March 2, 2012

Taylor Buchholz And Depression

Wayne Coffey, Daily News, February 25, 2012:
Taylor Buchholz hasn't thrown a baseball for nine months, since Phillies pinch-hitter Domonic Brown lined a single off him in the eighth inning of a Mets victory at Citi Field last May 29. ... It finished his season, and maybe his career - not because of one bad day at the office, but because of an accrued pain brought on by an illness as real as the hollowness Buchholz felt inside - one that sent him on a downward spiral that robbed him of joy, motivation, energy, life.

The diagnosis was anxiety disorder and depression, and it first came in 2010. Buchholz just knew it as a living hell, and wondered what on earth was wrong with him. Why would he sleep for 12 hours, then want to go back to bed? Go get a bite to eat, and then want to sleep some more? His muscles were always clenched, his mind ever churning, and what was going on with his work ethic, long one of his hallmarks? ...

Food didn't taste good. Music didn't sound good. Nothing was pleasurable. If friends called, he would duck them. He withdrew, he hid, avoided eye contact. Buchholz knew he was sick, but scolded himself to toughen up, get over it. "You should be stronger than this," the voice in his head kept saying. ...

The descent continued, Buchholz feeling as if his whole world were a pit of quicksand.

"If I got guys out, I thought I was lucky," he says. "I'd look at the stat sheet and say, 'I'm a fake. They're going to figure me out at some point.'"

24 comments:

scabtheverse said...

As an ex-player, I've often thought about forming a support group for players (current or retired) *experiencing* (not "having" a disease... but traveling a path) depression-after-baseball. Succeeding at a game of failure is a strange dynamic. Existing inside a "game" as your life is hard to explain. Especially if you are very talented.

Anyway, if there are any ex-players out there: drop me a line. I have some ideas. As MOS DEF says: SHAME IS A PRISON, DISCUSSION IS A FORTRESS

I'm not a believer in drugs or the idea of "battling" depression. In fact, I think healing is the anti-thesis of a battle or fight. But I know what he's talking about. There was one guy who had to retire because whenever there was a runner leading off first... he had to keep throwing to first. He couldn't focus on the hitter. The game couldn't move.

Put as simply as I can: when the game stopped being a dance, stopped being fun, the spirit shut down the physical. In other words: no one ever spikes their helmet in anger as a 6-year-old kid in the sandlot.

Thanks for posting this Allan.

allan said...

I'm not so sure that failing at baseball is behind Buchholz's depression. That was simply his job, what he spent his life doing, so it could not help but manifest itself through that important of his life. If he was a writer, he'd be saying the same things, it gave him no joy, he has no talent, he's a fake, etc.

I'm not a believer in drugs or the idea of "battling" depression

No one has a problem with people taking medication for other problems. Insulin, high blood pressure meds, cortizone, etc. for whatever ailments the body might have. Depression exists on another plane, for some reason. (I'm not saying you are saying people should cheer up or get over it, but some do.)

I think the terms experiencing, having, and battling are mostly semantics. There is something wrong and there are a finite number of ways to realistically deal with it. One, perhaps the best one, is medication. Not to alter the person, but to get that back to the person they are.

Also, I really like this sentence: "Succeeding at a game of failure is a strange dynamic."

laura k said...

Good for Buchholz for being public about his mental illness.

I'm not a believer in drugs or the idea of "battling" depression.

Disease needs to be treated. When you see lives - your own or people you love - saved and improved by treatment, it's a lot easier to understand depression as a disease. The "battling" metaphor may be off, as it is for any other disease (battling cancer, battling diabetes), but very few people with clinical depression can get better without treatment.

Situational depression like scabtheverse is describing may be different (emphasis on may), but clinical depression is not about what's currently happening in your life.

Amy said...

I think there is a difference between the sadness, dysphoria, disorientation, etc., that comes with retirement---from any career---and clinical depression (although I imagine that the first can become real depression for some people). When we talk about the first kind or casually say, "I was depressed when we lost the game," or "I was depressed when vacation was over," we are not talking about the kind of depression that Buchholz and millions of other experience: totally debilitating feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. For most people suffering from those feelings, drugs may be critical to getting beyond those feelings. For people suffering from the first type of "depression," perhaps just time, therapy, change of circumstances, family and friends, etc., will be sufficient, but even then---if meds help you bridge the gap, why not take them? We take Advil for pain, we take antacids for upset stomachs, we take Claritin for allergies. Why suffer?

[Laura, before you say, "Is that Amy?," I will admit that although I believe this whole-heartedly, I still find myself trying to "tough it out" through pain if I can. Just stubborn and stupid. But I would never recommend that to anyone else!]

laura k said...

Amy is absolutely right, the word depression is used with different meanings in different contexts. Most people with clinical depression need a combination of drug therapy plus talk therapy. But without the drugs, talk therapy is often impossible.

And Amy, I'm so pleased to see you say this. I don't think it's a matter of stubborn or stupid - more like lifelong thought patterns are very difficult to change. Sometimes it's best to change the behaviour first, then let the mind catch up - that is, take the drugs, feel better, then deal with your feelings of weakness or guilt (or whatever).

Amy said...

Heh, interesting. For me, I have to change my thinking first and THEN I can change my behavior. And I often believe things that I cannot practice myself: drugs are ok, daily exercise is important, eating too much sugar and processed food is bad, etc. I believe all those things are true, but do I practice all of them? NO...

Amy said...

Weird...the comment format has reverted to the annoying little box where the preview then shows up on the side with no "subscribe" option.

laura k said...

daily exercise is important, eating too much sugar and processed food is bad, etc. I believe all those things are true, but do I practice all of them? NO...

I'm pretty sure that's called being human.

laura k said...

I have to change my thinking first and THEN I can change my behavior

Right. My point is that most people believe this. There's a school of thought (cognitive behaviour therapy) that reverses it. I've come to believe in it.

laura k said...

Wow! I just clicked on scabtheverse's name for the first time. What an excellent blog! (Great template too, I'm intrigued by it.)

johngoldfine said...

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/epidemic-mental-illness-why/

Good article on drugs and depression. In a nutshell: placebo effects, Big Pharma, DSM, science not nearly what we are led to believe.

Thought before action or vice-versa. Old religious argument: does one listen to the inner spirit and so do external works, or do the sacramental and external gifts from God eventually lead to an inner spirituality. Many lives have ended violently in an attempt to settle that argument....

Laura--wmtc has a tiptop template already!

Amy said...

Anyway, I do know that changing behavior can change thinking as well. I certainly have done that myself, but that takes more patience and work, I think.

(And I really HATE this new comment format. Are we going to have to use this during game threads?)

laura k said...

In a nutshell: placebo effects, Big Pharma, DSM, science not nearly what we are led to believe.

Articles exactly like this are published daily. They may be factually correct, but they are woefully incomplete, belying the experience of millions of people whose lives have been saved and/or improved by anti-depressants.

It would be better for all of us if Big Pharma was not a profit-driven enterprise, but such is the state of capitalism.

For many people, the drugs work, and I find the suggestion of placebo effect unbelievably offensive. There really are no words for how offensive I find that. No one suggests drugs for diabetes or arthritis work on a placebo effect.

Just have a nice cup of tea and meditate, deary, and you won't be filled with despair and feel like jumping off that bridge. There, there.

laura k said...

Amy, we don't gamethread on JoS anymore.

Amy said...

Yeah, I realized that when I saw Allan's post about today's games. But still...I don't like this little box! Mostly, I don't like the small font and the teensy font for previewing your comment and the fact that the subscribe option doesn't show. It's odd---sometimes I get the other format, but now I am back to the one I don't like.

Sorry to whine, but why the change?

allan said...

I thought you wanted the option to subscribe by email to comments.
That option is with this layout.

Amy said...

I do like the subscribe option, but it is not showing up. There seem to be two formats that I am seeing. One, which I am seeing right now, is the one I don't like. The comment box is in the middle of the page at the top. When I preview my comment, it wraps around the box to the right and under the box in TINY font. And there is no subscribe option.

The one you had switched to when I complained had the comment box at the bottom, a regular though small preview box, AND a subscribe option.

No clue why sometimes I get this one and sometimes the other.

sorry...

Amy said...

Aha, if I enter the post from the home page, the comment box is at the bottom. If I enter the post by clicking on the link in an email, I get the other annoying format.

Wish I understood technology better...

laura k said...

Amy, Blogger changes their default settings once in a while, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. It usually sorts out all right. Give it time.

Amy said...

You want me to be patient?? Uch. I hate that. :)

laura k said...

Ha ha ha :) One of the (many) reasons I 90% left Facebook was all the complaining every time they changed formats.

Philip said...

Big Pharma sucks ass. It is also the reason I'm alive. I'm on several antidepressants and when I miss a dose I spiral down into depression again.

I think it's hugely important when public figures like Buchholz are open like this about depression. There is still a pervasive belief that depression is an issue of attitude adjustment--"Cheer up and you'll feel better", "just go out and do things that you enjoy", etc.--and people need to realize that clinical depression can't just be wished away. It's something that you live with, grapple with, are periodically gaining ground on and being beaten by. You feel bad, then you feel bad about feeling bad (""You should be stronger than this," the voice in his head kept saying.").

allan said...

Thanks for the post, Philip. I agree, it is extremely important when anyone in the public eye discusses depression.

Also, your depression is/was clearly much different than mine. There must be as many forms of depressions - or ways it manifests itself - as there are people with depression.

laura k said...

"There must be as many forms of depressions - or ways it manifests itself - as there are people with depression."

And it follows that there is a range of ways to heal. Philip clearly has a very pronounced placebo effect.

KIDDING (obviously).

What bothers me the most about the anti-medication crowd is people assuming their own experiences are universal. People who've never needed anti-depressants, or who have had bad experiences with them, or recovered from short-term depression without meds, conclude the drugs are useless.