs (it helps that NBA.com has a clock on the site) and league pass has kept me from crying myself to sleep.  My depression isn’t gone and it is mountain I’m still climbing, but I have basketball to thank for helping lead me there.  Had I not given it all of my time and energy, I probably wouldn’t still be here.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 10.34.09 PM and now you know.