Kevin Love finds response to 'therapeutic' essay on panic attack, seeking therapy 'overwhelming'

Marla Ridenour, Akron Beacon Journal on

Published in Basketball

DENVER -- Kevin Love knew he was going to become one of the faces of mental health issues in America when he wrote an essay detailing his November panic attack and decision to seek therapy.

The Cavaliers forward said he wouldn't have pressed the send button on his piece for The Players Tribune if the Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan hadn't come forward first and admitted he struggles with depression.

But Love said he's been overwhelmed by 4,000 positive responses in 24 hours via social media and his Players Tribune email since the essay posted Tuesday morning.

"The response had been really overwhelming," Love said Wednesday before shootaround for the Cavs' game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. "People responded with their stories and coming out and saying this really helped them. I want to continue to push this message.

"DeMar tweeted me this morning and I got back to him. Just open the door for other athletes and people of power, influential people, just to speak out about this topic because it is so prevalent and really looks like it was needed. We need to beat down that stigma about mental health and need to be able to come out and talk things out."

While Love wrote that he experienced a panic attack during a Nov. 5 home game against the Atlanta Hawks, he disputed a report by Joe Vardon of that he had another on Jan. 20 at home against Oklahoma City that forced him to leave the arena early and caused him to miss practice the next day. That set the stage for a contentious confrontation in a Jan. 22 team meeting in which Love said no one was spared.

"That was just me being sick. That wasn't anything that had to do with a panic attack," Love said of the Thunder game. "But the meeting that followed, one of the things that was brought up was (coach) Ty Lue had mentioned the panic attack earlier in the season. I wasn't aware how many people knew. I kind of buried it, put it off to the side and that kind of started a big push to why I wanted to write this article."

Love said the reaction from teammates and others in the organization has been "universally positive."

"I think one of those reasons is mental health doesn't discriminate. It affects really each and every one of us," said Love, still rehabbing a broken bone in his left hand. "Whether it was talking to Kyle (Korver) about parenting his kids and how he has two young boys or just talking to LeBron (James), he shook my hand and said, 'You helped a lot of people today.' That's what's big. Just them even acknowledging that and retweeting that and just breathing more life into it is just huge.

"In a lot of ways young men and young boys are pretty far behind. That was pretty apparent yesterday in talking to guys and talking to someone like Jose (Calderon), who sits next to me on the plane. Overwhelming is a good word to use and I mean that in a positive connotation."

Love described writing the essay as "therapeutic" and Calderon said he could tell as they talked on the flight to Denver.

"I think it's going to help him a lot. You can feel, I think he's doing better, you even can see it in his face," Calderon said. "Maybe it was a relief for him as well, telling everybody what he was going through. So proud of him because I think that's the most difficult part sometimes, 'Why don't you just say this?' It's not like you're sick or have a headache. It's something more than that, and sometimes people are just worried 'What are people going to think about me?'?"

James knows athletes are put on a pedestal and why they hesitate to reveal issues like Love did.

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"Our whole lives we were always taught 'Figure it out on your own. Be as strong as you can. Don't show anybody any weakness,'?" James said. "We've been built like that our whole lives, ever since we picked up a basketball or picked up a football, whatever the case may be.

"That sometimes can become a problem. Obviously when you're able to see that, sometimes that's not the way to deal with it, it actually makes you even more strong."

Lue said he was glad Love was able to open up and that the Cavs are there to support Love with whatever he needs.

"Some of us already knew," Lue said. "He's doing all the things he can to better himself and get help. We're going to be here for him."

Love said he was not only motivated by DeRozan's admission of his problem in a February interview with the Toronto Star but by watching on television the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

Love considered waiting until the summer to write the essay, but is glad he did it now, knowing that he stepped to the forefront of what he hopes is an awakening on mental health issues.

"I've lived it. It wasn't just the singular panic attack I had in November. It was some deep-seated stuff that needed to come out, that I needed to address and I'm better for it," Love said. "I'm better for seeing someone and being more open and better to the people in my life.

"I'm more than willing to help people. This could be life work, not only for myself but a number of guys that are going to step up in the process. And as I quoted DeMar's tweet and got back to him, he opened the door for me, so I respect him and love him for that."

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