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Baseball: Game of Failure Friday, October 12, 2012
Baseball: Game of Failure

Currently, Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in Major League Baseball. He makes *thirty million dollars* a year. He is paid all that money to get hits and drive in runs. A-Rod's career batting average is .300 and he will be a hall of famer when he retires. He makes an obscene amount of money because he does what very few players can do. Being a career .300 hitter will get a player a huge paycheck and possibly get them into the Hall of Fame. But there is one thing about baseball that is unlike Football and Basketball--it's a game of failure. A-Rod is one of the best hitters in the game, yet when he steps up to the plate, he's going to fail two out of every three plate appearances.

Recovering from a mental illness is like hitting in Major League Baseball. During the process of recovery, most of us fail more than we succeed. I know I did. The best baseball players don't try to hit home runs every time they step up to the plate. Prince Fielder, (one of the best power hitters in the game) gave Joey Votto (a former MVP) a piece of advice when Votto's power numbers were down after winning the MVP. Fielder told him that the way you hit more home runs is by not trying to hit home runs. When a hitter seems to be crushing the ball every time he steps up to the plate, what you usually hear is that he is "seeing the ball." He hits home runs by trying to hit line drives.

When we're trying to recover from a mental illness, we can be impatient. We can try too hard. When we try too hard, we get too self conscious. When we get too self-conc ious, we start getting tripped up in social situations. When we get tripped up in social situations, we feel embarrassed and beat ourselves up mentally. When we feel embarrassed and beat ourselves up, we start losing hope in our lives and in ourselves. When we lose hope, we give up and possibly turn into a cynical person people want to avoid. When we're feeling confident, we're able to be ourselves and be at ease in social situations. When we're at ease, people pick up on that and feel comfortable around us, and when people feel comfortable around us, we feel comfortable around people. Then our confidence, self esteem and self respect build and, without even realizing how we did it, we're successful in social situations.

When you're recovering from a mental illness and try to get back out into the world, you need to know that you're growing to screw up. It's not your fault--you're dealing with something most people will never understand. I used to spend (read: waste) a lot of time fighting idiots on the comments section of Brewers blogs on The thing about baseball is that it looks so simple, yet those who know the game know that it's a game of failure. The unreasonable fans who get angry every time a hitter strikes himself out don't understand that. The same goes for people who don't have a mental illness. They don't understand what we go through. They don't understand that, during the recovery process, what seems simple to them is hard to us.

As far as I can tell, most baseball players don't pay attention to what unreasonable fans say on the internet. They know that they're not going to get a hit every time they swing the bat. They don't try to prove these crazy fans wrong by stepping up to the plate and thinking "I'm going to hit five home runs today just to shut those fans up." Instead, they play within themselves. That's what it takes to recover from mental illness--don't let people's ignorance influence your decisions. Stay within yourself. Don't let people who expect you to sprint keep you from running a marathon. Don't try to prove these people wrong. Don't brush aside your small but realistic opportunities in an attempt to force the big opportunity that may or may not ever come around. The best way to achieve something that is presently unrealistic is by seizing every small but attainable opportunity you find. Eventually, these little victories will add up and you'll find yourself in a position where something that was once unrealistic and unattainable suddenly becomes very realistic and attainable.

Very early on in my recovery process, I didn't understand the points I made above. Instead, I became determined to write a book that would get published and make me rich and famous. In a week, I wrote a two hundred page book. If you read it and said "This book reads like the illogical ramblings of a crazy person. It's gibberish" you'd be being way too nice. A month later, I tried writing another book about time travel and I got one hundred pages in and gave up--out of laziness. But that attempt was terrible as well. I was shooting for the stars when I should have been focusing on something that was reasonably attainable. My mom didn't really know what to do with me at this point in my life, but she did do something that eventually brought me back down to Earth: she got me to do just *one little thing* every day. That one little thing could have been something simple like organizing my room or something a little more ambitious like applying for a job at CompUSA.

I actually did end up getting that job at CompUSA, but I quit halfway through my second day because the job was terrible (because it was--and I say that with the rational mind I have today). After I quit, I got in a bit of a funk again. That's no different than a baseball player getting into a slump--the baseball season is 162 games long and every. single. player. goes through a slump at some point. So keep that in mind. So after quitting the job at CompUSA, I went into a little slump, but got myself out of it by getting back the job I'd had at Radioshack before my mental illness kicked in. I wasn't working at the same store or with the same people, but I'm glad about that. As it turned out, my boss and my co-workers were awesome and we got along like good friends. In baseball, there are countless examples of players who have a ton of potential but don't live up to it, so the team releases them. That is particularly true with bullpen pitchers. But time after time, another team will pick up the released player and the he'll end up pitching great. All sports fans have heard it a million times: a struggling player can succeed on a new team because all he might have needed was "a change of scenery." That's why quitting the CompUSA job was so great for me, because the change of scenery I had when I started working at Radioshack was one of the best things to happen to me at a point in my life where very few good things were happening to me.

The last point I want to make about baseball being a game of failure relates to other people in your life. You'll almost never see a baseball player getting pissed off at a teammate in the dugout after that teammate struck out in a big situation. That's because all baseball players know that it' s a game of failure. If the players all got angry at each other after every strikeout with people on base, they'd all hate each other. A support group is just like a team of baseball players--everyone at a support group has gone through the ups and downs that mental illness puts us through. They understand that we all slip up at some point during recovery because they've done the same things during their process of recovery. A good support group will make you feel better about your small accomplishments during recovery. They won't dismiss the little victories and make you feel like you need to accomplish some monumental accomplishment for them to appreciate the effort you are putting in to overcome your illness. They'll help you get out of a slump--because (just like baseball players) *everyone* goes through slumps.

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