Kasper: Dealing with anxiety part of my game
I have anxiety. And probably a little depression too.
The anxiety has been around for a long time and was exacerbated by realizing my lifelong dream of being a big-league announcer. The self-inflicted pressure of perfection made me well-suited to this line of work, but it comes at a price at times.
Fortunately, I have the greatest and most patient wife in the world. Several years ago, she encouraged me to get help. I fought it at first. Therapy? Medication? Those are signs of weakness, right?
Eventually I gave in because the self-induced stress was interfering with my happiness and my family life.
I tell you these things because I am guessing there are others out there who deal with similar issues and I want them to know that they are far from alone.
The timing of this story just so happens to coincide with a New York Times profile on Chicago native Tom Durkin, the long-time (and soon retiring) horse-racing announcer who admits to suffering from performance anxiety.
It's probably not uncommon for "performers" to deal with this stuff. The spotlight can be bright and the thought of messing up can be paralyzing.
I have always pushed myself to overachieve and while I have done OK in some areas, I have struggled in others. Family and friends have taken a back seat at different junctures as I have focused on being the best broadcaster I can be.
But a funny thing happened after my brain chemistry started getting corrected and I was able to prioritize things -- I improved at a lot of things simply by not worrying all the time.
I am a flawed human being who has spent 43 years trying to figure out how to be a good friend, son, husband, father, broadcaster, listener and member of the community. There are times when that big picture has overwhelmed me. So instead of taking a breath and letting life just happen, I picked one of those areas -- my career -- and decided that because I could control that through painstaking preparation and attention, this would rule everything.
But the irony is that my chosen field is subject to a million things completely out of my control. I talk to colleagues all the time about balance and trying not to let the job define us as human beings. We are incredibly fortunate to talk about baseball for a living, but what happens if it's all snatched away for reasons beyond our grasp?
Eckhart Tolle wrote in The Power Of Now, "Realize deep that the present moment is all you have." It's great advice for a broadcaster calling a live event on television. But when you deal with anxiety like I used to experience, the seven or eight things in your head that cloud and distract you make it more difficult to achieve. Yes, you can do the job well, but the emotional and mental toll can be overwhelming.
The ending to this story hasn't been written, and likely won't be for a long time to come. I still have those days like everybody else. My self-awareness and anal-retentive tendencies still cause stress. But medication and an openness to talk about my insecurities have helped me tremendously.
I am a better person and I think a better broadcaster as a result.
In my position, I know that my voice and face have become a part of the daily lives of many people throughout the summer. And after a decade here, it is about time I told you more about who I am.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper and check out his baseball-blog with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com.