Shining light on anxiety, depression

Gary Huffenberger - Staff columnist

You may have read the recent Associated Press report in the News Journal about NBA star Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers going public, after a few months, about suffering a panic attack during a Nov. 5 game.

He opened up about the incident, and shared thoughts about possible causes and subsequent appointments with a therapist in a well-said essay for the Players’ Tribune.

His panic attack, he writes, was “as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle.” And just like bodily injuries, the panic sidelined him temporarily. Love says, “When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.”

He ended up lying on his back on the training room floor, trying to get enough air to breathe.

Love thinks maybe there was an underlying cause, in addition to family stress, not sleeping well and performance expectations weighing upon him. An underlying factor, he writes, is the cultural standard for the male of the species and for athletes to be tough and strong.

He was comfortable talking about basketball, but it was much harder to share personal things.

He writes he knew “on some level” that some people benefit from asking for help or opening up: “I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was a form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different.”

Perhaps symbolic of Love’s thoughts about athletes shunning signs of weakness can be seen in baseball when a batter hit by a 91 mph fastball is reluctant to rub the area and show it actually hurts him.

Since meeting with a therapist, Love says he’s “seen the power of saying things out loud in a setting like that.” He writes the main lesson for him since having to leave the November game is confronting the fact he needed help.

Let us hope that fans of other NBA teams do not exploit the situation and try to rattle Love with disparaging chants or insensitive signs about his problem. Or, rival players talk smack to him about it on court.

I don’t follow the NBA. The News Journal headline about Love caught my eye because for most of my life I have had problems with anxiety.

I am taking my cue from him by saying it publicly, if only in this passing mention.

Love said that one reason he wrote his essay was seeing Toronto basketball player DeMar DeRozan’s recent comments that he’s had bouts of depression.

For many in our midst, anxiety and depression are two thieves of well-being. To catch a thief, we can, for starters, turn on the light.

Huffenberger is a News Journal staff writer. Reach him at 937-556-5768 or .

Gary Huffenberger

Staff columnist