Not That Kind of Story
March is the worst month and March 2020 was inarguably the worst of them all. Of course, the two years that followed haven’t been exactly normal. Between COVID-19, global unrest and climate change, to name a few things, it’s safe to say we’re living in a robust history chapter of the future.
Personally, the biggest shift in my world was a breakup. I know that sounds really trite, but I promise, it’s not that kind of story. Mostly.
Trigger warning: This column describes a personal story of domestic abuse and suicide.
To provide some context, I separated from my long-term boyfriend two weeks before everything shut down at the pandemic’s beginning. As I exited an intense and isolating relationship, I entered another kind of isolation. Talk about bad timing!
This was a loving relationship of equals. We shared a life and a dog (the infamous Stella). But it was also an abusive relationship, ruled by my partner’s demons.
He struggled with major untreated mental health issues, despite my best efforts to get him professional help or help him as best I could. For years, I sacrificed myself, my life, my happiness in hopes of making things a little better for him. I slowly lost pieces of myself until I couldn’t any longer. My pillars crumbled simultaneously, and I was left alone with a dog and a newly-remote job, stuck in an unsafe apartment full of painful memories.
The Worst Sleeper Direct Message (DM) in History
I did my best to heal, but in a pandemic-stricken world, it felt like there were bigger problems to worry about. A few pints of Ben & Jerry’s (B&J’s) and a playlist full of Taylor Swift cures all heartbreak, right?
Getting over a breakup is hard enough on its own. Maybe you cry, maybe you scream, maybe you beg them to come back. You grieve.
Getting over an abusive relationship adds an extra wrinkle. You love them, but you hate what they put you through. You grieve, but with a lot more anger.
And then I got the worst phone call imaginable. Or, more accurately, I got what has to be the worst Sleeper DM in history. He died by suicide: grief, my old, familiar friend.
A New Normal
Eight months and a whole lot of therapy later, plus more B&J’s and the well-timed release of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version),” I’m reclaiming myself. I’m working on healing.
It’s hard. Some days I feel good, fondly remembering our camping road trip or the signal we would secretly exchange in public. Other days I feel broken, consumed with grief and guilt, wondering what more I could have done.
I will never get back that blissful ignorance from before we fell in love or before we fell apart, but I’m starting to feel normal again. Or at least, a new normal.
It’s My Story
While I don’t pretend to be anywhere near perfect or have any answers, I can share some lessons that I’m working on with the help of my therapist (big shoutout, she also helped me workshop this column).
Two things can be true. It’s hard to reconcile a relationship with someone who could flip instantly from affectionate to antagonistic. I’m incredibly angry at him, and I always will be, but I also love and miss him. It’s weird and often uncomfortable to feel everything at once, but that’s OK.
Approach things with a growth mindset. This experience doesn’t make me broken. It makes me strong. I know I didn’t handle things perfectly. In fact, I know I made huge mistakes. But also, I know I did the best I could and that’s enough.
Most importantly, get help. This is a message for him, it’s a message for me and it’s a message for you. If you’re struggling, get help. If someone you know or love is struggling, get help. I can’t play the “what if” game, wondering what would have happened if I got him help sooner. Or rather, I can, but I shouldn’t.
But I wish I did. While I urged him to get help time and time again, I didn’t speak up beyond that. I hid his secrets and I let his demons become mine. I still remember that phone call with my mother, when the truth and the secrets that I kept for him came out. I can’t explain how much I needed the reality check she gave me.
I spent far too long tip-toeing around and protecting his feelings. Even writing this column, I questioned how much to share. Am I betraying him by sharing his story, knowing how much he would hate this?
But it’s my story too, and I want to share it (although in all honesty, I’m really nervous). I want us to talk about mental health. I want us to share when we’re struggling and feel comfortable asking for help. I want us to speak up when others need help.
I want something good to come from my loss. I want to use my pain and my experiences to help others avoid this ending to their story.
Much like in life, I don’t have all the answers to fantasy football, but some of the lessons I’m learning can be applied. And at the very least, fantasy football is a great outlet or distraction during challenging situations (trust me, I know)!
The New Normal
Between trades, injuries and changing situations, it’s hard to find a “normal” for NFL players or teams, but looking at trends can help make predictions and identify the new normal.
For example, the trends in Dallas over the past three years lead me to believe that the norm will soon be a backfield led by Tony Pollard rather than Ezekiel Elliott. Although Elliott outperformed Pollard in rush attempts, yards and receptions, many of the areas in which Pollard surpassed Elliott were more impactful.
Pollard averaged 5.5 Yards Per Carry (YPC), which was tied for the second-highest among RBs, compared to Elliott’s middling 4.1 YPC. Add in six years of heavy usage for Elliott and a snap count trending towards Pollard, and I think he’ll be the lead back before the 2022-2023 season is up. Save your early Elliott pick and pad your stats with Pollard much later. Use this lesson and look for fantasy value within trends.
Two Things Can be True
This is a Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins statement. This is a Robert Woods and A.J. Brown statement. This is a Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon statement (assuming Gordon re-signs). Players within the same position and team can both provide your team with fantasy value.
That said, this is not a Jacksonville statement. No team needs that many slot receivers. Learn from their mistakes and find situations where players have complementary skills, not competing ones.
A Growth Mindset & Getting Help
I am not the world’s foremost fantasy football expert. But guess what? Neither are you! But we can all approach this with a growth mindset, continuing to read, listen and talk. We should debate players and have different opinions – consensus is boring. We should seek out help from others and we should accept help.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-NAMI. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
There are always people who care, and there are always people who want to help you. The first step is the hardest, but it’s the most important.
Thanks for reading! If you like my kind of trash, you can find more on Twitter @trashsandwiches.