Depression Has Me At 1st and 65— Time To Write A New Game Plan

Alabama lines up for what turned out to be the game-winning play. Photo from NCAA.com

I watched the college football national championship game last Monday. I rooted for my alma mater, Alabama. I saw quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sacked on the first play of Alabama’s possession in overtime. I saw him pushed back 16 feet. 16 FEET! No way we’re gonna win this.

Now it’s 2nd and 26. We’ll be lucky to make the first down. But then, to my disbelief, I saw Tua throw a 41-yard touchdown pass to win the game for Alabama.

How do players shake off a bad play and move on?

My astonishment wasn’t so much that we won — although, Roll Tide! My astonishment was that we won from 2nd and 26. After a huge sack, Tua stepped up and threw an improbable game-winning pass. How did he do that? It’s critical for successful athletes to shake off a bad play and move forward. But how?

I struggle with bipolar disorder, currently manifesting itself in a deep, nasty depression. Last year it knocked me out of the game altogether for awhile. I’m back in now, but I’m at something like 1st down and 65 yards on a field that looks like a black hole.

I’ve been sacked on every down where I didn’t throw an interception. It’s a struggle to move the chains…it’s like they are weighted down with big rocks.

I don’t want to even go out there and line up anymore. But there’s no one to substitute for me. For good or will — mostly ill these days — I’m the quarterback of my life. Staying off the field won’t help. Meandering all over the field won’t either.

Depression means you’re the quarterback of a game you’re playing against yourself.

I’m a coach, specializing in writing therapy. I’m much, much better at helping others than helping myself. I’m writing furiously these days, trying to come up with a new game plan. Trying to write my way into the resilience necessary to stay on the field, to keep driving in one direction.

I know I’m playing against myself. Depression is cruel that way. You’re down too far to act, and yet action is the only thing that will pull you back up again. Staying in the game, capitalizing on any bit of positivity, making the most of every play, every inch forward, regardless of how hopeless it looks.

Line up. Throw. Run. Line up. Throw. Run. Move toward the goal an inch at a time. Stay in the game. Stay in the game. Stay in the game.