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.

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One thought on “More Than a Game: How Basketball Helped Save My Life

  1. Sarah says:

    My husband has suffered from depression his whole life and while he’s done well with medications, he swears that baseball has been something that’s kept him feeling better, with something to look forward to, even when his depression has gotten really bad in the past.

    There’s something special about that sneaker squeak, isn’t there?

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