The White Zone: Dealing with mistakes and depression

Last August, I sank to the lowest point in my life.

My many mistakes as a NASCAR writer, neurodevelopment disorders and ongoing battle with depression drove me to attempt suicide.

Come with me, as I show you what led me to that.

The mistakes

May 29, 2016.

I stood on the frontstretch of Charlotte Motor Speedway several hours after Martin Truex Jr. won the Coca-Cola 600 in dominant fashion. I don’t recall the conversation that led to it, but I told some race fans there was a crossover gate that I either opened or just led them to it.

Either way, that choice at Charlotte haunts me to this day.

But wait, there’s more!

Sept. 4, 2016.

I spazzed out, because I couldn’t find a golf cart and was too lazy to walk. So I threw down my headset in the press box at Darlington Raceway.

That choice haunts me to this day.

Aug. 18, 2017.

I climbed over a row of press box seats, rather than momentarily inconvenience the writers next to me (which would’ve been much simpler to do).

Haunting isn’t strong enough. That’s straight up “What are you thinking? Are you thinking?!”

Even at the age of 21 and 22, no excuse.

But that’s not all!

June 20, 2021.

I walked into an unauthorized area on the spotter’s stand to take photos during the closing laps. This was after NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. gave me a second chance in 2020 and 2021.

In a six-year span, I learned nothing. I had an off-ramp, but I failed to learn anything.

And that hurts the most.

Contemplation and depression

I’m supposed to think I have a place amongst writers far more talented than me, and don’t make such stupid mental errors? Amongst writers who parlayed their tremendous writing to make a living from watching NASCAR races?

But that happens when you don’t socialize in high school until you do and your best friend ghosts you, because your introversion meant you developed bad tendencies.

Immature and annoying.

Compounding the matter, I suffer from verbal apraxia and ADHD. I’m no expert on either, but as far as I understand it, it made socializing with other people rather difficult, and careless mistakes frequent.

Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder, as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition.

Frankly (and I’m no doctor), I think it’s a sizeable influence on my ongoing battle with depression. I have days where I feel fine. Then I’ll have days where I feel nothing. My energy, zapped. My mind in total molasses. My motor functions, slow.

It’s a miserable hell to experience.

July 31, 2023.

I got an email from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying my media credentials request was denied.

I sank to my lowest point.

Aug. 1, 2023.

I grabbed a pistol from my parent’s room, put it in my mouth and slowly squeezed the trigger.

The hammer clicked.

A few seconds later, I opened my eyes and thought, “Wait, nothing happened.” So I popped the magazine.

No bullets.

I broke down in laughter. My stupid dumb ass forgot to reload it, after firing off a few rounds at a tree in my backyard a few hours earlier!

When I caught my breath and lied on my parents’ bed for a few minutes, I thought it over again. Since I couldn’t even do THAT right, I figured I might as well try to make the best of it.

And I’m getting help.

I attend weekly sessions at Autism Breakthrough. Where I work with people who specialize in helping high-function autistic adults like me talk to other people and open up to them.

Anecdotally, I point to one moment where that work helped (but I still have room for improvement).

Room to grow

June 4, 2023.

The Cup Series race concluded minutes earlier. I’m on pit road in the media bullpen. I’ve made it the whole weekend without getting pulled aside by someone at NASCAR IMC (the league’s PR people, who I mean no disrespect to). Now I’m still a little inexperienced on bullpen proceedings and stuff, but I just need to get through the final leg without a misstep, and I’m golden.

We finished up talking to Truex and moved on to the next driver. Lee Spencer (who I thank for scolding me when I’ve stepped out of line on several occasions) walked up and asked if Truex had already come through. I and some other writers told her yes, and she asked about Joey Logano. I told her, no, but he’s coming over, too.

I glanced at Brent Gambill (IMC), as Kyle Busch did his burnout down the frontstretch, and asked (well, shouted, so the engine didn’t drown me out) if he’d bring Logano over because Spencer needed audio from him.

As we walked back to the deadline room, Gambill tapped me and told me for future reference, don’t shout for a driver like I did. He understood I was trying to help Spencer, but Logano’s PR person took it the wrong way. Especially after a race prolonged by rain and stretches of green flag stints.

I face-palmed because I was so close to a weekend with no screwups.

But on a more optimistic note, it showed my sessions at Autism Breakthrough weren’t in vain.

After eight seasons on the beat, all I have to show for it is one NMPA writing contest award plaque (in the columns category). Now, I take great pride in that award. It was the first time I entered one and the two people who bested me were Ryan McGee and Amy Henderson (both of whom I respect).

The irony of it coming after I blew it isn’t lost on me.

I can still do this. I just need to work on myself and get help with communication. Then maybe, just maybe, I can repair my standing with both NASCAR and SMI.

I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m on the right track.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2023, I'm on my eighth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Your Name" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."

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