Recently DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors acknowledged publicly that he has struggled with depression. Following that, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers came forward about his experience with anxiety and panic attacks.
I am very grateful to these men, and I am excited for the day when this is not a big deal.
And I hope no one is surprised that these NBA players are human and are having a human experience.
As a wellbeing coach, the notion that many of us are reluctant to admit that we are human, and that being human can be messy, is not news to me. Whenever I am working with a client and they cry in front of me for the first time, their response is almost always the same: “I’m sorry.”
For years I struggled to acknowledge to myself, much less to anyone else, that I was anxious. I was embarrassed because I was convinced that it was definitive evidence that I was fundamentally flawed. AND, no one else was talking about it.
I didn’t find out until I was in my forties that one of my closest high school friends had also struggled with anxiety. We spend a lot of time together and thought we knew each other, but this was not something we ever discussed.
One of the best days of my life is when I found some genuine acceptance for my anxiety. Anxiety does not define my life, but it is certainly part of it.
What is so fascinating about all of this is that it is a simple reality that all human beings feel stuff. And some of the stuff we feel is really uncomfortable. Fear, sadness, stress, anxiety, depression, worry, anger, doubt – these are all parts of the human experience.
There is a lot of reason to believe that when human beings can acknowledge that they are human, good things happen. Ironically, simply acknowledging that we are feeling stuff or struggling with stuff is often the beginning of a path to working with it productively.
I am not suggesting that we should spend every minute of the day talking about what we are feeling. Nor am I suggesting that when we feel tough stuff, we should drop everything else and be consumed by our emotions.
I am suggesting that that there is a vast middle ground between denying what we are feeling and obsessing about what we are feeling. In this middle ground, there is plenty of space to practice awareness, acceptance, and self-compassion for our humanity. There is plenty of space to develop healthy coping skills. We can reduce the struggle and drama in our lives.
Further, when we are aware, accepting, and compassionate for our own humanity, we are more able to support others. We can be present without blaming, complaining, or constantly trying to fix others.
Life is a miracle and life is challenging – in the face of this, acceptance, kindness, and courage seem to make a lot of sense. Many long lasting wisdom traditions point directly to the value of compassion for oneself and compassion for others – so does a large body of scientific research.
So, thank you Kevin – for moving us one step closer to our humanity.