Do Not Use Baseball As A Coping Skill
warning: the following piece contains mentions of anxiety, depression, and suicide. please do not continue reading if these elements upset you.
First day of classes always commences in the same predictable fashion. The students shuffle into their seats, the professor hands out a syllabus, and then everyone participates in the standard introductory exercise. Tell us your name, your year, your major. “And tell us something interesting about yourself,” the professor adds on excitedly, like this aspect is unique and differentiates their tired practice from all the other exercises.
You roll off your never-changing specifics drolly before noting the “interesting” aspect about yourself. “I watch baseball for fun,” you always say absent-mindedly. Anything else? they ask.
You shake your head. No. Just baseball.
You think about this now when you’re at your wit’s end. Before, you would end the conversation at baseball because, well, it was easy. Baseball was always your favorite pastime; that was not a lie. Plus, you knew that you would wear a baseball-branded article of clothing twice, at the very least, in any given month so the “baseball” answer also acted as a head’s-up warning for everyone involved. Plus, deep in the pit of your stomach, you knew that you were a forgettable person with little contributory value to society. You were ruled by silly, disposable trinkets (like pop music, coffee, and fantasy) that covered your shell of deep-seeded anxiety and self-hatred. No one was interested in hearing about that stuff. When you insisted that baseball was not only the best starting point but the only point of contention, you just thought you were being a shifty jerk.
Now, though, life imitates art.
It is the deep end of winter, and you’re currently enraged in a debate with yourself. These past few months have rendered you defenseless. Every time you have tried to pick yourself up from the latest disaster, you’d experience another pratfall and end up flat on your face. As your depression intensified, so did a waning interest in life itself. One by one, you threw away all other temporal activities and hobbies that tied you down — what was the point? Depression does that, renders all of your life activities meaningless because you were meaningless. You knew that, and yet you you stripped down to your core because maybe — just maybe — depression was right this time. Maybe you are meaningless.
You isolated yourself from everything — except for baseball. Baseball survived by the skin of its teeth because your team had the audacity to play well for a considerable amount of time. But now the season is over, and you’re left to look at yourself in the mirror.
The bags hanging underneath your eyes are brilliantly stupid shades of brown and purple. Your pupils are dilated — do you even have color in your eyes anymore?
You spill your self-hatred down the drain. Baseball is a horrible coping skill.
Baseball goes away. Even if you team wins the World Series every year, the season still ends. The players clean out their lockers, the ticket booths close their windows, and the field goes untouched for weeks on end. You are gambling on getting through the next three months alive. You make this bet, despite your poor track record.
Do not eschew everything and choose baseball as your savior. Do not use baseball as justification as you remove yourself from all other hobbies and treatments. You strip yourself bare, cutting down to the exposed nerves. You are not strong and carefree as your mind imagines; you are vulnerable.
Do not use baseball as a coping skill because people tend to judge. “What do you mean you only have baseball? That’s pretty pathetic.” You nod in agreement — it is pathetic, after all — and now you feel worse. You are suicidal, and you didn’t even pick out the right way to cheer yourself up, you fucking idiot. Serves you goddamn right.
Do not tell yourself that you’re not relapsing as you cut away at your mortality, just because you have the radio on for background static.
Do not use baseball as a coping skill because you can hide behind it. “Why are you depressed? Why are you spiraling?” “I’m nervous about my team in the playoffs,” you say as you nervously itch your arms. You use baseball so much as a shield that people will assume that’s the first go-to. They will not bother checking in on anything else anymore. They will see your shell of a former self and not bother to extend a hand. It’s fine. It’s just baseball. She’s just crying about baseball. It’s brilliant. You get to slowly, slowly unravel in front of everyone’s eyes, and no one is ever the wiser. Your depression cackles in glee. Baseball is an enabler.
Do not use baseball because when it goes away you will be left in the same dark, dark place that you once lived many years ago, full of its tempting promises and sinful allure. Salvation sounds good to the empty and needy. Salvation does not save the damned. This is not salvation.
You write it in your scorebook five more times, in hopes that you will see it next season. In hopes that you see next season.
Do not use baseball as a coping skill.