March 6 (UPI) — Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love opened up about his mental health Tuesday in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.
Love, 29, said he suffered his first panic attack after halftime during a Nov. 5 game against the Atlanta Hawks.
“It came out of nowhere,” Love wrote. “I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real – as real a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.”
“I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball – but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years.”
Love said he previously did not share personal things about himself with his family, best friends, or in public, but realized he needed to change that.
“If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it,” he wrote. “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.”
The Cavaliers’ All-Star forward said he wasn’t sleeping well entering the 10th game of the season. He was also stressed out about family issues. The Cavaliers started with a subpar 4-5 record.
He sensed something was wrong immediately when he realized he was out of breath after the first few Cavaliers possessions. He had just four points in 15 minutes of first half action.
“After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. 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.”
“Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, “I’ll be right back,” and I ran back to the locker room. I was running from room to room, like I was looking for something I couldn’t find. Really I was just hoping my heart would stop racing. It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die. I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.”
“The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait … then what the hell just happened?”
Love returned to the Cavaliers’ lineup two days later. The Cavaliers helped him find a therapist. At first he approached the appointments with skepticism before eventually coming around and having discussions about non-basketball topics including his grandmother.
Love later left a game early when the Cavaliers were playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder, due to an “illness.” League sources told ESPN that several Cavaliers players “challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness” that forced him to leave the game early when the Cavaliers held a team meeting following the team’s loss. Sources told ESPN that Love told teammates about having another panic attack during the game against the Thunder during that meeting.
The 10-year veteran said Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan was one of the reasons he decided to write the essay.
DeRozan — a four-time All-Star in his own right — opened up about his struggles with depression in February during an interview with the Toronto Star.
“It’s one of them things that no matter how indestructible we look like we are, we’re all human at the end of the day,” DeRozan told the star. “We all got feelings … all of that. Sometimes … it gets the best of you, where times everything in the whole world’s on top of you.”
His comments came after he tweeted “this depression get the best of me…”
Love said he is now trying to be truthful with himself.
“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through,” he wrote.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that between 2013 and 2016, 8.1 percent of American adults 20 years old and older had depression in a given two-week period. About 80 percent of adults with depression reported at least some difficulty with work, home, and social activities due to depression, according to the CDC.
An estimated 2.7 percent of American adults had panic disorder in the past year, while an estimated 4.7 percent of American adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.