NOTE: This story was originally published on February 2, 2021. On Wednesday, Drew Robinson was inducted into the triple-A list of the San Francisco Giants. It will likely make its debut in his hometown of Las Vegas this weekend in 2021.
ON APRIL 16, 2020, Drew Robinson woke up, spread peanut butter on a cinnamon and raisin bagel, pulsed a green smoothie, sat at his kitchen table and wrote a note explaining to his family and friends why he had decided to end his life. He had spent the past month alone in his home, trapped in the pandemic and quarantined on his own mind. He hated his life. He hated that no one knew how much he hated his life.
“I hope that at some point you realize that no one could have seen this to prevent it, because I am trying very hard to hide it,” he wrote, “and that it is nobody else’s fault.”
He apologized to Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney and Chad, the five people he loved most. Those who knew him best and still couldn’t see the sadness that was choking him. Even they believed the avatar Drew had created: a major league baseball player, handsome, charming, funny, with a slight laugh and a big smile. Drew lived his dream and wanted to die.
Guilt mixed with a sense of peace as he signed the letter, “I’m sorry. Drew Robinson.” Now he could finish everything and clean up the remains of the past 27 years. He started cleaning the house. He wanted the place to be spotless, as clean as it was when he first moved in. His family would have enough problems after that. He wasn’t going to burden her with anyone else.
His last hours melted away. Around 5 p.m. Drew felt an adrenaline rush. It was time.
He took his pistol from the bedside table. He put the note in the most visible place, the kitchen counter. He jumped into his truck and planned to drive to a nearby park where he had settled. But that felt wrong. He tried another place. He decided he didn’t want to die in his truck. He drove home.
Drew was sitting on his living room couch. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and then another. He stopped. He didn’t have a drinking problem and didn’t want anyone to suspect anything else. His thoughts crashed into each other – about what it would look like and who it would affect and who would find it. He was alone, alone until the end. At around 8 p.m. he leaned to one side in one continuous motion, reached for the coffee table, raised the gun, pressed it against his right temple, and pulled the trigger.
That should be the end of Drew Robinson’s story.
In the next 20 hours he would realize that it was the beginning of someone else.
“I’m here for One reason, “says Drew Robinson. It’s six days before Christmas 2020. He’s grateful. He wants to tell the world what happened – so that he can heal and maybe help others heal too.
The reason, says Drew, is that “I should tell a story” and not just the story of what happened. The real story – the important story – is what happened after: every minute he lives in, moments good and bad. It is not a rehabilitated version where a man is saved and fortunately is the result. It’s raw and beautiful and ugly and melancholy and triumphant and everything in between.
He knows there are a million questions. For example, how did he live almost a full day with a huge hole on the right side of his head and another wound where the bullet came out on the left side without medical help? Few people survive self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. Even rarer are those that emerge with clarity and purpose. Drew’s words are deliberate and confident. He realizes how lucky he was. How he’s still vulnerable. How he needs therapy and medication. How it’s okay not to be okay
He knows that sometimes life is like a vice, relentless, always tight. He knows how crippling that can be. He knows that there is a burgeoning mental health crisis in this country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11% of American adults surveyed in June viewed suicide and that thoughts of suicide in 18- to 24-year-olds were in 26%. He knows it’s difficult to talk about. He knows that it is even more difficult to suffer from it. He knows because he lived it.
“This was a huge sign. A huge, painful sign to help people get through something they don’t think could be won.”
“I should go through this,” says Drew. “I’m supposed to help people get through battles that don’t seem to be winnable. It should happen completely. There is no other answer. It doesn’t make any sense. It should happen. …
“I’m free now,” he says. “I shot myself, but I killed my ego.”
Don’t confuse that with glorifying what he’s done. He does not. Most of all, Drew wants to tell his story to help others realize the horror of suicide. It didn’t take him 20 hours on the verge of the bleeding. He didn’t need any titanium in his head or cerebrospinal fluid leaking from his brain. He didn’t need his family to see what they were seeing, to go through what they were going through, to wonder every day if he was really okay, if he would do it again. The pain of death by suicide or attempt is not limited to one person.
Every day now gives him the opportunity to help repair defects. Self. His family. Everyone who hears his story. So Drew is lifting weights in his garage again, swinging in the batting cage, and getting used to his new normal to make baseball history. He is writing for the first time in his life. He stands in front of a mirror and stares at himself, visible and invisible scars, the new contours of his face, a face that is supposed to see the world, no matter what it looks like.
“How can I go through this and not find a way to help other people or affect other people’s lives?” he says. “Just let that happen and just get on with my life like I was before? There is no way. This was a huge sign. A huge, painful sign to help people get through something that they not thinking is winable. “
Drew is convinced that he should do something. That much, he now knows, was clear when he opened his eyes and found that he was still alive.
JUST PAST 8 p.m. On April 16, Drew looked around and was confused. What happened? Why am i still here?
He saw blood everywhere. He wanted to wipe it off. Get off the couch, he told himself. Maybe someone wants to keep it.
He was lying on the wooden floor. 30 minutes passed. He held his head and tried to stop the bleeding. He grabbed a dirty towel. It didn’t help. He decided to take a shower. When he entered, the disorientation hit. He slipped and hit the handle with his head, squaring the entry wound. It still didn’t hurt. How? Why?
He curled up in a ball on the shower floor. The water ran over him. He dried off and dropped onto his bed. The blood in his mouth turned his stomach and he returned to the bathroom. He didn’t want to throw up on the carpet. More tidying up for his family.
As he leaned over the toilet, his head hit the china. He peeled up and tried to brush his teeth.
How ridiculous, he thought. Guy with a hole in his head brushing his teeth. Instead, he chuckled his mouthwash to drown out the taste. He pushed toilet paper up his nose to keep the blood from dripping down his throat.
Back to the bedroom. It was around midnight, four hours after he pulled the trigger. When Drew closed his eyes he thought: I will die here.
DREW ROBINSON GREW up on the outskirts of Las Vegas on a street called Magic Moment Lane. He was the youngest child of Renee and Darryl Robinson. His sister Britney was six years older; his brother Chad, four and a half. Drew was a mascot and a punching bag, a tagalong and a hassle, the archetypal little brother who just wanted attention and love.
He snuck into a neighbor’s dog door to steal treats from pets for the Robagerons menagerie: dogs, cats, iguanas, even a caged rat. He hid in closets, in the washer and dryer, wherever he could twist his little body. He stripped off all his clothes, ran outside, got on a bike, and began to ride. Nothing made Britney flinch more than when a friend said, “Your brother is naked again.”
When he was 7 years old, Drew went to Walmart to buy his mother a ring. It was made from chintzy metal and glass chips and cost $ 7.77. Renee carried it until it fell apart. She took the scraps to a jeweler who made them a sturdier version that she still enjoys 20 years later. Every time she puts it on her finger, she thinks of her mischievous boy.
When Drew bought the ring, Renee and Darryl got divorced. It devastated him. He remembers asking himself questions. Is something wrong with me? Why is mom so mad at me? What have I done? He never passed a single one out loud. The Robinsons didn’t talk about such things. They seldom hugged. They only lived from one day to the next.
“The CDC reported that 11% of American adults surveyed in June viewed suicide. Thoughts of suicide among 18-24 year olds was 26%.”
“We weren’t all very good at handling our emotions,” says Drew. “And that caused a lot of stress and internal struggles. I think we all had the idea of the perfect family and things like that. When it didn’t do it justice, we really questioned everything we did.”
After the divorce, the Robinson family split up. The boys moved in with Darryl. Britney stayed with Renee. They found similarities in one place: the baseball field. Chad grew up to 6-foot-5 and was widely recognized as one of the best preparatory right-handed in the country. Drew was too small, but nimble, sleek, and natural. Almost every weekend, the Robinsons would gather for a baseball tournament and put aside any animus to support the boys.
Chad, who was designed by Milwaukee in 2006, set an almost impossible standard, yet Drew considered anything but a failure. He longed for perfection. He did vars as a freshman at Silverado High School, played some sophomores, had a growth spurt before junior year and became a prospect: 6-foot-1 with a strong left-handed swing and the ability to shortstop and play the outfield – the best player at Silverado since his brother.
He was popular. Girls loved him. He loved her until the next one came – until he met Daiana Anguelova. He was just about to graduate from Silverado. He asked a mutual friend to sign his yearbook. Daiana was there. Drew didn’t mean to be rude so he wondered if she wanted to write something. She did. “You’re a cutie,” it said.
Long before that moment, she had said to another friend, “I have to meet him.” There was something magnetic about Drew, even if it wasn’t an obvious match. He could be loud and bombastic and always try to look and act cool. Neither Daiana nor the world could see Drew as he saw himself – not as a prankster, but as a joke.
Drew would speak to himself in the first person plural as if there were an omnipresent companion sharing in his misery.
“If something went wrong,” says Drew, “I’m like, ‘Why is this happening?’ The voice in my head would answer “Well, of course it happened. It’s us. This is your life. You can’t enjoy these things. ‘”
OVER HIS LAST For two high school seasons, Drew was one of the top players in the historic 2010 Vegas class, which included Bryce Harper, first choice in the draft, and Kris Bryant, who would play in college and finish second overall three years later. The Texas Rangers picked Drew in the fourth round with the 136th vote. He received a signing bonus of $ 198,000.
He arrived in Surprise, Arizona in the summer of 2010 with some clothing in a Walmart bag and two spikes. He didn’t have a glove; He borrowed a friend in high school. He showed up on the day of the report in a white t-shirt, basketball shorts and flip flops. His roommate, Jhonny Gomez, told him he needed a collared shirt. He hadn’t brought any. So he borrowed a teal Abercrombie & Fitch polo from Gomez and wore it for the next four days.
Being a professional baseball player isn’t just about playing baseball better than anyone else. It’s accelerated adulthood. It’s an 18-year-old who pays bills, overcomes disappointments, navigates politics, forges relationships, and figures out how to live in a universe designed to root out the weak.
Drew’s brother had already lived this reality. Waking up at 4:30 a.m. requires training. The bus drives. The arm operations. At this point, Chad’s career was stuttering and he’d spent half a decade kicking an unrelated ball only to find out that this game he loved just wasn’t going to love him back.
Had Drew and Chad talked more, Drew would have known how Pro-Ball worked – how its physical elements pale in comparison to its mental strain. But talking wasn’t her thing. Drew would have to tackle the tough learning curve on his own.
“I’ll never forget that. That was the first time that something happened where I thought, ‘Is there something deeper?'”
Baseball revealed cracks in its facade of stability. His admiration for the game wavered. He would love baseball one day and detest it the next. In 2011, on its second season, he hit .163 in Low-A. Despite the fighting, Texas moved him to a league for the entire season in 2012 and he was formidable. His family was passionate about Drew’s career. He and Daiana texted over and over again, but she was in college and he was too baseball-obsessed for a relationship.
Daiana hadn’t heard from him in months when a message rang on her cell phone in the middle of a biology lab. It was the end of the 2013 season. Drew had hit High-A. He wanted to see her when he returned to Las Vegas. They met and found that they were ready for each other. The instinct that had drawn her to him was correct. He was funny, goofy, a perfect match. She was everything his family wasn’t. When baseball’s self-doubt surfaced – Why is this guy moving up and what am I doing wrong and am I good enough? – She tried to root it out.
It wasn’t easy for Drew. He tried to lean on Daiana when he faltered at Double-A in 2014 and excelled at that level in 2015. All your support could not remove his self-doubt and insecurity. Out of nowhere, he broke off the relationship.
“He said, ‘I don’t know why you like me,'” says Daiana. “I was so shocked. In my head I was like, ‘What do you mean, you don’t know why I like you?’ I will never forget that. That was the first time anything happened where I thought, ‘Is there something deeper?’ “
She thought they were getting married, and just like that, it was over. He projected his mistakes onto her. He saw her compassion – Daiana brought food and water to parties to make sure her friends didn’t get out of hand – as a weakness.
“She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met,” says Drew. “So whenever there was a little hint that I wasn’t happy, she wanted to help. Because I was so closed, I didn’t want that. So it pushed me away from her. I pushed myself away from her.”
The worst parts of himself ruined the best in his life, and he eventually had the perspective to see it. He asked to come back together. She agreed. Then he broke away from her again. The cycle was vicious. She tried to empathize, to rationalize. She tried to see in him what he couldn’t see in himself.
AT 7 IN THE MORNING. On April 17th, Drew woke up and the pain finally hit.
As he moved, parts of his face moved. He wondered whether to get the gun and try again. He decided to take a shower. This time he didn’t fall. He returned to the bed and slipped into and out of consciousness. Hours passed. He heard his phone buzz. He didn’t bother watching the news.
The pain worsened. He tried to sit up but fell to the floor. He was thirsty. He gathered the strength to stand. He stumbled into the kitchen, filled a cup with water, and swallowed a Tylenol to ease the pain.
He passed his coffee table and saw his gun. Instead, he grabbed his cell phone and headed for his room. On the way he stopped in the bathroom and looked into his face. It was unrecognizable. The bullet had mutilated his right eye.
He thought of baseball – if anyone could play with one eye. He wondered if thinking about the future meant he was trying to survive. He found a box of plasters and covered the wound with something. He started asking questions, different from before. That single Tylenol pill – was it an unconscious message that he wanted to heal?
He looked at his cell phone for the first time. He opened a text message.
“Okay to use your garage?”
There was another one. It had arrived an hour after the first one.
The news was from Darryl. He’d been to Drew’s house and exercising in the garage. He never opened the door to the inside of the house.
“I DID IT.”
This was the text Drew sent to his family after Jeff Banister, the Rangers’ manager, told him he’d made the list for opening day 2017. That was the dream. All flew from Las Vegas to Texas on the opening day. Over the years, Darryl and Renee had learned to get along, and so they sat with Britney and Daiana who wouldn’t miss this moment even if she and Drew were no longer together. Chad joined friends in the outside seats and mashed beers.
Drew got two bats in the Rangers’ third game. Seven days later, he was downgraded to Triple-A. This is life for someone who has spent seven years in the minor leagues who played a useful role instead of claiming a position, who lived on the fringes of the sport and had to perform every year so that he wouldn’t be too Everything is called old and unproductive. The game is cruel for infinite reasons, and this was just another one.
He returned on May 28th and was sent downstairs on May 29th. He was called up on June 24, started at Yankee Stadium on June 25, hit a home run for his first major league goal, and was demoted on June 26. The Rangers called him again on July 7th. and he stayed with the team for the remainder of the season, scoring six home runs .224 / .319 / .439 and playing six positions.
After all, he wasn’t just a great leaguer. He was 25 years old with strength, versatility and maybe a future. Not just in baseball, but with Daiana too. During that off-season they reconciled and came back together for the third time.
Even though Drew acted like one of them, he still felt different. The companion’s voice was implacable. It had accompanied him from childhood to adulthood. “It was totally debilitating,” says Drew. In the clubhouse, he questioned every answer he gave reporters. He suspected little things on the field – how he stood during the national anthem, how he ran to his position between innings. At home he wondered why Daiana was looking after him.
Why does everything suck? Why is this happening to me? Is there something i’m doing wrong? Why can’t you just be real with everyone and let them know how much you hate yourself?
The questions intensified.
Is it even worth it? Is my life even worth it?
In 2018 he broke camp with Texas again. He played in 22 of the Rangers’ first 27 games. A hip injury hampered him. The Rangers sent him down, brought him up, sent him down, brought him up.
In December 2018 it was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals. He decided this was going to be a fresh start. He suggested Daiana. She said yes. You set a wedding date: November 14, 2020.
Drew made the big league of the Cardinals out of spring training, but was sent to Triple-A a week into the season. He returned on March 31, played three games, and was then sent back down. He returned on April 15 and was demoted again on April 16. Until April 22nd, until April 23rd. He never made it back. He injured his non-throwing left elbow and needed an operation. The cardinals released him on August 28, 2019.
The companion’s voice grew louder. Drew became more depressed. His thoughts of suicide intensified. He understood that he needed help. He started to see a therapist. He read self-development books. He wanted to see himself as he believed everyone else saw himself. “I thought this was the best he ever was,” says Daiana. “… I thought, ‘Wow. He’s doing things for himself that he might have had to do for so long.'”
The San Francisco Giants signed Drew to a non-guaranteed minor league contract on January 6, 2020. In a spring meeting with manager Gabe Kapler, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, and general manager Scott Harris, he said, “I fight with a lot of confidence.” The group thanked him for his openness but the positive attitude the exchange evoked volatile.
Even when Drew continued the therapy sessions, they didn’t rid him of his worst thoughts. His frustration with himself multiplied. He tried to really commit and embrace the vulnerability, but even when Daiana and others saw progress, he saw stasis. Drew didn’t realize that this was typical – that mental health is an ongoing process, improvement not necessarily linear. He was pursuing a panacea that did not exist.
He feared he was destined to end up in the minor leagues again, and he didn’t want to lead Daiana through this life. He worried that he wasn’t good enough for her. He would never be. Drew canceled the wedding.
The terrible questions intensified and led to another: Who would care when I’m gone? When he couldn’t answer that either, he began planning his death.
Drew went to a shooting range in the Phoenix area. Each shot brought up a different question. Could this be a real possibility? How would I even do that? Where would i do this?
No, he said to himself. It’s too extreme. Just talk to someone. We can do it. Just talk to someone. Find someone even if it’s a surface-level conversation. Make a joke Having an easy moment. Nobody wants to hear it. Nobody has to hear it.
Then on March 12th, COVID-19 closed the baseball world.
Drew returned to Las Vegas, to an empty house, to the solitude of not knowing who he was. A week later, he went to a gun store to buy a gun. He returned on March 30th to pick it up. He had no distractions, none of those top-level conversations or jokes or easy moments. He couldn’t go to the stadium, couldn’t meet up with friends, couldn’t go out. Just him and his thoughts that had been building up for two decades.
He wanted to see Daiana. She said no. After the final breakup, she vowed to prioritize herself and her own well-being. That meant limits. When Drew held out his hand, it was straightforward and to the point. No small talk. No questions about how he was doing. When he asked if he could have Ellie, one of her Goldendoodles, she said no. The dog would keep them connected and prevent them from moving on. If she couldn’t have a life with him, she needed one of them.
The days felt like forever. Friends checked into Drew. They wanted to plan something for his 28th birthday on April 20th. He ignored her.
On April 13th, Drew met a woman who had a litter of pups. He found the perfect one. He stroked it and cuddled it. Then a terrible feeling overcame him. He apologized. “Sorry,” he said to the woman. “I can’t take this dog.” He went in a hurry and noticed the puzzled look on the woman’s face.
“She had no idea,” says Drew. “How could she? I couldn’t take the dog because I was going to kill myself.”
AT 3:30 PM On April 17th, Drew was sitting on the couch in the same spot where he shot himself. His gun and cell phone were on his coffee table. He picked up the pistol in his left hand. He was holding the phone in his right hand, the numbers 9-1-1 had been entered. He could pull the trigger. He could tap the green dial button.
He kept thinking, his mind racing. He thought of Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney, and Chad. He was thinking of baseball. He thought about the last 20 hours. How? Why? Am I trying to survive?
It came to him immediately, he says. I want to live, Drew said to himself. He didn’t question it. He couldn’t let the companion in, not now. Before hitting send on the phone, he went back to his home screen, opened his camera app, switched to selfie mode, and took a photo. He wanted to remember the moment when he chose life.
Drew called 911. It was 3:44 p.m.
“I need an ambulance,” he said. “I tried to commit suicide last night and I did it. I think I may have detached my eye. I can’t open my right eye and I have a huge hole in my head and I’m in great pain.”
“What did you do?” said the dispatcher.
“I shot myself in the head,” said Drew.
The local police rushed to his home. Six cars drove towards his house.
At 3:51 p.m., the police kicked in the front door. They were afraid this might be an ambush. A man shoots himself in the head and lives 20 hours? No way.
At 3:52 p.m. a police officer asked, “Why did you shoot yourself?” Drew replied in a whisper, “Because I hate myself.”
An ambulance arrived at 3:53 p.m.
At 3:57 p.m., a stretcher with Drew was loaded for transport.
At 3:59 p.m. it withdrew to the UMC Trauma Center.
At 4:00 pm, another policeman shook his head and said what everyone else was thinking: “It’s crazy that he’s still alive.”
TONIGHT, Chad’s phone buzzed. It was text, three words, from a friend who had played high school ball with him and Drew: “Is Drew all right?”
Chad accepted that. But that was a strange question. He texted Drew’s cell phone. No Answer. He has called. Nothing. Chad texted the friend.
“What do you mean, ‘Is Drew okay?'”
The friend’s answer was vague – he had heard that there was an accident. Chad didn’t understand. Was für ein Unfall? Eine Schusswunde, schrieb der Freund. Er war von seinem Onkel, Drews ehemaligem Agenten, informiert worden, der von jemandem mit den Kardinälen gehört hatte, der informiert worden war, weil Drew in ihrer Versicherung war.
Chad rief Britney an und fragte, ob es Drew gut gehe. Sie fragte, was er meinte. Chad erzählte ihr von dem Text, dass mit einer Waffe etwas passiert sein könnte. Britney brach zusammen. Sie konnte das Geheimnis nicht länger bewahren.
Einige Stunden zuvor, als sie von der Arbeit nach Hause fuhr, erhielt sie einen Anruf aus dem Krankenhaus. Sie nahm ab und erfuhr, dass sie der Notfallkontakt für Drew Robinson war.
Britney näherte sich zufällig der Autobahnausfahrt für UMC Trauma. Sie sagte, sie würde bald da sein. Nein, wurde ihr gesagt. Niemand kann wegen COVID-19 besuchen. Sie fragte, was passiert sei. Sie erfuhr, dass Drew das Krankenhaus gebeten hatte, keine Details preiszugeben. Nur dass er lebt und atmet. Gut, sagte Britney. Legen Sie ihn ans Telefon.
“Ich soll am Leben sein, Chad. Ich soll am Leben sein. Ich soll am Leben sein.”
Drews Erinnerungen an diese Stunden nach seiner Ankunft im Krankenhaus sind in Stücke gerissen. Stiche bekommen, um das Loch in seinem Kopf zu schließen. Die Schmerzmittel, die ihn benommen machten. Und das Telefonat, in dem er Britney bat, es niemandem zu erzählen. Sie versuchte Details zu bekommen. Sie fragte, was passiert sei. Drew sagte, er wollte nicht darüber reden.
Im Hintergrund hörte Britney eine Krankenschwester nach seinem Telefon und seiner Brieftasche fragen. Sie sagte Drew, sie würde an seinem Haus vorbeischwingen, um sie zu holen.
“Nein”, flehte er sie an. “Geh nicht ins Haus. Versprich, dass du nicht ins Haus gehst.”
Nachdem der Anruf beendet war, wusste Britney nicht, was er tun sollte. Sie rief eine Cousine an, mit der sie eng verbunden ist. Sie fragten sich, ob Drew sich verletzt hatte. Britney sagte ihrem Freund, sie müsse rüberkommen. Dann rief Chad an. Nachdem Britney ihm erzählt hatte, was sie wusste, legte Chad auf, wählte das Krankenhaus und bat darum, in Drew Robinsons Zimmer geflickt zu werden. Drew hob ab.
“Was zur Hölle ist los?” Sagte Chad.
“Wer ist das?” Drew antwortete.
Die beiden unterhielten sich selten. Keiner konnte sich an das letzte Mal erinnern, als sie sich umarmt hatten. Aber als Drew merkte, dass es sein Bruder am Telefon war, hatte er etwas Wichtiges zu sagen. Er ignorierte Chads Fragen und wiederholte immer wieder dieselben fünf Wörter.
“Ich soll am Leben sein, Chad. Ich soll am Leben sein. Ich soll am Leben sein.”
Überlebende von Selbstmordversuchen, Besonders solche, die so gewalttätig sind wie Drews, haben eine breite Palette von Ergebnissen. Die Kombination von körperlichem und geistigem Trauma erfordert typischerweise einen Wiederaufbau des Körpers und der Psyche, der Monate oder sogar Jahre dauern kann. Als sich der Nebel der Anästhesie hob und Drew aus seiner ersten Operation erwachte, fühlte er Liebe – für die blaue Decke, die ihn wärmte, für jeden Atemzug, der seine Lungen füllte, für seine Familie.
Nie zuvor hatte er sich gezwungen gefühlt zu sagen, dass er sie liebte. Er hatte es aus Gewohnheit getan, passiv, reflexiv, denn das solltest du sagen. Jetzt, wie Drew es getan hatte, von einem Tag auf den anderen in einem Niemandsland zu leben, in dem Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft zu einer ziellosen und endlosen Existenz verschmelzen, war nicht mehr genug.
Drew war entschlossen, dass sich sein Nachher von seinem Vorher unterscheiden würde. Dies war seine Chance. Zu sein, was er immer wollte und nie konnte. Um sich zu reparieren. Seine Familie. Andere. Der Zwang – zu lieben und diese Liebe zu teilen – war augenblicklich.
Es stellt sich heraus, dass er jemand ist, der kommunizieren muss. Spirituell durch Meditation. Reflektierend durch das geschriebene Wort. Zwischenmenschlich durch Konversation. Drew unterhielt sich mit jedem Arzt und jeder Krankenschwester, die ihm erklärten, welchen Schaden die Kugel hinterlassen hatte und wie gezackt sie den Weg nach vorne machen würde. Er fragte sie, wann er sein Handy bekommen und Daiana und Darryl und Renee und Britney und Chad und alle anderen anrufen könne, mit denen er eigentlich hätte sprechen sollen. Er hatte ihnen so viel zu erzählen, und es würde sich kitschig und kitschig anfühlen und so anders als er, anders als er war. Und das war in Ordnung.
“Menschen, die dich lieben, wollen es hören, und wenn du keine Menschen hast, die dich lieben, wollen Therapeuten es hören. So viele Menschen auf dieser Welt sind bereit, jedem zu helfen, der diese Dinge durchmacht. Du bist nie allein. “”
“Ich werde mich nie zurückhalten, jemanden zu fragen oder zu erzählen, auch wenn es etwas Einfaches ist”, sagt Drew. “”Hey, dieses kleine Ding nervt mich heute. Sag es ihnen einfach. Sie wollen es hören. People that love you want to hear it, and if you don’t have people that love you, therapists want to hear it. People want to help you. Professionals want to help you. So many people in this world are willing to help anyone going through these things. It might be a specific situation that makes it feel like you’re alone, but you’re never alone.
“Think about it. Not everyone can do it. So if not everyone can do it, but some people can, that’s just like having a strength. So why can’t it be a strength? Why can’t it be something people are proud of? Hey, I reached out to someone today, I told him how I felt, and I felt really good. Why can’t that be a strength?”
He had found that strength in experience, in those 20 hours, in the minute details he somehow remembered, in the consideration he gave to his family, in the idea he could come back to play baseball, not just to see if he could but to show others that dreaming is more necessity than folly.
AFTER A RESTLESS NIGHT, Britney and Chad woke before sunrise to tell their parents what had happened. They drove to Darryl’s house first.
“Before I tell you what I’m going to tell you,” Britney said, “just know that right now everything’s OK.”
“Drew shot himself,” Britney said.
Darryl, who was lying down on the couch, leaped to his feet. He accompanied them to tell Renee. Around 8 a.m., they reached her house. She was on her front porch. Chad told her to sit. Britney explained. Renee broke down. They talked for hours. In the early afternoon, Darryl, Britney and Chad decided to go to Drew’s house. Renee stayed behind.
“They said it’s something a mother doesn’t need to see,” she says.
They entered through the garage. They weren’t prepared for what they saw. Britney started to look up phone numbers of hazmat cleaners.
“No,” Darryl said. “We’re cleaning it.”
Drew liked to say he and his father couldn’t be any more alike, and in some ways it was true. Neither spoke much. Both hid emotion. Darryl was a mason, his hands calloused from decades of laying brick. Discipline, drive and work ethic were his defining features. Darryl had regrets. Over the leeway he’d given the boys and the chaos of the divorce and not doing something as effortless as reminding them every day that he loved them. He tried to be a good dad. He usually was. But there were moments he failed. This was not going to be one of them. No way was he going to let a stranger into his son’s house to see the vestiges of his worst moment.
Darryl scoured the walls. Chad wiped the floors. Britney handled the towels and pillows and blankets. She borrowed an industrial carpet cleaner from her office. For two hours, they were on their hands and knees, cognizant they couldn’t erase their reality, determined to scrub as much of it away as they could.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, no one could visit Drew at the hospital. So through all this and for days to come, Drew remained there, alone again. Darryl called every day at 6 a.m. sharp, right as the nurses changed shifts, to see how he slept. Britney played gatekeeper. There was a password to connect with Drew via phone. She determined who received it. Doctors called her with updates on his recovery. She carried a notepad everywhere and wrote down messages and questions from family and friends. After talking with Drew, she would send a group text with that day’s update.
Daiana received Britney’s messages. They weren’t enough. She still loved Drew, regardless of how many times he broke her heart. And if she couldn’t see him, she would find a way to get as close as possible. Every night, she packed Ellie and their other dog, Brodi, into the car, drove to the hospital and parked in the darkness. She would pull out her phone and send Drew a text — simple messages, like what she did that day, how the dogs were. There would be a time for serious conversations, time for answers. For now, this was what she had to offer someone who in a less vulnerable instance made it clear he needed her there with him. This would tell him unequivocally: I am.
WHEN IT WAS time to go home, Drew asked Renee to pick him up. He had spent 12 days at UMC and another five at a psychiatric hospital, which was mandatory for suicide survivors. Drew didn’t feel as if he belonged there, but he didn’t dwell on it. That’s how the old Drew would have handled the disillusionment.
At the mental health facility, Drew had worked on a vase that he gave to Renee. He apologized for the catawampus paint job. He still hadn’t conquered his lack of depth perception. The ride was mostly quiet. Not because it was weird — he says it felt like his mom was picking him up from a game — but because both knew where they were going. Outside the new front door of his house, Renee paused. “Are you ready to go in?” she asked.
The rug was different, the coffee table in the wrong place, the couch shifted back more than usual, but it looked like home. Drew needed to figure out if it still felt like it. He walked toward the couch and sat in the same spot where he shot himself.
“I wanted to feel it again,” he says. “I wanted to feel the power. I didn’t want to feel the bad side, I wanted to feel the power. I’m still here.”
It wasn’t just the couch. He wanted to see everything. He went into the bathroom, stared at the shower. He surveyed the bedroom. He studied the planks of the floor, even the one with a bullet hole. When Daiana, Darryl, Britney and Chad visited him at the house that night, he walked them through the 20 hours, step by step, detail by detail. They said nothing. Drew could see the distress on their faces. “No one understands how I made it through,” he says. “No one has to.”
He said they could ask him anything. So they did.
“What could I have done?”
Nichts. It was my responsibility, not yours.
“How come I didn’t know?”
Because I was good at hiding my sadness.
“Why did you do it?”
Drew didn’t have a good response to this one. He remembered what he told the police officer: I hate myself. And sometimes that’s all it takes.
He wanted them to forgive themselves. While he was in the hospital, he had a similar conversation with Renee. He reassured her that this wasn’t her fault. That it wasn’t anything she had or hadn’t done. Drew absolved her of the impulse to cast blame on herself. However many times she yelled at him as a child, whatever awful things she said about Darryl, he forgave her.
He promised Daiana that he would’ve done what he did even if she had let him take Ellie. He told Darryl that he was good enough — that he was everything Drew wanted in a dad. He thanked Britney: for the collateral damage she took during the divorce, for being the glue of the family, for everything she’d done the previous two weeks and all the things he knew she’d do going forward. He reminded Chad that he’d always be there for him. That their shared experiences mattered. They grew up in the same environment, struggled the same struggles. If Chad needed to talk, if he wanted to hang out, Drew would be there.
That hit Chad hard. He was the older brother. He was supposed to be the protector. And here was the tagalong, the little pain in the ass, consoling him.
“And that,” Chad says, “is when I realized how strong he really is.”
That wasn’t what Drew will remember most about that night. It was earlier, when he and Chad first saw one another. They locked eyes. Each saw the other open his arms. They leaned in and embraced. They squeezed one another. Neither cared to let go.
“That’s the first one since we were kids, huh?” Drew said.
THE HUMAN EYE is a strikingly resilient machine, harder than it seems to the touch, surrounded by bone and muscle and fat, set back in the orbital cavity to provide ample protection from everyday life, but not direct impact from a 9 mm bullet that exits a handgun traveling upwards of 750 mph.
When the bullet entered Drew’s head, it almost immediately ruptured his right eyeball. It continued across the orbital wall and through the ethmoid sinuses, the hollow areas around the nose. It fractured his frontal sinus, causing the leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, which poses significant infection risk. It missed the sinus’ major arteries, which, if struck, could have caused catastrophic bleeding. The bullet whistled past his left orbital floor and out above his left cheekbone, millimeters from ruining his other eye.
“How that happened I have no idea,” says Dr. Tina Elkins, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at UNLV. “I have no clue how it missed and didn’t injure that eye.”
Doctors had worked wonders putting Drew back together physically. The first surgery was to save his right eyelid. The second replaced the shattered bones. The 1-inch-tall-by-1¼-inch-wide hole in Drew’s head offered the perfect entryway for Elkins. She used three 0.6-mm-thick titanium plates and 14 1.2-mm self-tapping screws to fashion a new eye socket. The procedure took about two hours and returned most of the symmetry to his face. The third was to fix the fracture in his sinus and stem the leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, which, if untreated, could have led to meningitis, brain abscesses, chronic headaches and other associated pain.
Drew’s right eye was beyond repair. The bullet shredded its insides and severed the optic nerve. On June 11, UMC Trauma scheduled a fourth surgery, an enucleation — the removal of Drew’s eye. Dr. Shoib Myint replaced the eye globe with an implant, which left room in front for a prosthetic eye.
For 22 years, Myint has been an oculofacial plastic surgeon, a specialty of ophthalmology that requires a deft touch in two regards: with the eye itself and the surgery’s aftermath. The results of most medical procedures are obscured — covered by clothing or on seldom-seem body parts. The eye is a focal point of human interaction, a lodestone for other eyes, and the psychology of losing one can be devastating. How Drew reacted to his astonished Myint.
“He’s the only one in my career that I’ve had of dealing with enucleations — I’ve done an awful lot of them — who has come out in this state of mind and who has some sort of conviction, some sort of purpose,” Myint says. “I admire him for doing that.”
A few months after those first surgeries, on Sept. 3, Drew drove about 20 miles to his old neighborhood, near Magic Moment Lane, to visit Janet Chao, an ocularist who runs Prosthetics Advancement Lab. She makes eyes for people without them. The process takes a few sessions: first to take an impression of the eye socket, then to use acrylic and shape the prosthesis, which isn’t spherical but instead fits over the globe Myint implanted, like a colossal contact lens.
Two days earlier, Drew had spent hours in a chair at Chao’s office as she stared at his left eye and used oil paints and fine brushes to replicate its colors on the prosthesis. Her artistry was evident in every minute detail — the tiny black fleck in his hazel iris, the ring of light brown that encircles his pupil. She had used microscopic red thread to copy the pattern of his blood vessels. Now, it had been heated and cured and glimmered with all the life of his left eye. Drew lifted his right eyelid and inserted the prosthesis. It fit perfectly.
He wore it home that day. His family greeted him there. He beamed. Everyone did.
“It represents my new look on life,” Drew says. “Even though I have one less eye, I haven’t seen things this clear my entire life.”
THEY WANT TO believe it. They want so badly to believe it. They want everything Drew says to be true, every smile to be real, every laugh to be genuine, every inspirational-poster-worthy chestnut to be rooted in reality and not another veneer. For two decades, he hid his pain. His family fights the thought that he might be doing it again.
It’s all so fresh, so fragile. They hear him say thank you for things that seemingly don’t warrant gratitude. Thank you to a bad day, because it helps him better appreciate the good ones. Thank you to being late, because it’s a reminder to leave earlier next time. This is his process. Drew’s family knows the facts. Suicide-attempt survivors are at a significantly higher risk of future death by suicide. They live in an America in which an estimated 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.
“I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m working on it,” Drew says. “It’s not something that you just achieve. You don’t just achieve self-growth. You don’t get to a point where you just have it and you don’t have to work at it again. It’s not like a tool that you just get and you just have it forever. You don’t get to a point where, ‘Oh, I’m happy today. That’s it. I’m going to be happy for the rest of my life.’ It’s the same way in the opposite. ‘I had a rough day.’ That doesn’t mean the rest of your life is going to suck.”
Between the good days and the bad, most end up about the same. He typically wakes before his alarm. He calls in Ellie and Brodi, who have stayed with him since the early months after he left the hospital, and plays with them — “get a nice vibe going for the day.” From there, he goes into the kitchen, drinks a jug of water, returns to his office and meditates for 20 minutes. Then to the garage for a morning workout. He’ll come back in to eat breakfast. Even though he lost his senses of taste and smell after the surgeries, Drew is learning to make more than just oatmeal. He wants to cook for others.
In the afternoon, he tries to make at least three calls — to connect, catch up, ask questions, talk about how he’s doing. He’ll work out again, either in his garage or at the batting cages or at a field, before returning home to listen to music or watch TV or spend time with his family. Before he goes to bed, Drew pulls out his journal. Sometimes he’ll write a page or two, sometimes just a sentence. Either way, every entry ends with the same eight words.
I LOVE MYSELF, AND I LOVE MY LIFE!!
He talks with therapists multiple times a week. He understands that antidepressant use is a treatment to balance his brain, the same way some people with diabetes regulate themselves with insulin. He gets plenty of sleep, exercises like mad, monitors his nutrition. With the help and encouragement of former Giant Hunter Pence, he meditates. He occasionally works at a construction site with Darryl or drives Postmates to scratch together some extra cash and occupy his time.
Drew doesn’t see this as his regeneration alone. The Robinsons started to heal together. They hear Drew talk about the future and are hopeful. They listen to his struggles, and it eases their minds that he’s not hiding. They’re not, either.
Chad talks openly about seeing a therapist. He started almost two years ago. The arc of his baseball career had left a lingering dissatisfaction he needed to address. “It’s helped me a lot,” he says, “but I still have a lot of work to do, and that’s one thing that Drew has helped me understand. He said something a couple months ago maybe, because as athletes, we’re only worried about the end game. We don’t notice the short, small victories.”
Britney was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in high school. For years, she has tried to remind herself that she’s enough and wished those around her would do the same. “Communication in my family has never been a good thing,” she says. “Me personally, I’m not afraid to express my feelings. I’m just like, ‘Oh, yeah, you guys get it all now.'”
Together, the Robinsons met with Dr. Shana Alexander, a clinical psychologist who is the Giants’ employee assistance program director, for a family counseling session over Zoom. If you need to talk more, she told them, please call me. The next day, Darryl did. “I try not to show weakness or show my emotions to anybody,” he says. “And I was able to do it to her on the phone because no one was around.”
Another night, Britney was talking with Drew about her early 20s. Her bad boyfriend. Her drug use. How she started to research suicide and thought about the method. How she envied Renee’s cousin’s daughter, who had died by suicide.
“You just feel helpless. Like nothing,” Britney says. “My thing was I just felt like it would be easier for my friends and family for me not to be here. So they didn’t have to deal with my ups and downs and with the issues of my brain, because something’s wrong with my brain. I am pushing it onto other people. And that’s what I thought: It would be better without me.”
It sounded so familiar to Drew.
“Every scenario, I would think of my mom finding me and I just couldn’t do it,” Britney says. “I just, I couldn’t do it. It breaks my heart because I know how awful of a feeling it was. And to know that he felt even lower than what I got to — I couldn’t imagine being there. I just, I really couldn’t imagine that because it’s such an intense feeling.”
In the months after Drew returned home, Britney’s responsibilities faded. She was used to taking notes and screening calls and sending texts that everyone awaited. As Drew sought his purpose, she was losing hers. Suicide attempts leave behind the sort of choppy wake that can waylay even a person with years of therapy and proper medication.
Britney wound up finding comfort in an unexpected place: the words of the person she had spent all those hours supporting.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Drew told her.
IT HAS A CHANCE.
That’s what they all thought when the ball left the bat Oct. 21. For the first time since he lost his eye, Drew Robinson was taking batting practice outside. Behind the plate, capturing the moment on video, was Jake Hager, a 2011 first-round pick. On the mound, throwing batting practice, was Sam Sadovia, a local baseball coach. In the outfield, shagging balls, was Johnny Field, a big leaguer in 2018. Though Drew’s swing looked no different than it had when he was in the major leagues — the aggressive bat waggle, the leg kick with a knee bent to nearly 90 degrees, the one-handed finish — none of his previous 30 or so swings had yielded a home run. This one sent the ball hissing toward right-center field at Las Vegas Ballpark, the Triple-A stadium where local pros go for offseason hitting sessions.
“Get up,” Field yelled.
For the past three months, Drew had taken every swing indoors. On July 29, he took the first whack at this new reality. He wore a patch over his right eye and hit off a tee. Sadovia, who calls Drew “my third kid,” immediately thought to himself: He’s better with one eye than I am with two. As days and weeks went by, he kept improving. He started hitting high-velocity fastballs. He faced machines that threw curveballs and sliders, and he handled them fine. Now the challenge was doing it at a real stadium, and the ball was climbing.
“Get up,” Hager echoed.
Drew’s relationship with the game is complicated. It was his old purpose, and as much as he won’t blame the sport for April 16, he can’t absolve it, either. So to go back, to reenter the world that pushed him toward his worst impulses, is perilous. He knows that. He also knows he is in a better place to handle it.
He no longer needs baseball in an elemental way. This is a test. Of his strength and resolve and willingness to flirt with failure. Hitting major league pitching with two working eyes is extraordinarily difficult. Doing so with one, and the rear eye at that, only increases the degree of difficulty. Only one man has lost an eye and played in the major leagues: Whammy Douglas, who threw 47 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957.
Myint, the eye surgeon, says that the binocular vision two eyes provide matters for up-close depth perception. But hitters typically decide to swing when the ball is about 45 feet from home plate, where depth-perception issues, Myint says, would not necessarily manifest themselves. And because, as a baseball player, Robinson’s brain has already exhibited a unique ability to track high-speed movement, the aptitude he had been showing in all these batting-practice sessions, Myint says, could be very real.
“Get up,” Drew said, quieter than the others.
All these years, the physical part came easy to Drew and the mental part vexed him. With this one batting practice home run, he could reverse that trend. If he weren’t as mentally strong as he is now, there’s no way he’d be able to do this physically.
“Let’s go-o-o-o-o,” Hager bellowed.
The ball snuck over the fence. Drew took a slight skip and jogged to first base. He stopped there. He’d save the full trot for a game — on the off-chance that someone might offer him a chance to play it again.
DREW REMAINED IN touch with the Giants after getting out of the hospital. It wasn’t just Alexander, the clinical psychologist. He texted with Kapler, the manager, and Zaidi, the baseball operations president, and Harris, the GM. He’d send pictures of himself with his new eye and videos of himself deadlifting 415 pounds and taking swings. In early May, when people around baseball honored front-line workers, Kapler put pieces of tape with the names of Drew’s nurses at UMC on his jersey.
In the fall, Drew asked if he could speak to the Giants’ players and staff. World Suicide Prevention Day was Sept. 10. Playing baseball was important, but it was fungible. If Drew was going to help others — not just those in his circle but every struggling soul he could reach — telling his story, he thought, was the most impactful way. The Giants welcomed the idea.
He arrived at Oracle Park on Sept. 9, the day California wildfires turned the sky orange. He was nervous. He wore a mask with a Giants logo. He did not wear his prosthesis. The players, coaches and other staff gathered outside. Alexander introduced him. He grabbed the microphone.
“First, I just want to say thank you for everything,” Drew said. “What I’ve been going through the last couple of months has been the most powerful experience in the most positive way. The lessons I’ve learned from what I’ve gone through is something I want to share.”
He told them he wanted to read a reflection he wrote. He warned the group: “It’s a little heavy. But I want you guys to know that this is something that’s important to me.” Drew took a deep breath and started to speak.
“April 16, around 8 p.m., I attempted suicide and shot myself in the head. A day later, April 17, around 4 p.m., I dialed 911 myself in an attempt to have my life saved. Later that night, not only was my life saved, but it was reborn and restarted.”
Drew spoke for about seven minutes. About the importance of talking and the need for others and how he intended to give baseball another shot. He saw people crying. Some were thinking of family or friends lost to suicide. Others wept for him.
“I remember having this thought in my head: That is the toughest guy I’ve ever met,” Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson says. “Not just physically but mentally and how brave he is to be doing what he’s doing.”
Drew’s words resonated with Dickerson. Baseball had trifled with his emotional well-being for nearly a decade. Like Drew, he reached the big leagues around his 25th birthday. Injuries sidelined him for two full seasons. He didn’t know if he would ever return. The Giants acquired him from the San Diego Padres in 2019 and gave him full-time at-bats. In 2020, he batted .298 and slugged .576. He was one of the best hitters in the National League.
After Drew finished speaking, Dickerson pulled him aside. They reminisced and realized they had played one another at a high school tournament in 2007. Drew connected with others as well — about baseball, about struggles, about what it means to be alive.
“He demonstrated the power of vulnerability and made it look so simple by just talking,” Alexander says. “He encouraged people to just connect with one another and talk more. And that in itself was a huge barrier that we broke bringing him in and showing players that we’re all susceptible to mental illness. We can all struggle at times. It doesn’t matter who we are, how wealthy we are, how athletic we are, how perfect our life seems to look. It’s much more than that.”
This was why Alexander joined the Giants last year: to emphasize the importance of mental health the same way organizations typically do physical ability. Drew’s speech to the team was a perfect example. And Drew left San Francisco that day feeling content: If this was the last thing he ever did with the Giants, he felt good about it.
“I remember having this thought in my head: that is the toughest guy I’ve ever met. Not just physically but mentally and how brave he is to be doing what he’s doing.”
Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson
On Oct. 22, the day after he hit the outdoor home run, Drew panicked. He had missed a text from Kapler. “You awake?” it said.
When Drew called, Kapler told him that he had spoken with Zaidi and Harris, and they all agreed: He needed to remain with the organization. They cared about him. They wanted people like him around. They believed he could still play major league baseball. The Giants were offering Robinson a contract with an invitation to minor league spring training. He wouldn’t be in the same clubhouse as the big league players. There wouldn’t be any guaranteed money or a roster spot. But he would get the chance to work his way there.
“This opportunity wasn’t just given to Drew,” Zaidi says. “He earned it. He had a great camp with us last spring, and he’s amazingly managed to look outward and be a big contributor to the organization even as he’s had to work tirelessly to get back on the field. We’re proud he’s a Giant, and we’re excited to see him compete for a job in camp.”
Drew doesn’t remember what he said. Just that he fumbled over the words and couldn’t thank Kapler enough. He was going to play baseball again. When he looked in the mirror April 17, saw the hole in his head, realized his eyeball was in pieces and thought about baseball — it wasn’t fanciful.
This time, he didn’t share the good news with a three-word text. He called everyone — Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney and Chad. He thought of what it would be like to see them at the field again, to celebrate with a family that actually feels whole.
“Even if he doesn’t [make it], he has so much more to say and do in his life,” Darryl says. “We’re all learning from Drew right now. To be better people.”
IN MID-NOVEMBER, a familiar feeling seized Drew. Something was off. It started with a skipped workout, then a missed meditation session or journal entry. Being alive takes so much, and the pressures of this routine, of the new expectations he had set for himself, were converging. His mind started to race. He told himself he was being lazy. He wasn’t putting in the necessary work to stay healthy. His self-talk sounded like the companion. If I can’t do the work, why would I deserve happiness? If I can’t even do enough to earn happiness, what’s the point? He didn’t leave his room for a day, then two, then three.
“I just felt like the world was ending,” he says. “I had my first passive suicidal thought, which really scared me: ‘I wish I was successful.'”
No. That’s what Drew tried to tell himself. No. This time, he knew he had the tools. He understood what he needed to do. He called Daiana into his room. He looked her in the eyes. And he said: “I think I’m battling depression right now.”
“Even though I didn’t want to hear it, I was so thankful,” Daiana says. “It’s the first time he’s ever said something like that. Just so open and honest about how he’s feeling instead of me wondering what’s going on.”
“I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m working on it. You don’t just achieve self-growth. You don’t get to a point where you just have it and you don’t have to work at it again.”
Uttering those words helped. Drew spoke with friends and family, with his therapists. The sadness slowly abated. He returned to his routine. Daiana’s reminders were a salve. He needed to give himself grace on the days he falls short. To know it’s OK not to be OK. To keep talking.
“Most people in this situation, when you tell them what happened, think, wow, that’s great. He survived,” Daiana says. “Nobody realizes the things that come with it. It’s not like you survive such an extreme thing and everything is perfect. You’re starting over. The past isn’t gone.”
Not just for Drew, either. A couple of years ago, Daiana was reading a story about obsessive-compulsive disorder and felt a burst of recognition. Anxiety had tormented her for more than 15 years, and suddenly she had a name for the feelings she’d experienced. She had never talked in much detail with Drew about it. He had his own problems. Daiana didn’t want to encumber him. Then came April 16.
“Him sharing his story has made me become more comfortable in talking about it,” Daiana says. “I know I’m not fighting alone anymore.”
The weeks since have gotten better for both. They enjoyed family time at Christmas. Drew fell asleep at 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and Daiana laughed at him for it. Last week, Drew took live batting practice against Chasen Bradford, a big league pitcher from 2017 to 2019, and walloped a home run on a sinker. There are days good and bad, moments high and low, and almost always Drew and Daiana are with each other to celebrate the former and weather the latter. Both know not to look too far ahead.
Looking back, though, there’s a specific day Drew can’t forget. It was just before the depression hit. He and Daiana were at a park. Drew was supposed to catch fly balls, except another friend who came along wasn’t very adept at hitting them. Daiana volunteered. She choked up on the bat, tossed the ball in the air and took a whack. Drew coasted over, caught it and bounced it back to her. She swung and missed three times in a row and they both laughed before she started grooving them. She would hit; he would catch. She would give him something; he would return it. It was a perfect day on what was supposed to be a perfect day: Nov. 14, their wedding date.
“In a weird way, I had peace,” Daiana says. “It wasn’t the right time. I wasn’t in the best place, and he wasn’t, either. I didn’t go back and think what if. We were just living. And it was OK.”
DREW STILL CAN’T pinpoint exactly what caused him to hit the green dial button that day, but the clues always have been there. In the hours before he pulled the trigger, and throughout those 20 hours that followed, his thoughts constantly converged on his family, on Daiana. On who would find him. Who would have to clean. Who would blame themselves. How they would go on without him.
Reminders of April 16 are everywhere. Drew kept the shorts he was wearing. The towel that absorbed so much of the blood. The note he wrote. His family removed the plank of wood where the bullet had lodged and had it turned into a necklace for him. Chad has the gun. Drew isn’t sure what he wants to do with it. He could toss it into the Grand Canyon or destroy it with an acetylene torch. For now, he doesn’t really think about it.
In the nightstand that once held his gun, Drew keeps a small jewelry box with a keepsake inside. It’s the bullet that burrowed through his head and changed his life. Sometimes he’ll remove it from the box, roll it between his index finger and thumb, use it to remind himself where he was and where he is.
“I look at this thing and think, I’m stronger than you,” he says. “I’m stronger than what I thought I was.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.