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Baseball: Chipping Away


Baseball: Chipping Away
mikew
Friday, October 12, 2012
 
When you fall way behind in a baseball game, it's tough to rally back. The same goes for having a mental illness--it's a major set back in your life. It takes a ton of effort to put yourself in a position where you can regain control of your life and give yourself a shot to be the kind of person you like again. The thing is, you can't expect to do it all at once.

When a baseball team is down by eight runs early in the game, some players make the mistake of trying to make the comeback with one swing of the bat. They start swinging for the fences with nobody on base. A solo home run isn't going to bring you back from an eight run deficit. The way you get back into the game is by chipping away at the score. You get a run in the second, a couple in the fourth, a couple more in the fifth, a run in the sixth. It's that kind of approach that will give yourself a shot at recovering from your illness. With mental illness recovery, it's all about patience and the letting all the little things that make you feel good about yourself add up over time. You're not going to get your dream job a couple months after being released from your hospital. It's unlikely that you meet the love of your life a month after getting out of the hospital either.

When trying to come back from being down eight runs, you can't try to produce eight runs yourself. You need to trust the players around you. Instead of trying to hit that home run, you should try to get on base any way you can, such as taking a walk so somebody else can drive you in. That's like mental illness recovery in the sense that you need to put yourself in a position where other people in your life can help you out. In baseball, some guys want to be the hero out of pride. That's like being stubborn with your mental illness recovery. Getting on base so others can drive you in is like being honest with your doctors, sticking to your medication, or trying out a support group. Of the hundreds of people I've met at group, only a tiny handful of people are able to bounce back and regain their mental stability without doctors or medication--but even those people got themselves to a support group, so they still aren't trying to do it all themselves. There is *no* shame in admitting you need help--whether it's from doctors, friends, family, medication or support groups.

Also, set backs happen--like getting hit by a pitch. Getting hit by a pitch is still a way to get on base and give the batters behind you a chance to drive you in. It stings for a bit, but you're taking one for the team. That's kind of like being mostly stable for an extended period of time, but then your illness gets the best of you for a week or so. In that case, you might need to go to group and talk about your set back. In the process of talking about your setback, maybe nobody says anything that could really help you--but in the process of others trying to help you out, they might unintentionally end up helping out somebody else at group indirectly. Even though this piece of advice doesn't really apply to *your* setback, it could still help somebody else. In this case, your set back was like getting hit by a pitch and 'taking one for the team.'

When you're trying to make a big comeback in baseball, getting on base any way you can (walks, hit by pitches, singles) gives your team the best shot at getting back in the game. In order to get on base any way you can, you need to take what the pitcher is giving you. What that means is that a right handed hitter can't try to pull the ball to left field when the pitch is low and outside (on the far side of the plate, for non-baseball fans). With mental illness recovery, you need to be realistic and know what your life is giving you and what it's not.

For example, after I was released from the hospital, I took a semester off from college. In my first semester back at school, I had this awful Shakespeare class that started at six thirty at night and went until nine thirty. This was a terrible situation for me--I hated the teacher, I was already tired after a long day at school, and I had to take my night time medication almost four hours later than I needed to take it, which made it hard as hell to wake up for school the next morning. My other three classes, however, were scheduled at good times and I liked the classes. The Shakespeare class, though, was giving me a huge amount of anxiety, which was the last thing I needed during this crucial, early part of my recovery. I knew that the class would hurt my chances at succeeding in my other classes. So I had to drop the class. Since all that stress was gone, I was able to get a B and two A's in my three classes. Had I not dropped that class, I know that I would have struggled in all my classes.

The most important part of this, though, was about self esteem and confidence. I felt great about myself after getting those grades, and it gave me confidence that--despite everything I'd recently been through--I was capable of not just handling going back to school, but actually having a lot of success in school. It even made me like school. That one bad class alone would have made me hate school, I'm certain of that. Yes, dropping the class meant that I'd extended the time it would take to graduate by an extra four credits, but that was a small price to pay for succeeding in school. Besides, it was unrealistic to think I could go straight back to school after all I'd been through and manage to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible. It was more realistic, and more important, to do very well in three classes as opposed to struggling with four.

It was hard to admit to myself that I wasn't able to take four classes a semester like I used to be able to do before my illness, but recovering from a mental illness is a marathon, not a sprint. The same could be said about trying to come back from an eight run deficit in a baseball game. It's unrealistic to think that your pitcher can give up eight runs in the first and you'll get eight runs right back in the bottom of the first. That would be trying to come back too fast, like a sprint. Instead, the whole idea of *chipping away* by scoring a steady amount of runs throughout the game is like a marathon.

When a team is down big in a baseball game, the opposing pitcher--knowing he has a big cushion of runs he can afford to allow--doesn't have to throw as many strikes as a pitcher needs to in a close game. Instead, the pitcher will throw out of the strike zone to see if the hitter will strike himself out. Striking yourself out is trying to make something out of nothing. It is flat out impossible to hit a pitch a foot out of the strike zone, but a hitter--trying to be the hero--is tempted to swing at those pitches he can't hit. Swinging at pitches you can't hit would be like handling that first semester back in college by doing the opposite of what I did. If I was too proud to admit that four credits was more than I could handle, I would have been striking myself out. What I didn't mention in the Shakespeare class example I made above was that I got off to a bad start in that class. I did terrible on the quizzes and I missed two of my first three classes--one because I needed to go home on account of feeling very loopy because I was functioning without my medication. The following week, I tried taking my medication before the class, except it made me too tired to handle sitting through a three hour class until nine thirty. My bad start to that class was just like a pitcher giving up eight runs in the first inning. My chances of success were slim, just like an eight run come back is, but at least I gave myself a shot by dropping it for the sake of my overall success in school. When a hitter strikes himself out, it hurts the team's chances at a comeback. If I was too proud to drop my Shakespeare class, I'd have seriously hurt my chance at a good semester, overall.

When a baseball team is trying to make a comeback after giving up eight runs in the first inning, it's not just up to the hitters to tie the game back up--it's up to the team's pitchers as well. Coming back from an eight run deficit is hard enough, but if you want a chance at making the comeback, the pitchers need to keep the team in the game by not allowing any more runs. The best baseball teams have three things: talent, balance and mental toughness. Talent alone won't make you a contender. A dominant offense but terrible pitching won't win you the World Series. And mental toughness is the great intangible factor--it's about believing in yourself and your team... it's about knowing that a comeback is always possible until you make the twenty seventh out.

What I'm getting at here is that a baseball team can't rely on just one thing to make a comeback, just like you can't rely on one thing and one thing alone to recover from your mental illness and get your life back on track. If you're struggling to recover from your illness and your job is the only thing you have going for you, your days quickly become monotonous and unfulfilling. Don't get into a rut--such as going to work, coming home, sitting on the couch, watching TV for a couple hours, going to sleep and then waking up and doing it all over again the next day. Find a balance between several things you find fulfilling, such as your job, your hobby and having someone to hang out with.

Good baseball teams have a balance of offense, pitching and defense. Having that balance gives the team the biggest shot at success. Having a balance between many positive things in your life gives you the best shot at recovering from your mental illness.





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Showing 1 - 6 of 6

  Metaphor Blog Title: By: Date:
Read Baseball: Come Back Wins Vs. Blowouts mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Chipping Away mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: A Good LIneup mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Game of Failure mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Short Memory mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Minor League System mikew 10/12/12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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