“You’re a good man,” the doctor says to the patient at the end of each session. “You’ve experienced a lot at a young age, and have emerged as a mature adult with a unique perspective on things, especially for someone your age.”

It’s not easy. The stigma that goes with mental illness is one that can brand a person in ways that change how people interact with them on a daily basis. It’s entirely unfair, but it’s still where we’re at as a society in 2015. And that’s before you even consider trying to get help for something that grabs you like nothing ever has before.

That patient is me. That doctor is the psychologist I’ve met with on a couple of occasions after I was diagnosed with dysthymia during a recent physical. The Mayo Clinic online defines dysthymia as mild, but long-term depression. It can interfere with your ability to function and enjoy life.

Let’s work backwards just a little bit. Anyone who knows me knows that life has been, well, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve chosen not to see it that way and quite frankly you’d be hard pressed to convince me that my childhood was more difficult than anyone else’s growing up. I think when you go through trauma at a young age, it can become your norm. And while that’s not necessarily bad from the standpoint of how hard things hit you when they happen, you’re also not mentally prepared to work through the stages of grief and what comes with it.

And maybe that’s what I’ve been feeling. I first felt what I would call “off” in the summer in 2013. We were coming up on the 19-year anniversary of the horrific accident that shaped and changed our family in ways you can only imagine. Stepfather killed. Two brothers injured badly. The wounds were physical; the wounds were not just physical.

But every year that day would come and go, and that day — July 17 — would suck, but the feeling of dread would pass the next day. In 2013, that funk came about a week earlier and left about a week later. Maybe longer, I don’t really remember. I just didn’t find interest in things I usually liked, but I took some St. John’s Wort — self medicating, which I probably wouldn’t recommend — and felt pretty normal before too long. A similar thing happened last year, though I would say it maybe lasted a bit longer than the year before.

When you don’t really know what depression is, you’re not really sure what to look for. For me, I sort of figured I was going through something like that, and for me it was like having a boulder on my shoulders. My brain, usually dynamic and ripe with ideas, jokes and stories, had nothing to offer. I struggled at times to maintain focus, and I found myself irritable for no real reason. I tried like heck to hide it, and think I did a decent job. I faked smiles and laughs, but all I could really think about was the cosmic pointlessness of everything around me.

And I mean think about it. In the last year I’ve done some really amazing things, and I’m pretty sure the next year will be just as great. I’ve started a job that probably 90 percent of men my age would kill to have — watching sports for a living — and I do a handful of radio spots a week. I still play baseball, have a nice apartment and am married to the love of my life. We are looking for our first home together, have a few bucks in the bank and have the world at our fingertips.

And it was like…..what’s even the point?

I should be clear: one place I’ve been blessed is that I’ve never had visions of self-harm. Nothing close to that. That’s one part of the mental illness that I think I’ll never understand, though through my increased awareness is something I have much more compassion for. I’m extremely fortunate that the extent of my issues are looking at my day-to-day schedule and saying “what’s the point of all this?” Again, I feel really lucky.

The latest spell came on the trip home from my grandfather’s funeral. Gah, was that hard. My grandpa was my everything; you know, that one person that is your hero. I’m not talking about sports figures, actors, or people you don’t know. That person who lives their life on earth in a way that nobody ever has to lie about their character. That was this man. He’d been on borrowed time after a few heart attacks over the last 25 years, but sometimes it’s just the finality that hits you so hard. I had the opportunity to speak at both of his services, and it was very therapeutic for me.

We got through the weekend or whatever OK, but when we stopped halfway through on the six-hour trip home, I immediately felt something creep over me. It was something I couldn’t shake, like I had grown weary or tired basically immediately, and I couldn’t do anything to shake it. Energy shots, coffee pouches….nothing. It got so bad my wife had to drive for part of the rest of the ride home, which if you know me is a pretty big deal because I kind of have a tough time riding with other people driving.

Anyway, I could pinpoint basically the moment the fog — I’ll call it that just because it seems to fit best — settled on me, and I could also pinpoint the moment it left. If you pushed me on the dates I could probably figure it out, but it was between two and three weeks, and it lifted the second I passed I94 and Radio Drive on my way to play our season-opening doubleheader in Spring Valley, Wis. It’s funny that it was at that intersection, because we’re all heard the Shaneco radio jingles that remind us of that spot. It’s hard to explain exactly what happened, but basically it was this: a *puff* sound/feeling in my brain and the sensation of a fog lifting. The *puff* was like if you tapped a bottle of baby powder and it made a white cloud. Vivid, tangible, and quite frankly kind of cool.

It does worry me a little bit though about when relapses can happen. I’ve felt a little funky over the past couple days, and I’m sure there are triggers in a number of places that I may or may not be aware of yet. In talking with the doctor, I said I didn’t want to consider medication. “The lows aren’t low enough to sabotage my highs,” I said, praying that it didn’t sound terribly ignorant because he’s the one with the degree and I’m just a guy. “I agree,” he assured, and I felt as though I’d said something quasi smart.

For now I’m going to just work on the external factors that I can control. Improved diet, added exercise and maybe an experimental reduction in caffeine from time to time. Nothing terribly drastic, but I just couldn’t rave enough about how good I’ve felt in recent weeks, and I can’t stop thinking about how I need to get and stay there.

But now to wrap this up before it gets even more long-winded, there’s one thing I’d like to ask of you. It’s really easy for everyone to help with the stigma of mental illness, and you can do it every day with virtually no effect on your daily life. Instead of using the word “depressed,” consider using the word “disappointed.” You aren’t really “depressed” after your favorite baseball team lost three games in a row, I don’t think. Similarly, use “eager” when you’re excited for something to start instead of anxious. You’re eager to see your best friend after a long time apart, rather than anxious.

It’s a small, but simple way to band together to use words in ways that can uplift people going through these issues. Thank you for your time,



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These Are the Things (I think) I Know: MLB 2015

Hey, hey….it’s Opening Day (for 28 teams who didn’t play last night). Before things get started in an hour or so, I just wanted to go over some bullet points of things that I think will happen as another illustrious baseball season plays out. No analysis here, just unfiltered hot takes. Feel free to chime in below. I’m going to start in the AL East and work my way around the league:

* Boston will be pretty good, but only as good as that rotation allows.
* The Yankees won’t be good. In fact, they may finish last.
* Tampa Bay will be better than most people think. Over .500, even.
* Toronto will be good, but will fall short of the division crown unless they find another starter from outside, or within (Sanchez-Norris).
* Baltimore is going to be sneaky good again despite starting its best starter in the bullpen (Gausman).

* Cleveland is the class of the AL Central, but it’ll be tight.
* The White Sox will be over .500, which by default means in the race.
* Detroit’s window closes after this season. I don’t think they’ll sign David Price, either.
* Kansas City will finish under .500, and that is terribly sad.
* It will get worse before it gets better in Minnesota. The second half should be better than the first, though.

* Houston will surprise some people. It’s a fun roster, and they could finish at .500.
* Seattle is probably the most talented team in the AL top to bottom, but like every other team has its warts. I think they might go to the World Series.
* The Angels are pretty good, but not as good as everyone thinks. I’ve seen a lot of World Series buzz. I’ll say 87-88 wins.
* Oakland finds a way to get it done again despite a weird offseason. I’m looking forward to Ben Zobrist in green and gold.
* Times are tough in Texas, but Rougned Odor will be fun to watch this year.

* Atlanta is going to be really, really bad.
* Philadelphia is going to be worse.
* I really like the Marlins this year. 90 wins.
* The Mets will go as far as their young pitching carries them, assuming they get the opportunities. Wheeler’s injury was a bad break. They could win 85 games, though. I’ll take the slight under.
* The Nationals are going to win the World Series (over the Mariners).

* The Cubs will experience some growing pains at first, but nobody will want to play them after the All Star break. Maybe sooner.
* Cincinnati will sell off at the break. Not before the All Star Game, though.
* Milwaukee will be sneaky good. Maybe second wild card good.
* St. Louis is the class of the division, and will sign Jason Heyward to a huge deal and it’ll still look like a bargain when all is said and done. They’ll lose to Washington in the playoffs.
* Pittsburgh has the best outfield in the game, and will be the top wild card team.

* Arizona won’t be as bad as you think. They’ll still pick in the top 10 in next year’s draft.
* Colorado will lose way more than a team with Troy Tulowitzki — who will finally stay healthy — and Carlos Gonzalez — he won’t — should. This might be the year they trade Tulo for a ton at the deadline.
* The Dodgers cruise to the division title with 95 wins.
* San Diego is right in the thick of it until the end, but loses out on the second wild card to Miami.
* San Francisco takes a step back, but gets a really nice season from Justin Maxwell, oddly. They’ll win 84 games, and just miss the second wild card by three or four games.

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On Alex Meyer, the Minnesota Twins, and Starting Pitchers

Today I’m rankled by the sheer number of people upset with the handling of Alex Meyer by the Minnesota Twins. That is, people legitimately upset that he has been handled with kid gloves by the organization who paid a rather steep price — Denard Span — to acquire him.

I think what makes me the most upset is the prevalent notion that the Twins deliberately hold down their prospects. Even if you felt this was true with Trevor May and Kyle Gibson, what exactly did they do out of the chute for you to feel vindicated by this?

The general notion that any team is holding back non-ace pitchers is nothing short of hilarious, regardless of their age. None of the guys listed so far in this post qualifies as such, and it’s not as though the Twins are/were short on reasons to keep any of them down. You could make a case for Gibson, but his progression as a big leaguer has shown he needed time to get all his stuff back, too. Continue reading

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Fun Sporcle Quiz: 2015 Minnesota Twins Spring Training Roster

Matt Selby routinely reaches out and sends me some Sporcle quizzes you all might find interesting, and this one certainly piqued my interest as it is the 2015 Minnesota Twins Spring Training roster.

I got 49/61 in the 10 minutes allotted, and only missed a couple that were on the 40-man roster. Let’s see what you can do!

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Brandon Warne’s Poorly Produced Podcast Project: Episode 9 “Mail Call!”

Minimally produced; minimally talented. Sorry, got a little hasty at the end.

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Offseason Blueprint 1.o

One of my favorite things to do in the minutiae of the offseason is work on these blueprints. In fact, I may write three or more of them as I work through the different avenues I think the Twins could pursue. But I’m going to start off with the one I think will be the most fun.

That is, my ‘throw caution to the wind, go all out’ blueprint. I make a big deal about not wasting any more of Joe Mauer’s prime. With this offseason, in my estimation, the Twins can get moving back in the right direction and still easily assimilate some of the young guys once they’re ready.

So here goes nothing (salary data from Cot’s/Baseball Prospectus):

40-man departures:
1B/OF Chris Parmelee
C/OF Chris Herrmann
1B Chris Colabello
RP Aaron Thompson
SP Mike Pelfrey
SP Kris Johnson Continue reading

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Brandon Warne’s Poorly Produced Podcast Project: Episode 8 “Lying in the Weeds”

Sorry for rambling. Look for my offseason blueprints coming soon.

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