What It's Like Being the Anxious Wife of a Major League Baseball Player
Defined as a noun, is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.
I feel like I have lived most of my adult life in a shadow. Hidden right between the light and rock bottom, somewhere among the dark, simple existence. You wouldn’t expect this of me, the wife of a successful professional baseball player, but with each all star appearance the shadow grew darker, larger. For a long time I learned to exist in this shadow, at times even thrive there. I learned to be a good mother, a good wife, a good person in the darkness. I found a way to make peace with the shadow, make it work for me. But over time living in the darkness became too much. I became a shadow within a shadow.
His shadow had rendered me into a ghost of my former self. The one before him. The one I never got a chance to fully know. The me that wasn’t just his wife or their mom. His fame and success had cast a shadow that was encompassing me, strangling the person out and leaving a shell. Leaving a woman who stayed faithfully behind him, in his shadow.
The shadow might be dark and lonely but it came with perks. For a long time I found resolve in the darkness knowing it was my welfare. Nobody knows. Nobody sees. I am here and I am hidden. I was quietly suffering, quietly letting the darkness cloud me.
He wasn’t to blame for the darkness. He never forced me there. Never told me to stay. In fact he was supportive of my intent to get out, my plans to find out who I was. The thing we didn’t know though was that the shadow formed from more than just his success. I was struggling with much larger demons on the inside.
Darkness is a dangerous thing. Once in it you are easily convinced there is no way out, you are in for good. When I fell in love with him I agreed to support him and love him through this wild life. What I didn’t agree to was to lose myself. I didn’t agree to let the shadow of this extraordinary man cover this ordinary woman. The woman who was holding his life together as he did his extraordinary things. I was the glue and I was coming undone.
The light was calling and for the first time I reached my hand out of the shadow and let my fingers feel the warmth. I let the light warm my hand and leak into my soul. It was nothing big, nothing extraordinary. It was merely a run. A run that would change the trajectory of this girl in the shadow’s life forever.
The part of the story I failed to mention, the part that would weave its way into bringing me deeper into the shadows and yet also freeing me from them, was that after I gave birth to our first child I developed severe clinical anxiety. The chemicals in my body jerked out of whack during pregnancy and left me with a baby in my arms and fear on my mind. I was in a constant state of panic. I couldn’t sleep alone or go out alone. I would convince myself that every noise at night was someone coming to hurt my child and I while Glen was gone. His schedule was public information and therefore acted like a free pass to break in. I was convinced everyone was out to get me, it was simply a matter of time. So I feel, deeper and deeper into the darkness, into the shadows. The irony was that I was scared of whatever was lurking in the shadows and it was simply me that was skulking.
I ran the gamut of remedies to the anxiety. I found a new best friend and a breath of air in my therapist but it wasn’t enough. I had been given tips to walk myself back off the ledge but I still couldn’t figure out how to avoid the steps that led me to the ledge to beginwith. My husband was at a loss. Caught between his job and my misery. He was sympathetic and supportive but still had a job to do. The world doesn’t stop because I was losing it.
Like I said, I ran the gamut of remedies. A few years and another baby later Glen was still playing for the Twins and still on the road. He was experiencing new levels of success and I was still failing. Shortly after the birth of our second daughter I began taking medication for the anxiety. I had fought hard against it, my stubborn type a will telling me I could battle it without drug intervention. My tough exterior was broken in early 2009 though and slowly I began to feel like myself again for the first time in three years.
This wasn’t my happily ever after though. It seemed as though Glen and I were on different paths. When he was high I was low and vice versa. With my anxiety slowly on the mend it was time for his fall. In 2010, Glen was sent back to the minor leagues after a turbulent few years in the big leagues. It was a blow. One we didn’t see coming and one that really screwed with the woman who had worked so hard to get out of the shadows. There I was, back in the dark again.
What we thought would be a short stint in Rochester, NY turned into a five month stretch filled with stress, lifestyle changes, pain and anger. Our family struggled. We tried to bond together but at times it was too much and would pull us apart. Glen and I were both struggled in our own ways and both began to resent baseball for what it was doing to us. He was beginning to dip his toe into the shadow, thinking about joining me.
In a positive turn of events, Glen returned to the big leagues in September of that year with a new outlook, a new position and a new man. He may of flirted with the idea of falling into the shadow but now that he was back in the light his star was on the rise and he wasn’t going to turn around to even peek at his shadow.
Watching him come back from the brink inspired me to want more. I wanted my daughters to have someone they could look up to, someone they admired. I no longer wanted to hide behind him, or let the darkness over take me.
So I ran.
I ran like hell into the light. I know this sounds metaphorical but I truly mean that I ran… put one foot in front of the other, moved my body forward, and in turn forced my mind and will out of the shadows. In the runners high I found more than the endorphins and serotonin boost I needed to control the anxiety, I also found my voice.
But before I let my voice be heard I first needed to listen to the small voice I was hearing telling me to write. Write your story. Write your truth. Use your words to get you out. And so I did just that. I wrote.
My first book “Running Home” was release in May 2016 and details my struggles with anxiety and how running has played a huge role in my recovery. Since the books debut I had taken to several stages throughout the country to share my story, to raise my voice, to make sure I stay out of the shadows.
There is a cloak of darkness around mental illness in our society and I want to take that cloak off, throw it on the ground and stomp the hell out of it. I am not who you think I am.
I am more than a diagnosis. I am more than an MLB wife. I am more than a mother. I am more than a runner. I am the woman behind the man who will refuses to be in the shadows ever again.
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Getty image via jacoblund