I can’t even remember when it started anymore, I just know that it was more years ago than I care to count back. For decades now, I have awakened – almost every day – to feelings of anxiety. Often it begins as early as 4 AM. Something will stir me awake, and then my brain will start to cycle through what I need to do that day, or some burden that I’ve been carrying that I can’t seem to put down. I try to tell myself there’s nothing I can do about it right now. That I need to go back to sleep and deal with whatever tasks or concerns I have at a reasonable hour.
But my brain won’t turn off.
And then the battle with the clock starts. If I just fall asleep now, I can still get 2-3 more hours of sleep, I tell myself. But I don’t fall asleep, and the clock keeps ticking, and I keep checking the time and I swear, it’s as if I can see the sands of the hourglass run out while I’m looking at the passage of time on my clock.
I have medication to help with these struggles, but to take enough to put me back to sleep means I will likely wake up groggy, hungover, and sluggish. That’s no way to begin the day. The other option is to take half a pill once I begin my day, which relieves the anxiety, but again, leaves me slow on the uptake until the afternoon. Sometimes, I just say fuck it and get up early and sleep-deprived because the doing of tasks helps calm my mind.
I’ve adjusted my entire life around my condition. And while anxiety doesn’t always lead to depression, it typically does. Why am I like this? Why can’t I be normal? What is wrong with me?
I’ve found that one thing that helps me cope is to be open about my struggles with those I’m closest to and my most trusted co-workers. The empathy these precious few provide me with does offer some genuine relief. Still, the mental health stigma exists, even now, in our more open, more “woke” world. Those who don’t suffer from anxiety – try as they might – can never truly understand. Far worse are those who see your personal challenge as nothing more than a weakness. The latter group have no idea how much strength it requires to fight through anxiety and depression just so those of us who are afflicted can have what passes for a normal day. A day when we can be productive, be present with our loved ones, and hell, just breathe.
It’s not fucking easy, and I don’t wish it on anyone. Anxiety affects everything you do in life. You can be moody and surly around others for what appears to be no reason. People will ask what’s wrong. They will tell you that you are fine. That everything is okay. They are often right, but it doesn’t matter if you can't feel it.
Saturday night, Danny Garcia began his comeback to boxing with a dominant win over Jose Benavidez after a 19-month layoff; after his hand was raised, he opened up about what kept him out of the ring for over a year and a half. It’s the same issue that I have: anxiety and (occasionally) depression. It was an emotional scene during the post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray. Garcia broke down, shed tears, and barely held it together to get through the conversation. But hold it together he did. He told the hard truth – that he had not been well, and that the fight to be well continues on.
I heard and felt every word of what Garcia was saying last night. I was in awe of his courage then and even more so this morning. It’s not easy to talk about your struggles with mental health in private, I can’t imagine it’s any easier to do so in public. Saturday night, Danny Garcia was very brave.
Thankfully, of late, he hasn’t been the only athlete in the fight game to share their struggles with depression and anxiety. Both Tyson Fury and Ryan Garcia have done the same, and deserve similar credit for doing so.
Danny Garcia, Tyson Fury, and Ryan Garcia are polarizing personalities in the world of boxing. All three often provoke love ‘em or hate ‘em reactions from fans. I can understand that. Fury drives me crazy as a fighter, and I find Ryan Garcia’s efforts to hype himself up incredibly annoying. A lot of the animus towards Danny Garcia is personality-based too. Much of that disdain has less to do with Danny himself and more to do with his, er, colorful father and trainer, Angel. And I’ll admit, spending more than two minutes listening to Angel Garcia speak can be maddening. Danny is his father’s son, but I’ve never found him anywhere near as irritating as his dad, but I know many of the lovers of the fight game feel similarly about the son as they do the father.
What I would ask of those folks, is to set those negative feelings aside for just a moment and recognize what Danny Garcia did after the fight Saturday night. He did a great service to people like me who have a hard time talking about their condition, and so badly want to wish it away. We can’t, though. For the large majority of us, our circumstances are permanent. The best we can do is become better at managing it. And you know what helps you manage it? Knowing you aren’t alone.
Saturday night, Danny Garcia reminded me and all those like me, that we are not alone.
If others can’t set aside those aspects of Garcia’s being that they find so irritating, I, for one, certainly will.
From the bottom of my angst-filled heart, I would like to say thank you to Danny Garcia.
Thank you so very much.