In an essay published Tuesday for The Players' Tribune, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said he had a panic attack during a Nov. 5 game against the Atlanta Hawks and opened up about how the experience has changed his view on mental health.
Love wrote: "For 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else's problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different. Then came the panic attack."
The veteran detailed what happened Nov. 5:
"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 re-enter the game—like, literally couldn't do it physically."
Love made his way back to the locker room as he experienced the attack:
"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."
Accompanied by a member of the Cavaliers staff, Love was checked out at the Cleveland Clinic, where test results showed no physical injuries. The team later helped Love set up an appointment with a therapist.
Love later thanked those who reached out to show support:
Love said that it was difficult for him to open up about his situation as he was taught to keep his feelings private and work through them alone. But he now realizes that talking about his emotions is not a sign of weakness.
"We're all carrying around things that hurt—and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside. Not talking about our inner lives robs us of really getting to know ourselves and robs us of the chance to reach out to others in need...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.
"Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me."