Pittsburgh Pirates As Bipolar Treatment

December 24, 2010

I keep thinking that there must be some mad connection between my Bipolar Disorder and the fact that the only sports team I consider worthy of my mania has just set a North American record for futility.

My Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season in 17 years. Not since the blasted 1992 Atlanta wretched Braves came from two runs down in the bottom of the ninth inning of game seven of the National League Playoffs – to keep the Pirates out of the World Series – has my team had a season in which it won more than it lost. 1992?! George W. Bush’s father was President and the Pirates left-fielder was a skinny kid named Barry Bonds. Have you seen Barry lately? Skinny was a long time ago.

Never has there been a professional team on this entire continent – in any sport – that has had as many consecutive losing seasons as my Pirates. Never . . . in the history . . . of . . . the Continent! And my bipolar brain will not even consider giving up on them.

Is there something wrong with me – or, for some reason, does it make perfect sense that a manic-depressive would love such a loser?

Most baseball fans whom I know have eternally disavowed the Pittsburgh Pirates, delighting with ridicule for my team. I, on the other hand, fully believe that they will not only soon win more than they lose, but that they are already on their way to making the playoffs in 2011 or 2012.

In some goof-ball way, bipolar has turned me into one of those never-give-up, pain-in-the-butt, blissful idiot optimists. (I call it being Blessed with Bipolar) Doesn’t it seem that it should be just the opposite? Having bipolar means that I am prone to depression so severe that it has left me locked in a psych ward. Doesn’t that dictate that I would almost always take the most negative, glass-half-empty outlook on nearly everything – especially a baseball team that I have watched lose unceasingly for 17 years?! They have continuously blundered, not only on the field, but in scouting, player development, free agency, trades, game strategy, and every other way that a professional baseball organization can screw-up. I have bipolar disorder! Watching this Titanic should be enough – all by itself – to cost me a month in the nuthouse.

I should be the most negative, hostile, ex-fan the Pittsburgh Pirates have ever had. But my deep and agitated states of crashing depression have had an alternate effect. I have learned that no matter how severe my episodes of depression have been, they have always ended. Each and every one was followed by a period of at least normal good feeling; if not real joy and enthusiasm. And when the depressed mood ended, my view of my circumstances was transformed – without the least change in my circumstances.

It may sound crazy, but in spite of the fact that my depressions have always ended, it took long years and much gloom, despair, and agony for me to realize that I have a choice. I can choose the transformed view of my circumstances even while I am still in a bad, BAD, down, losing-Pirate mood.

The chemical imbalance of bipolar may, indeed, strongly affect my moods and emotions, but I can take control of how I think about my life. I can look at my difficult circumstances, choose to see the best possibilities, and tell myself that it is good. I can look at my ,000 in school loan debt that I cannot currently pay and say, “I’m a damn broke, dead-beat bum.” Or I can look at that ,000 school loan debt and thank God for my tremendous education. There are, honestly, legitimate reasons for both perspectives. Which one has the greater potential to empower me to succeed?

And I can look at the Pirates 2009 record of 62 wins and 99 losses and throw in the towel. Or I can say, “Yes! That terrible record means they get the second pick in the draft. They’re gonna get another great prospect! And look at all the young, high-potential guys they already have – Pedro Alvarez! Andrew McCuthen! Zach Von Rosenburg! Yeah, Finally! They’re doing things the right way.” And that perspective allows me to keep enjoying my team. Otherwise, I’d either have to give-up or keep watching and be miserable.

Optimism and pessimism are both choices based upon uncertain evidence that could go either way. You cannot know for sure how things will work out. (even though the optimist and the pessimist both believe that they are “realists.”) But which attitude is more likely to lead to success? When I look at it that way, optimism is the only sane choice – even if it turns out to be wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about ignoring or denying our problems. They are very real. I’m not talking about whistling past our own headstone. I’m saying, “Face the problems boldly. But choose the possibilities.” That choice can shorten, end, and even prevent depression – take it from a seven-time psych ward bipolar patient.

And remember where you heard this first: The Ex-Pitiful Pittsburgh Pirates will win the 2012 World Series!

Richard Jarzynka is the author of “Blessed with Bipolar” (http://www.bipolarman.org) He has used the “symptoms” of the disorder to help him counsel clients; run a marathon; grow in his Christian faith; and earn a Masters degree in Psychology, a scholarship to Law School, and a football scholarship. He blogs at Bipolar Richard’s Almanac

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