The ER Doctor That Saved My Family and My Life

I don’t even remember his name, only the conversation we had in the white walled emergency room.

Dr: “You’ve been to the emerg a lot lately. What is it you think you have?”
Me: “I’ve been researching my latest symptoms and they closely resemble MS.”
Dr: “You don’t have MS. In fact, you don’t have anything that we can see and you’ve had almost every test we can give you.”
Me: “Well, something’s wrong with me!”
Dr: “Have you ever talked to a psychiatrist?”

This moment was my weakest point as a man. I sat in that emergency room, head in my hands, crying, reflecting on everything I had been through and the strain I had put on my family and every aspect of my life. The doctor was extremely respectful of my breakdown and referred me to the hospital’s psychiatry ward. This conversation and subsequent breakdown are the things that changed my life forever, in the best possible way.

I had been to the emergency room about 8 times that year and I had managed to keep the visits a secret from almost everyone. The routine was usually the same, I’d arrive at work, feel a small pain which I would turn into the absolute worst case scenario, panic my way to the emergency room, then wait 6 hours at the hospital only to be told I was fine and be home in time for dinner with nobody suspecting a thing. I kept it from everyone, including my wife, because I was embarrassed of how I was feeling and didn’t want to portray weakness in front of her or my newborn son.

I can only guess the strain I was putting on my wife during this time. I say ‘guess’ because when you are anxious and depressed, the only thing you think about is yourself and how lonely it is to be you. I barely got out of bed and was the opposite of a good father for most of the first year of my son’s life. The fact that my wife even stayed with me is a testament to her sense of love and forgiveness, and I’m grateful to have a second chance.

I had been to about 10 doctors in that year and while I received excellent treatment at every stop, none of them had suggested that it may be a mental issue until this one. As I sat in the waiting room for my first appointment with the psychiatrist, I remember telling myself over and over again, “You are not crazy, you are not crazy”, and as I looked around the room, I realized that the people there were just like me. I didn’t see any of the characters from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and neither were Annie Wilkes, Tyler Durden or Hannibal Lecter. Everyone there was living a regular, every day life just like I was and that instantly put me at ease.

Over the next few months, I happily attended all of my sessions and even started to make friends with my waiting room mates. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had dreamt it out to be and getting the help I needed at that moment is exactly what I needed to get my life back on track. This is sort of the Coles Notes version of my battle with anxiety but I thought it was important to share, especially for those who are suffering and don’t think there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am just one story and I know there are cases far worse than mine, but I faced it head on and came out the other side a better person.

I will probably never see that doctor again but the conversation he initiated that day saved my family and quite possibly my life. If any of what I am writing sounds familiar, please feel free to message me to ask questions and I would be happy to be an ear for you.

The New Hat

My son got a new hat the other day. There was really nothing special about it. If anything, it looked like one of the many poorly crafted hats that I had enjoyed in my younger days.

“I picked it for Grampy in heaven, because he liked baseball” he said with a proud smile. I gently leaned in, kissed his forehead and told him that my Dad would have loved the hat. I did this calmly and in full control of my emotions, however, on the inside, my heart was racing, the tears building as my lungs gasped for air and I was suddenly flooded with a swell of memories from my days with my father.

What my son doesn’t know is that, over 6 years later, I do the same thing. It seems that almost everything reminds me of my father in some way or another. Ultimately, it’s the reason I stopped playing fastball, because that’s the thing we shared more than anything else and every time I took the field, after his death, the emotions became too overwhelming.

There’s also my unreasonable love for anything Sherlock Holmes and the sudden instinct to purchase old Hardy Boys books whenever I spot them. There are many other situations I can think of that, good or bad, have me instinctively doing something with no rhyme or reason attached to them. I’m no head doctor, so I’m not about to try to figure them all out but I’m assuming its normal behavior for anyone who has lost someone so close to them.

I thought about how I was distancing myself from the things we shared together instead of embracing them. It’s not that I wanted to forget, it’s just that I don’t want to be constantly reminded of it, if that makes any sense. It’s hard, man. Life has definitely become easier but those last days certainly haven’t vanished from my memory. That said, I didn’t want to return to that anxiety ridden “Why me” place that I spent so much time in. I want to be the story of the guy who fought through adversity and came out stronger on the other side, not the guy who caved to the memories and hurt his own family in the process.

You may look at my son’s new hat and just see a poorly made hat from any department store in the world, but to me, it’s a symbol that I’m doing better now. It taught me that life can go on, even with the heart break, and that my father’s memory will live on in my children even though they never had the chance to actually meet him.

I dusted off my ball cleats last weekend in hopes of making a comeback next season; because I know my Dad would have liked that.