Flickr image by Maisa_NYC
For many people, whether they’re watching on TV or in person at the ballpark, the game of baseball is a form of escapism. It’s a few hours away from everyday life when people can forget their troubles and become engrossed in watching their favorite team(s).
For others, it’s a form of therapy in a way. No matter how bad life seems to be going, sitting in the ballpark and watching baseball makes them happy.
I’m one of those people.
I have Bipolar Disorder. I had been struggling with it for most of my adult life without knowing what it was and I was finally diagnosed in January 2007.
I’m very open about having Bipolar because to be honest, I don’t want it to be a stigma anymore. Many people are ashamed to admit to having issue with mental illness and with the way its talked about in today’s society, I don’t blame them.
We have a long way to go in how we treat people with mental illness but there are strides being made. What a lot of people don’t realize is that having a mental illness is a lot like having a disease like diabetes and it’s often treated in similar ways: You’re monitored by doctors, you take medicine and you have to live with it the rest of your life.
Does my Bipolar Disorder affect me everyday? Yes. Every single day and some days are worse than others. That’s why I love baseball so much. It helps me to forget what’s happening in my life and I can focus on the game.
In fact, I often call Yankee Stadium my happy place because no matter how I am feeling on a given day, the second I walk into the Great Hall, I forget my troubles and become engrossed in Yankees baseball.
It’s my home away from home. It’s also a form of therapy.
I first set foot in Yankee Stadium in August 1983. I was a couple of weeks shy of my ninth birthday and my dad was finally taking me to see live baseball.
When I was very young, before my brother was born and we moved to the suburbs, my parents and I lived in an apartment in upper Manhattan. My bedroom happened to be next to the living room and I’d go to bed listening to the games. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my dad was making me fall in love with the game of baseball before I even really knew what it was.
So on the day I was finally getting to go the Stadium I was ecstatic but I was also a little annoyed at my father for waiting for long to take me. At the time, I didn’t realize that he was being pretty smart about it. Now that I’m an adult, I understand why he waited so long. I often see people with their young children at games and watch as they spend most of the time tending to the children and not paying attention to the game. That’s no fun.
Being a native New Yorker meant that I had seen the Stadium many times from afar as a young child – I had passed it many times in the car on the way downtown – and on television but nothing prepared me for walking inside of the Stadium. I didn’t speak. I just looked around at everything.
It was so dark in the old Stadium, even during the day so when you walked out of the tunnel and saw the field for the first time, it was like a vampire being blinded by the sun.
The Stadium seemed so grand and I made sure I looked at everything as we made our way to the seats. I looked out to the pitcher’s mound, I looked up at the upper deck above us and marveled at how high it seemed. I looked over at the big signs above the bleachers and the frieze above them. I looked toward the Yankee dugout and over toward home plate.
It’s amusing because nearly 30 years later, I am the same way. I’ve been to the new place a lot in the nearly four full seasons it’s been open and yet, I still act like I’m seeing everything for the first time.
That day back in 1983, our seats were in the first row right behind the left field wall – in those days, the wall was all the way back to the seats. Having an unobstructed view was a pleasure.
The other thing about that day that made it so special for me was that we were there for a doubleheader. Yes, I was seeing two games for my first trip to the Stadium.
My dad brought me and my friends John, Billy and my crush Joe. I think dad regretted that decision within the first inning. The boys were misbehaving. (I, of course, was a perfect angel.)
I actually can remember what I wore that day. It happened to be my favorite outfit to wear that summer – a white top and shorts outfit that had pastel pink, yellow and blue on it. The top’s straps tied at the shoulders.
I remember having my first Yankee Stadium hot dog and it seeming like the best hot dog I ever had in my life; my dad got us peanuts and we shared a bag – now I can eat a whole bag myself.
There was a ‘funny now looking back at it but not so funny at the time’ moment when I was playing with a mustard packet, squeezing it over and over again until it had enough, burst open and splattered all over my poor father who was wearing white from head to toe. I remember him yelling at me, and I remember how embarrassed I was that he did that in front of the boy I liked.
One of the best moments of the day was when my dad was talking to Dave Winfield during warm ups between the games – Winfield was playing left field. I was in awe at the time and couldn’t say anything. They were talking like they were two old friends. My dad has never had a problem talking to people no matter how famous they are. I really wish I had inherited that trait from him.
The Yankees won both games against the Toronto Blue Jays that day and from that day on, I was hooked on live baseball.
After the September 11th attacks of 2001, baseball played an even bigger role in my life. What I didn’t realize at the time was that witnessing those attacks on television set off a chain of events which led to my Bipolar diagnosis. It also led to my losing friendships, losing my apartment and losing jobs.
But the one constant for me and the one thing I never lost, was my love for baseball.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend to five playoff games in 2001. I’ve always said that those games helped everyone keep their minds off what was happening downtown, even if it was only for a few hours a night.
I was there the night the Yankees went down 0-2 to the Oakland Athletics. I was there the night they defeated them to clinch the Division Series and move on to the American League Championship Series. I was there the night Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off home run against the 116-win Seattle Mariners in Game Four of the ALCS. And I was there the night Mr. November was born.
I am lucky to have witnessed a lot of exciting – and not so exciting – moments in both Stadiums. And I am thankful to have baseball be a part of my life. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without it and I cringe at the notion.
I feel like baseball gives me a reason to keep on going. That may seem silly to some but it’s true. A lot of people with Bipolar have suicidal thoughts and I’ll admit to having them every once in a while but the thought of not going on and not existing anymore is too scary for me to comprehend.
So I soldier on, with baseball and writing about baseball helping to guide me through the sometimes murky abyss that has become my life.
And this Sunday night, I will be in my therapist’s office to watch the Yankees take on the Boston Red Sox. I hope it’s a good session.