Quickshot: “I spent twelve weeks in a mental health 'high school' (...) I learned more about myself in those twelve weeks than I have in the 34 years of life leading up to it.”
Writer’s note: Quickshot later clarified that the ‘mental health high school’ he spoke of was a mental health clinic he attended on a daily basis, but he used the term ‘high school’ as that term was more comfortable to him.
There are many people for whom working in esports is a dream. Many of the people who turned that dream into reality soon come to realize: it’s a grind to keep up with the scene. The harsh reality that eight-hour work days, five days per week, are simply not a thing in esports is something everyone has to deal with, whether you’re a veteran or new to the scene. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what you’re doing, of course. It just means that you need to take a measured approach to your job.
That realization hit Trevor “Quickshot” Henry like a wrecking ball. As one of the longest-standing casters, hosts, and managers in the scene, he had added more and more tasks to his plate over the years. Until it cracked. In August 2021, Quickshot suddenly disappeared from LEC broadcasts and social media. Months later, he revealed that he spent a long time working on his mental health and overall work-life balance.
During the 2022 LEC Summer Split finals in Malmö, Sweden, Quickshot opened his heart to reflect on his decision to step away from everything. He spoke about attending daily therapy classes for three straight months and what he learned about himself in the process. Quickshot also discussed the impact it still has on him, his relationship with his wife and friends, and the people he works with in the esports industry.
We're finally back in a huge arena for the LEC finals, Trevor. This must be the pinnacle of your job, right? This is what you live for.
A hundred percent. The truth is, Tom, that the pinnacle of my job is commentating video games. I think that anybody who has watched me on air over the years pre and post-COVID will know that my energy doesn't change. [Laughs] It's a lot, sometimes overwhelming. But there is something extremely special about being in front of thousands of like-minded individuals that are here to share an experience for something they're passionate about. I relish, relish these moments.
“The course that I enrolled in was Monday to Friday, ten to four, group therapy sessions, one-on-one therapy sessions, resilience training, coping mechanism training…”
This return to a big stage also comes about one year after you took a sudden break from everything. You disappeared from broadcasts and social media. Later you revealed that you had to focus on yourself, you needed a reset. How do you look back at that moment and on making that decision?
It's tough. This is the first interview I've done on the topic. I'm more than happy to share a little more. Ultimately, I hit a point with burnout, and my mental health and my professional and personal relationships were being negatively impacted. There were a number of factors at play. Quite suddenly, in the middle of the playoffs—I think it was between rounds one and two, I believe on August 24th—I had a moment where I needed to make a drastic change. It was fairly apparent at home, definitely with my wife.
Once I made that call, I was very fortunate to live in a country where mental health is treated just like any other ailment. Germany is incredibly supportive and understanding. The medical aides, and the processes around it, were so supportive that it enabled me and gave me the courage, and the stability to focus on it. I took several months off work. Because I'm happy to share it: I spent twelve weeks in a mental health 'high school', basically. The course that I enrolled in was Monday to Friday, ten to four, group therapy sessions, one-on-one therapy sessions, resilience training, coping mechanism training... Just general education around things.
I learned more about myself in those twelve weeks than I have in the 34 years of life leading up to it. Coming out of that process and then being able to spend several more months focusing on myself and my home life, it gave me the focus and energy to come back to work.
Source: Michal Konkol for Riot Games
Esports is a very stressful environment. You're not only the fun and energetic caster, but you're also a talent manager. You have to make decisions, you have to be strict sometimes, so I can imagine that things can build up. What made you realize that you needed to step back?
I'll put it to you this way: the straw that broke the camel's back is frankly irrelevant. It was the ten thousand straws before that which provided the weight that broke the camel's back. [Laughs] The best explanation I can give is that I'm an incredibly driven individual. We've spoken to each other over many years at this point, and you'll know that I'm always committed. I'm always pushing forward. I knew I wanted to be a manager. First of all, I knew I wanted to be successful in my job. It's incredibly competitive. Once I had hit a level I was comfortable with, I wanted to train people. Then I wanted to be a manager, I wanted to hire people. Then I wanted more responsibility to push other people to unlock their goals. I did that all while maintaining the previous roles. I was in a position where I kept asking for more to be put on my plate and, fortunately, received it. Simultaneously, more tasks and assignments came in, and the two things combined led to the point where I just couldn't maintain it.
I couldn't continue at that level. You know, you can lead a horse to the water but you can't make it drink it. Once I had recognized that and realized that I needed to drink the water, that was the turning point for me. It was rough. It's not something I'll ever go super in-depth with because it was a very dark time. But what I will say and what I'm comfortable saying is that I hit that very, very low point, and then was in a position where I could seek help and could get it. I threw myself at it. My therapist, to this day, tells me there is no winning in therapy. There is no Challenger tier at being in therapy. And I said, "But there is for me!" [Laughs] I found the right people that help me and speak to me in a way that has helped me push forward.
Throughout 2022, I've made a few messages about the topic. I'm trying actively to be a little more open about my experiences. My hope is that people who maybe need to hear it, people who are in a similar position as I was: don't wait until it's too late. Don't wait as long as I did and you get to a point where you need to take six months off and go radio-silent. I think, on some level, I was aware that I could've started earlier, that I could've put more energy into my own wellbeing at an earlier point. Now I look back at where I was a year ago and I couldn't be more balanced and happy. There have been drastic changes in both my work and home life. The way I communicate has evolved significantly. As you learn more about being a human being and who you are as a person, it allows you to make more informed choices.
“My hope is that people who maybe need to hear it, people who are in a similar position as I was: don't wait until it's too late.”
As someone who has had therapy in the past, I can only echo your sentiment about the process. I think many people also underestimate the process itself and expect you to notice differences quickly when it's a long, long process of coming to terms with things.
You know, people are just like "Therapy makes you a better person!" No. [Laughs] You make yourself a better person. A therapist will guide you to that. You only get out of therapy what you put in. If you are not ready, or willing, or comfortable to be 100% honest, therapy doesn't have to be life-changing. It doesn't have to be every single day. It can be focused on small things. If you're struggling with work, if you're struggling with a relationship, if you're struggling with certain emotions, you can make it really focused. But the key is to understand and communicate what your goals are. There is a level of self-awareness and self-reflection, but there is also a commitment. It gets worse before it gets better. That's something I didn't know at the time.
Source: Kirill Bashkirov for Riot Games
You're digging up a lot in therapy.
Everyone has skeletons in their closet. Whether you think you do or don't think you do. [Laughs] Once you actually have to confront some of those elements of yourself and your past, your decisions, it puts you in a dark place. But as you're beginning to unravel and organize and understand, you can come away with a better perspective and a deeper understanding. But again, it's a very personal journey. I'm fortunate that I have friends and family that are supportive and that understand. I lean on them. I'll say, "I had this thought about something in my childhood, what do you think?" and they'll say, "Trevor, come on, that's definitely not it." I'll realize that they are right and that I have my own biases and perspectives. It's good to challenge those sometimes.
“I carried the burdens of my work. No matter how much you love your job, no matter how much you are passionate, it's still a job.”
Going through therapy is a deeply personal process. I don't want to make this the center of the article, but a few months ago you made an Instagram post in which you acknowledged being late in celebrating your wife's birthday. It was very personal, a deep apology. That struck me as being made by someone who is being more reflective, more open, and honest about who they are.
It's hugely important. I'll tell you about that specific instance. For my wife's birthday, I was just short-sighted. I had splurged on a particularly elaborate present and I felt really content and happy. That's it, job's done. But I didn't think about the person, I didn't think about the other stuff. So, I didn't put a lot of energy or thought into the things that really mattered to her. For example, the present was great, but the card... not so much. The activities like going for dinner or having a celebration... not so much. I was back on the show and there were other personal and selfish things that distracted me.
I told Rebecca that I was going to make a post on Instagram. She asked me not to and she told me she wasn't comfortable. I explained to her that, for me, it was important to acknowledge that a mistake had been made. But also, Rebecca knows how important my job is, with "Quickshot" and everything that I've built and whatnot. So if I was willing to do this, the message would get through of how aware I was. I didn't need to tell people. I didn't make this post to look for pity or to garner support for myself. I did it because it would resonate with my wife. It might even help keep me accountable for a whole bunch of things.
Our relationship is social. Whether you like it or not, I don't care. We do care. Not making a post on the day hurt her. The reason I forgot was that I had a great show day. I was so wrapped up in the moment that I didn't take the time when I could have. Once that sunk in, I understood it. The whole point was to put myself in her shoes, to think what it meant and why.
Source: Michal Konkol for Riot Games
After going through this whole journey, how have you seen it affect your work life and how you interact with the people around you? It seemed like you were quickly back to being comfortable on camera again, but there is obviously a lot more to it than that.
I've got a fantastic relationship with my team and everyone that works on the broadcast side. Everyone is very supportive and happy to have me back. Working in the studio, working in the stadium, working on the show... it's something I love. I give a lot of myself to it. What I came to appreciate and realize is that I gave too much too often. I carried the burdens of my work. No matter how much you love your job, no matter how much you are passionate, it's still a job. Even if you are, fortunately, successful at it.
The biggest thing that I've taken from my journey, from the six months off, was a new perspective and a new appreciation for what is personal, what is professional, and where to draw a line. I think the biggest advice that I can give anybody who finds themselves working so hard, committing so much, feeling like they're working towards burnout: You have to have boundaries. You have to know what is fair, what is appropriate, and how much you're willing to give. It's entirely personal. I still pour a hundred percent of everything I have into these show days.
But importantly, when things are tough, or when there are elements of the job that are challenging to deal with, I try my best not to take those home. I have a framework and a level of understanding with my wife and my close friends that, if I am a bit obsessed with a particular topic, or a particular thing that is bothering me, either I will recognize it or someone else will. They'll ask, "Trev, is this something you really need to talk about on a Sunday afternoon?" And I'll agree that, no, we can look at this another time, you're right. It's a newfound perspective. It needed to happen. I needed time away to see the bigger picture.