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Khalil Greene Describes His Anxiety

May 29, 2009 – 8:03 PM
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Jeff Fletcher

Jeff Fletcher %BloggerTitle%

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ever since Khalil Greene was a kid, he knew that he took things more seriously than the other kids.

And not in a good way.

On the day that Greene was placed on the disabled list because of social anxiety disorder, the Cardinals shortstop described a long-running pattern of emotional problems in an interview with FanHouse.

"I don't know what level, as far as how much one internalizes the feelings, how deep they go to the core of a person, but for me it's always been pretty deep," Greene said Friday. "I've always taken the game pretty seriously and wanted to perform well. It's been a love-hate relationship in a lot of ways."

Greene said he felt an extreme version of what you might call "butterflies."

"A lot of that is natural and it's a response to what you consider important," Greene said. "A lot of that is healthy, but for me it wasn't healthy in terms of how deep it goes. I don't know how to describe it, other than the fact it wasn't pleasant."

Greene has been undergoing treatment for anxiety for a few weeks, since his problems with the Cardinals started to reach a boiling point. On Friday, he became the second player this season to go on the DL with anxiety. Dontrelle Willis missed the first month and a half of the season for the same reason.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said anxiety is not new to baseball, even though it is rare for it to result in a player being disabled.

"This is not a stress-free business," La Russa said. "This is different from a physical injury, so I don't really want to go into it. How I understand it is he's put a lot of pressure on himself."

Athletes Mental Health Battles

    On Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals placed shortstop Khalil Greene on the 15-day disabled list because of social anxiety disorder. Greene isn't alone, as many other sports stars have struggled with some kind of mental disorder in their careers.

    Christian Petersen, Getty Images

    Detroit Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis missed the first month and a half of the season due to an anxiety disorder after a blood test showed something of concern. Willis was activated from the disabled list and returned to the team on May 13. Source: AP

    Keith Srakocic, AP

    Lute Olson suffered a small stroke before the 2007-08 season which eventually sidelined him with severe depression. As a result, the 74-year-old head coach retired from the University of Arizona. Source: AP

    Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

    In October 2008, NBA player Delonte West revealed that he contemplated quitting the team before seeking help for depression and "a mood disorder" he has been battling his entire life. "I felt a feeling of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," West said. Source: AP

    Mark Duncan, AP

    Philadelphia Eagles lineman Shawn Andrews told a Philadelphia newspaper in August that he's been fighting depression for a year. "It's not something that blossomed up overnight. I'm on medication, trying to get better," said Andrews. Source: AP

    Chris McGrath, Getty Images

    College football legend Herschel Walker documented his struggle with dissociative identity disorder in his 2008 autobiography 'Breaking Free.' He has claimed that due to his disorder, he cannot remember the season he won the Heisman Trophy. Source: AP

    Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

    Barret Robbins' NFL career ended in a psychiatric ward before Super Bowl XXXVII. Robbins, seen here in 2005, has received treatment for bipolar disorder, but his present whereabouts are unknown. Source: USA Today

    J. Pat Carter, AP

    Frank Bruno, a former boxer who won the WBC heavyweight championship in 1995, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. Source: Wikipedia, The Guardian

    Dave Hogan, Getty Images

    Former Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter washed out of the NFL and was treated for drug addiction and bipolar disorder in 2004. He was arrested on marijuana possession charges in 2007 and recently played in the Arena Football League. Source: Shreveport Times, Wikipedia

    Brian Bahr, Getty Images

    Former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman, who struggled with bipolar disorder during his career, has been in trouble with the law numerous times. Source: Chicago Sun-Times, Wikipedia

    Fred Jewell, AP

When the Cardinals acquired the 29-year-old shortstop last winter, they should have had a clue that he was intense. His 2008 season was ended when he broke his left hand punching a wall in the dugout.

When Greene got off to a bad start with his new team, there was talk that the Cardinals were concerned about Greene hurting himself again.

Greene said that was not really a risk.

"I'm not looking at it along those lines," he said. "It's a moment-to-moment thing. When I'm faced with it, it's really hard and when it's over, it's over."

Greene said he didn't have physical symptoms of anxiety, such as shortness of breath or a racing heart, but he was mentally drained.

"It was difficult to concentrate, difficult to sustain my energy level," he said. "All my energy was wasted trying to control myself. Just trying to get myself to function, to be able to stay in the game and not be thinking so much what I'm thinking. It's just a battle to be relaxed. I'm trying to battle that and find a way to come to terms with that, trying to find those coping mechanisms."

Greene said he had no qualms with the decision to put him on the disabled list.

Although GM John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Greene's time on the DL was "open-ended," Greene said he hoped he'd be back in 15 days.

"They felt it was in the best interest of the myself and the organization," Greene said. "It can be beneficial, get a chance to reflect and work on some things, and come back and be a productive player, which I feel is a realistic expectation."
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