July 26, 2019 by squish
Written by Alex Salucco
Professional athletes seem to have the perfect life. They sit in their large estates with a garage full of cars that they get for doing something that comes relatively easy to them, but in the public eye, they aren’t always viewed as ‘human.’ Just because they’re multi-millionaires doesn’t mean that they can’t go through everyday struggles just as many other people do. People don’t talk about mental health enough.
It’s easy for us to judge them, right? Because if ‘we had that money’ we wouldn’t have panic attacks, if ‘we had that money’ we wouldn’t have any problems and if ‘we had that money’ we would be tenfold happier. But money doesn’t change anything, neither does fame, neither does being well liked and it sure as hell is okay not to be okay.
I couldn’t tell you where it started, I couldn’t tell you how long it’s been there, I couldn’t even tell you what makes it better. But I do know that depression has been something that has effected my life more times than I count. I knew something was off for the majority of my life, and I knew depression was a cause of it, but it wasn’t until recently that I was showing symptoms of something called hyper-empathy disorder, or compassion syndrome. It sounds silly, believe me, I know, but try feeling every emotion someone shows the moment they show it and feeding into it.
Despite all of this Area 51 talk going around, I’m human. These things would happen whether I was a professional athlete or a UPS driver. Success is not immune to anything and Kevin Love knows that.
In 2017, Love experienced a panic attack shortly after a game started. This is how he explained what happened shortly after.
Fast forward to a year later, this is what it was about.
Love was ridiculed, not only by fans, but by teammates for ‘faking an injury.’ In his Player Tribune article, along with the subsequent interview with Jackie MacMullan, he opens up about what really happened in that game against the Hawks and tries to explain what he goes through.
“If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.”
He couldn’t be more spot on regarding his last thought. Just like him, my playbook growing up was to suppress it and ‘just be a man,’ but it’s that exact misleading masculinity that allowed things to fester in my own head and effect my relationships with those around me. It wasn’t until I realized, like Love, that I wanted to be better to the people in my life; to seek help and be present.
Love talks about how basketball was his release for awhile; averaging 20 and 13 most of your career and winning a title will do that. It’s easy when you’re playing well. What happens when your mental health problems pour over to your “sanctuary and safe heaven” as Love describes them? When your outlet is taken away from you like it was him for a period of time, you feel lost.
He wanted to be better. Better for his teammates, his family, his fans and for the countless of voices who are too ashamed to speak about what is going on in between their ears. One of those voices belonged to me.
My earliest vivid memory was from my fourth birthday. I remember jumping up and down on my dads bed yelling “I’M FOUR I’M FOUR!” and as an impressionable kid I was chanting something my father had told me everyday. “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”
Now, Tim Duncan’s mother taught him that and he took that motivation and became the best power forward to ever touch the hardwood while I’m posting this blog from my room at my mother’s house, but that’s beside the point.
I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it was important. Don’t be stagnant, don’t get too comfortable, work for what you want, be the best version of yourself that you can be. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the court, at your job or in your own head. He’d never know it, but those words from my father would eventually give me the courage to face the problems in front of me.
Luckily for Love, it was an opponent of his that gave him the courage to speak up. No, not the opponent called stigma, but DeMar DeRozan. Only he needed fewer words to say it.
DeRozan is a quiet dude and his game reflects that at times; his mid range game ain’t nothin to f with. Like Love, DeRozan says that playing basketball is something he used to suppress his depression.
During a subsequent interview with the Toronto Star, DeRozan said:
“My mom always told me: Never make fun of anybody because you never know what that person is going through. Ever since I was a kid, I never did. I never did. I don’t care what shape, form, ethnicity, nothing. I treat everybody the same. You never know.”
That’s what we have to do, myself included.
The way a person treats others says a lot about who they are. To me, it tells you almost everything you need to know about them, but almost everything isn’t everything. I jokingly say that hyper-empathy disorder just means I have a huge heart, but there are a bevy of caveats to that and interacting with hundreds of people daily only intensifies that. Although staying completely present isn’t easy, I’m working on it.