Imagine being just out of high school and waking up every single day wishing you hadn’t graduated.
Imagine walking around every day thinking of ways to end your life. Will you walk out in front of a bus? Will you eat a handful of pills? Or will you just use a razorblade?
Evan Gattis doesn’t have to imagine it. He lived it.
“I WANTED TO DIE. I JUST WANTED TO DIE AND BE DONE. DEATH HAS GOT TO BE A LOT BETTER THAN THIS.”
Six-year-old Evan cried when he had to go to his first tee-ball practice. But he met other kids his age and he fell in love with baseball. It turned out he wasn’t one of those kids who had to be coaxed into practicing. He wanted to practice. He knew he was good. And he wanted to excel.
By age 10, Evan was physically larger than most kids his age. And he had a good, fast arm. Too good, even, for his small local team. So he joined an elite baseball team where he played all through middle and high school.
And then he found marijuana.
Evan started smoking pot at 17. And it became an all-the-time thing.
And even though he kept doing it, he was ashamed. He kept it a secret. He was scared of being found out and being labeled a druggie.
But he needed something to calm his mind. To make him stop thinking about the pressures of baseball. The pressures of what college he would go to. Which scholarships he would accept. The pressure of living up to the expectations of his parents who were no longer together.
When he finally told his mom about his drug use, she insisted he go to rehab.
That was at the same time he was scheduled to start Texas A&M on a baseball scholarship.
He never showed up to Texas A&M.
Rehab seemed like an easier task than having to worry about being a great student and a great ball player. Two things that caused him great anxiety.
He participated in an inpatient rehab program where he sat and listened to stories of people who had drug problems a lot worse than his.
Life problems a lot worse than his.
Then, he flew 1,000 miles away from home to live in a halfway house for three months.
It was all a waste of time. He was using rehab as an escape from reality. Almost the same way he used the marijuana.
After he got out of rehab, he decided to try junior college. It was a smaller platform for baseball. Not as much pressure he thought. But still, he couldn’t get out of his own head. He was silently fighting depression. And anxiety. He was quietly trying to find some sort of spirituality. The more he searched for answers, the more difficult the days became.
Until finally, he just got up and walked out of class — and drove home.
And something amazing happened. He was greeted with warm, open arms. Not with expectations of baseball.
Evan was expecting to walk into a room full of disappointed family members. But he got the opposite. He walked into a room full of people who were happy to see him. People who loved him with or without a baseball or bat in his hands.
He realized his identity did not have to be wrapped up in baseball.
He told his dad never to speak to him about baseball again.
“I THOUGHT THIS WHOLE TIME THAT EVERYBODY JUST WANTED ME TO PLAY BASEBALL AND TO BE GOOD AT BASEBALL.”
Once he realized that he was not the sum of a baseball and a bat, he decided to live his life the way he wanted to. He quit his job as a valet and moved to Colorado with his sister. He got a job at a ski resort. And he loved it. Every minute of it.
He loved his new life. He loved the space. He loved the quiet time.
And there was a lot of it. So much that it started to cause him anxiety. His depression kicked in, and he became manic and went days without sleeping. Evan was so calm and happy and at peace, it scared him. He felt like something was wrong.
But he didn’t want to sleep because he didn’t want to wake up and feel the way he had been feeling for years.
He didn’t want to wake up and feel like dying.
He was 20 years old.
He didn’t know what to do. And even though he was 20, he was still a kid. So he did what kids do when they need help.
He called his mom.
She told him to go to the hospital. To tell them what was going on. And she called his dad. Even though they weren’t together anymore, they both wanted what was best for their son. And so, his father Jo came to pick him up and drove him back home to Texas after Evan’s three-day stay in the psychiatric ward of a Colorado hospital.
It felt like something had changed in him. Something had swept over him. Like the earlier moment in his life where he had walked away from college, Evan felt in control of his destiny. He hadn’t let the expectations of others define him. He didn’t let his own expectations define him.
But he was still missing a critical piece to his puzzle. So he buried himself in books about spirituality. He started listening to the voice inside himself.
But even that wasn’t good enough. He wanted to know more.
So he quit his job.
The very next day, he got in his truck and drove to Santa Cruz, California where he sought out the help of John Wheeler, a spiritual guru. He only had a five-minute conversation him — but that five-minute conversation changed Evan’s life forever.
That night, he lay in the bed of his truck listening to the California leaves rustle above him. Looking up into the clear night sky, Evan decided to return to baseball.
He called his brother, Drew, who was attending the University of Texas and told him he wanted to play ball again — and was going to enroll at the school his brother was attending. The school knew who Evan was and they gladly accepted him on the team.
Even though Evan was not a fan of institutions and the thought of going back to school triggered his anxiety, his heart wanted to play baseball more than his mind wanted to panic. So he pushed aside his fears and told himself that the worst thing that could happen to him would be that he would fail.
And that wasn’t so bad.
His love of baseball returned like a wave in the midst of a storm. He looked forward to practice again. He looked forward to running miles. He looked forward to sprinting. He looked forward to feeling the dirt fly in his face as he slid into third base. He found his passion for the game again. And it showed with every swing.
By the fall, the Atlanta Braves were scouting him.
And on an ordinary day in 2010, as Evan was in the house with his girlfriend Kimberly getting ready to go watch a Texas Rangers game with his friends, Evan was drafted in the 23rd round to play minor league ball for the Atlanta Braves. A moment he says he will remember forever as one of the best and most surreal days of his life.
Gattis played minor league baseball for the next couple of years. The Danville Braves. The Lynchburg Hillcats. The Mississippi Braves. And even a Venezuelan Winter League team.
After three long years in the minors, Evan was invited to Spring training with the Braves as a non-roster player.
When Spring Training was over, Evan was called to the team manager’s office in turn in his gear and sign his termination paperwork.
It was a sad day. Emotional for everyone.
His fear of failing had been such a huge part of his past, that he was extremely nervous as he walked in.
That’s when they told him he had made the team. He was in the big leagues.
All Evan could do was weep. And the tears just wouldn’t stop.
His new teammates were looking at him as he cried and tried to process what had just happened. But he didn’t care. He had been through too much and had come too far to worry about a few tears.
And on his first big league game, in what could only be described as a fairytale moment, Evan Gattis stepped up to the plate for his first pitch.
And hit a homerun. And he’s been hitting home runs ever since.
In 2015, Evan was traded by the Braves to the Houston Astros.
Where he was moved from the position of catcher to designated hitter.
This year, 2017, Evan Gattis achieved something he would have never thought possible so many years earlier. He married his longtime girlfriend, Kimberly, and helped lead his team to their first-ever World Series victory.
From depression and thoughts of suicide to love, fulfillment, and confetti.
He still has his demons. His depression. His dark moments. But he shares his story of depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Problems faced by people like you and me on a daily basis.
The truth is it all of us go through darkness. There are times when all you can see around you is pain and fear and frustration. It doesn’t seem possible that you could ever be happy again. That you could actually be a winner. Have that confetti moment yourself.
Know that you’re not alone. It’s not just you who goes through these moments of frustration and chaos.
“IF THERE’S ONLY ONE THING YOU CAN REMEMBER WHEN YOU’RE GOING THROUGH THESE TOUGH TIMES, MAY IT BE THE SIMPLE TRUTH THAT THE MORNING ALWAYS FOLLOWS THE NIGHT. THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW.”
The light will shine. The darkness of the night will fade.
It’s true. But if you’re struggling to hold on to that truth by yourself, then grab the hand of someone who could help you.
Get some help. Seek out those qualified to come alongside you and strengthen your will. You don’t need to believe all by yourself.
Do it with a friend. A coach. A mentor. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep trying. Keep working. One more day. One more hour. One more time.