My Ongoing Battle With Mental Illness

Written by: Ray Butler

I don’t really know how to start this article. I toyed with different thoughts and ideas for what seemed like an eternity. Instead, I’m just going to be blunt and lay it out for you…

I am mentally ill.

That’s the first time I’ve ever written those words. They look weird to see as a product of my fingers. I don’t know if I’ve ever uttered that phrase out loud, but it’s true nonetheless. I have depression and severe anxiety, and both have manifested themselves and seeped into my everyday life throughout the last calendar year.

I feel guilty and a bit selfish admitting these facts. After all, I have my life, I have a beautiful wife who doubles as my rock and the woman of my dreams. She understands my emotions and is far more compassionate when dealing with my shortcomings than I deserve. I have a handsome, perfect 7-month-old whose hair is in the process of turning red just like mine. I have full-time employment. I have a loving and supporting family. I am far more privileged and lucky than 99% of the people in this world, especially those who have lost loved ones or financial stability throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve lost my grandfather this year; I’ve lost a student this year; WE lost a legend in John Calvagno this year. But that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the loss others have endured the past twelve months. On the outside looking in, I have absolutely no reason to feel the way I feel. It’s so stupid, and that’s a huge reason why it’s taken me so long to open up about it.

Yet, here I am. Self worth is at the apex of my struggles. Some days I function like a typical human being. I feel mostly normal. I absorb the good times and am able to nonchalantly brush away the bad. It’s these days I feel worthy as a husband, father, teacher, coach and founder of multiple, successful endeavors outside of my full-time job. Other days, I struggle to get out of bed and find myself wishing away the minutes and hours despite being in what should be some of the happiest times of my life. I nonchalantly brush away the good moments, and the bad interactions and occurrences are utterly debilitating. It’s these days I feel entirely unworthy of being the same things I mentioned above. I don’t sleep well. I’m fully aware that I’m clearly overweight, yet I don’t have the willpower to stop overeating and over-drinking. At my worst, I spend more time sitting idly and agonizing over completing tasks than actually completing them. “I’m good, how are you?” is a far easier and more simple answer than acknowledging the sinking, dreadful feeling I have in my chest and stomach when people ask me how I’m doing when I pass by them each day. 

Throughout my childhood, I was simply taught to suppress feelings of instability or weakness. If you’re reading this, you can probably relate. Suppress, suppress, suppress. ‘It’ll get better’. ‘Just think about something else’. ‘Pray it away’. ‘Just be strong’. For so long, that game plan worked for me. I stuck my nose up at tough moments; I absorbed and moved on. But despite continuing to believe in the power of prayer, this time has been different. Before finally going to see a doctor a few months ago, I felt as though I was treading water too vastly to alleviate myself. I had suppressed my issues until I simply couldn’t anymore. I can only assume this trajectory was worsened by living in the rural south, where vocalizing weakness and emotion is somehow still widely met with a label of softness or impotence. Heck, I’d wager someone from my hometown reads this article and thinks less of me because of it. These are the hurdles we must clear and overcome before even beginning to think about grasping the magnitude of the mental health dilemma this country has thus far chosen to ignore.

I’m currently taking medicine to help me cope with my emotions and thoughts, though I believe I should be taking a stronger dose. I also know I should incorporate speaking to a therapist or psychiatrist as part of my treatment; to this point, I’ve used my ultra-busy schedule as an excuse to skirt that notion.

Part of me worries about where the fantasy baseball industry is headed. There’s more solid, intuitive information floating around websites and Twitter now than there ever has been. It’s truly a fascinating time to be part of a community that seemingly expands exponentially every season. Unfortunately, with increased quantity comes increased competition. “I was wrong” is a phrase that’s being published less and less in our world, and it’s being replaced by combatively sticking out your chest and only vocalizing your victories. It’s reminiscent of Gambling Twitter or DFS Twitter, and I hope it’s replaced with an increase in humility and meekness in the near future. I won’t hold my breath though. 

The select few people in the industry who know about my struggles have been super helpful. They check in on me and genuinely seem to care about my well-being. I will say it hurt to see—last spring—someone in the industry question how my aptitude would translate while raising a newborn and teaching/coaching during a pandemic. Unfortunately for him, I won the RazzSlam overall championship, finished more than 300 spots ahead of him in the TGFBI overall standings (I had to search four different pages just to find where he finished) and more than tripled his ROI on NFBC during the sprint season. All while holding depression in one arm and a baby in the other. Hope that’s enough ‘production’ for you. Fortunately, it was that pain specifically that served as a direct tipping point that led me to publishing this article, which I had created and deleted several times beforehand. 

I promise I’m not publishing this article searching for your sympathy or understanding. I simply need you to know that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to want to take some time to care for yourself. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson I’m still early in the process of learning. As a society, we are absolutely horrendous at discussing and coping with mental illness, whether it be ourselves or others. But suppression eventually becomes just as dangerous and unhealthy. If you feel alone or that you have no one to talk to, I *PROMISE* this isn’t true. Reach out to your loved ones. Reach out to your friends. Reach out to me. Let’s struggle together. Let’s grow together. Let’s overcome together. We must move past the negative stigma that is often attached to the terms ‘mental illness’, ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’. I am far from cured, but someday, I hope I’m lucky enough to use them as helpful tools to increase my empathy, compassion and selflessness when attempting to relate with family, friends, students and others I surround myself with. Even in my darkest days, I remember how lucky I am to find myself in the hedge of protection created by the people and opportunities that fortify me. The battle is worthwhile. 

Despite sending 2021 VIP members tens of thousands of words of dynasty and redraft content on New Years Day, I haven’t published any of my own work on the site since October (!). I have literally dozens of my own articles in our queue waiting to be published, along with the hard work of our other writers including Justin Choi, Ian Smith, Adam Ehrenreich, Carlos Marcano, Estee Rivera, Mike Schneider and others. I need to do a better job of elevating their tremendous voices moving forward. I also need to continue cultivating the friendships I’ve made throughout the industry and P365’s VIP community, which I hold more near and dear to my heart than those people know. 

I’m very ready to show the prospect and fantasy world everything we’ve been working on this winter. However, it simply didn’t feel right to proceed with publishing my content without you knowing where I’m at personally. I’m hopeful publishing these facts about my private life will serve as the push I need to begin pumping out content as Opening Day approaches. I can assure you the best is yet to come for Prospects 365. 

I love each and every person who reads these words. Your continued support means more to me that you’ll ever know. If you ever need ANYTHING, I promise I’m here for you. Let’s struggle together.

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