July 21, 2016

Brian Johnson And Anxiety: "My Goals Became My Expectations"

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe has an in-depth story on Red Sox minor-league pitcher Brian Johnson's struggle with anxiety. As Speier notes in an intro to the story:
There was a time when it would have been unfathomable for a player to inform his organization that he was struggling with a mental health issue, and likewise when it would have been almost unfathomable for the organization and player to make the treatment for a mental health issue public. [The Red Sox's response to Johnson's request for treatment] offered a suggestion of how far the sports community and society at large has come on the subject of mental health.
Brian Johnson:
My goals became my expectations. I felt like I had a microscope put on myself. If I didn't throw perfect, I was [angry]. If I gave up one run, I was [angry]. Nothing was good enough. ...

I never felt like I was living in the moment. I was always looking two to three steps ahead. I was waking up in cold sweats. I just never felt like myself. I had bags under my eyes. I was short-tempered. I love my parents to death, but they would reach out, I'd call them, my dad would ask how pitching was going, and I had a short fuse. Last thing you want to do is fight with your loved ones. It was becoming arguments because I didn't want to talk about baseball and how do you tell anybody what you're going through when you feel like baseball is the only thing you know? ...

I just felt like I was always putting on an act. I always felt tight in my shoulders. I always felt like I was putting on a show. Finally, I remember talking to [Pat Light], and he said, "All baseball aside dude, you're my best friend and you need to get right. You need to make sure you're good." It was tough. I was nervous to tell my agent, I was nervous to tell my mom and dad. ... [But] I just finally hit a breaking point where I said I can't live my life unhappy not just on the field but off the field. I wanted . . . I needed help.

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