Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, A Guy Named Clark, And The Real Stigma Of Mental Health
Tuesday, May 1st. 12:02 a.m.
My phone buzzes letting me know I have received a new text message. I barely register it in my sleep. It then buzzes two more times concurrently. Three messages, one right after the other. I am fully awake now and scared. We all know three text messages in rapid succession means whomever sent them has something important to say or share. Those of us with kids never want to get these at midnight.
I grab my phone, curse the fingerprint lock for not working until the third try, and open the text message page all the while hoping it’s just one of my friends at a bar drunk texting me and not something about my son. I was not expecting what happened next. The texts were from my friend Clark (not his real name).
The texts read:
“Been through hell and back since we last talked.”
“This is the worst I’ve ever felt. I’m not sure I can get through this.”
I stared at my phone and started to get even more scared.
Saturday, February 17th 4:06 a.m.
“This depression get the best of me.” Demar DeRozan tweet.
In an article written by Doug Smith and published by the Toronto Star a week later, DeMar DeRozan gave an honest and sweeping interview on his depression and anxiety. In the article DeRozan is given praise for telling his story and admitting he contends with mental health issues and rightly so. The article goes on to mention how people have almost universally supported him and have commended his bravery. Mr. Smith also mentions in his article how even in this day and age depression and mental health is still a stigma in society. I thought about this for a bit and I wondered what stigma was he talking about. The fact that a NBA All-Star was admitting that he struggles with his mental health, plus the numerous other famous and non-famous people admitting their mental health issues, surely there wasn’t a stigma attached to depression/anxiety anymore, right?
I didn’t know how naive I was.
Tuesday, May 1st. 2:05 a.m.
I have been sitting in my car since about 1:30 a.m. I am barefoot and shirtless with pajama bottoms on. My garage door is open and I have the car radio on. I’m sure it is a sight for any of my neighbors who might be up but I don’t care. I had been texting back and forth with Clark for a couple of hours. About an hour before, his texts got really dark. I started to panic a little and told him to call me. He said he didn’t want to wake up his roommate. I told him his roommate could take a flying leap for all I cared and I was really worried. Then he stopped texting.
After twenty minutes of radio silence I said a few choice curse words to the Universe, texted him I was coming over, and grabbed my keys. I had just put the key in the ignition when he texted:
“Don’t come over! you’re making things worse!”
I sat there in my car, worried and scared for my good friend, and I had no idea what to do.
March 5th, 2018
An article comes out in The Players Tribune written by Kevin Love and in it he talks about his own struggle with anxiety. He writes about how he had his first ever panic attack during a game on November 5th, 2017 and he describes that there was so much going on in his life at that moment that it completely overwhelmed him. It is a thoughtful and honest article and it really made me feel good for the man. Coming on the heels of the DeMar DeRozan story I honestly thought what a great time it was for people who deal with mental health issues. These two men, with all their good fortune, were willing to admit their problems and prove that having mental health issues was not a rank and file affliction. It proved that anyone, anyone, can be caught up in the vortex of their own life. I thought this surely put to rest, or at least lessened, the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety.
It wasn’t until May 1st that I learned the true stigma of mental health.
Wednesday, May 17th. 7:00 p.m.
Clark is okay. He told me yesterday he started seeing a psychologist and he feels optimistic about his treatment. Which is fantastic. There were some more scary texts that night and a couple of more rough nights. I remember sitting in my car that night and thinking there is nothing I can do. Everything I’ve said hasn’t landed with him and now he’s mad… at me! So I just decided right there that all the “It will get better” and “There is so much to live for” clichés weren’t going to work and instead I just responded to his texts with an understanding attitude and I brought up some of the good times we’ve had and talked about the people we shared in our lives. Luckily this resonated with him. I say luckily because that’s exactly what it was, luck. It could have gone completely sideways and the outcome might have been horrible. My complete ignorance on how to help my friend of 30 years is what the real stigma of mental health is. We tell sufferers that they’ll be okay, eventually. We tell them to “Snap out of it”. We offer “Hopes and prayers” and to “Be strong” but few of us know how to help. I hope soon more time and effort is taken by people to educate themselves on how to help people with mental health issues.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about what had happened with Clark but the symmetry of how and when this all occurred dawned on me recently. May is Mental Health Awareness month and May 14th-20th is Mental Health Awareness week. I feel like sharing this was necessary.
If you are having issues with depression or anxiety please seek some help. Nobody can do life alone.
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