Kevin Love talks anxiety, depression and the time he thought he was going to die mid-game

Produced by Gabriel Noble and Kate Murphy

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NBA All-Star Kevin Love’s mental health journey began in a moment of anxiety on the basketball court during a November 2017 game against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Cleveland Cavaliers champion had a panic attack.

“I had never experienced anything like that before. I thought I was having cardiac arrest or I was having a heart attack and I was going to die,” Love recalled to the Yahoo News show “Dear Men.”

“It was just one of those things where I couldn’t catch my breath, my heart was pounding, I couldn’t get it to stop.”

Love removed himself from the game and went into the locker room and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic, where they found nothing wrong. That’s when Love realized “There’s obviously something wrong here, not necessarily something that’s going to show up on a test that they have, but I don’t want to be here again.”

He went public about his personal mental health battles last year with a piece in the Players’ Tribune: “We’re all going through something that we can’t see,” he wrote.

Love has become an activist on the issue, and he’s having conversations about mental health with other men. “I’ve had a number of guys that actually haven’t expressed themselves at all publicly and they’ve come up to me and asked me how [they] can get help,” he revealed.

The pressures for men to uphold unrealistic standards of masculinity is one of the leading contributors to our depression and anxiety, according to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. To begin addressing issues of toxic masculinity is to begin having honest conversations about our collective mental health.

“Being vulnerable is very important. I think that’s another word that has a negative connotation to it, especially when it comes to masculinity and [manliness] you feel like you can’t be vulnerable, especially in a number of situations, including playing professional sports,” Love said.

Love had always taken cues from his father, Stan Love, who was a former NBA player for the Los Angeles Lakers back in the 1970s. “I was always taught to suppress it; I had my playbook when I was young where you never show your emotions,” he recalled. “I think coming from his background and coming from an age where you just didn’t talk about it — he didn’t necessarily have the tools in order to teach me what I was going through or be able to express myself,” Love said.

Within days of Love’s panic attack during the 2017 game, he started going to therapy. “I think it’s very important to get it off your chest, and it’s also very liberating when you do that. I truly feel that nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.”

One of Love’s takeaways is, no matter how successful someone appears to be, it can affect someone even at the peak of success. The news of the apparent suicides of chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade really hit home for Love.

“What I’ve learned is no one’s immune to depression. Nobody’s immune to anxiety,” he said.