Today, R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets is the only knuckleballer in Major League Baseball and one of the best pitchers in the league. But life threw Dickey a few curve balls of its own. A difficult upbringing, medical complications, and deep depression plagued Dickey throughout his life and career. But, as he chronicles in his memoir, a loving family, faith, and a persistent counselor brought him out of his darkness and helped him turn his life around. Here, Dickey writes about his first experience with therapy and why finding the courage to be honest about his struggles was pivotal in his recovery.
Stephen’s office has two chairs and a couch, and a window overlooking a Ruby Tuesday. I am face-to-face with this man, Stephen. It’s too late to skip out and order potato skins. We shake hands and I sit down. I eye him warily. He is about my age, with sandy-colored hair and blue eyes and a warm demeanor, but it’s not going to work with me. I am good at stiff-arming people, keeping them a safe distance away. I’ve been doing it my whole life.
Stephen says: Tell me what brings you here.
I’ve been going through a little bit of a tough stretch and some people thought it would be a good idea for me to talk about it.
Do you think it’s a good idea?
You are highly recommended and I have an open mind, and I thought it would behoove me to give this a chance.
Stephen nods. He looks directly into my eyes. He lets silence fill the room. He and I both know that I didn’t really answer his question, and I suspect he knows I am mostly full of crap. It makes me very uncomfortable.
If we do work together, are you willing to be committed to the process, even though it will be painful at times, probing into issues that are hiding behind walls you’ve probably spent years building?
I tell Stephen I understand it will be painful, but of course I really don’t understand. I don’t know what issues I have or what walls he’s talking about. Mostly in that first meeting I bob and weave and give him inauthentic boilerplate and platitudes, answering questions as if I were being interviewed on SportsCenter.
Is this someone I can trust? Someone who I can share the deepest, darkest secrets of my life with—secrets I haven’t shared with anybody else on earth?
Is this someone who won’t leave me?
Part of me wants nothing to do with therapy or delving into the past and all the pain that’s going to come with it. The other part is tired of hiding and telling half-truths and wants to be free.
I shake hands with Stephen.
I will see you next week, I tell him.
All winter long, I take the creaky elevator to the third floor and do the work I promised Stephen I would do. I give him the SportsCenter answers at first, but Stephen calls me on it. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
I tell him all about the guilt and shame I’ve lived with, sure that if people knew the real R. A. Dickey, they would want nothing to do with him.
I tell Stephen that now that he knows all this, I am terrified that he will leave me, too, the way so many others have.
The room is still. He looks me in the eye. I don’t want to look back at him. Stephen says, Look at me and listen to me, R.A.: I will never leave you.
I believe him. I do. I want to cry, and I do a little.
I am raw and vulnerable. Where do you start picking things up, and where do you put them?
I don’t know. I have no clue. But I do know Stephen will be there to help me find out how. He is the first human being I have ever unconditionally trusted—the first person I can share everything with, a skilled and steadfast guide who is leading me on the scariest and most important journey of my life.
Even in my pain I know what a blessing that is.
Excerpted from Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey, with Wayne Coffey Copyright © 2012 By permission of Blue Rider Press, a division of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. All rights reserved.