Taking Control of Your Child’s IEP

Taking Control of Your Child’s IEP

Many parents do not know what to expect at an IEP meeting. In fact many parents don’t know the difference between a 504 plan and an IEP. As a result many parents settle for a 504 when they need an IEP.

I have included a link to an article that will help you take control of your child’s IEP. If you take the lead your child will get what they need to achieve at school. If your child is having difficulties at school and may need an IEP not a 504 schools push. Read this article so you are the leader of your child’s IEP meeting & you get your child what they need to make the most of their education https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/coach-your-iep-team-valerie-aprahamian/

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A Common Horror Story Families Endure for An IEP

A Common Horror Story Families Endure for An IEP

This is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Parents believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of drop out and struggling the rest of their life.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be homelessness in our youth, when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about because it’s not their child who is at risk, it’s ours!”

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org.

Why Do We Seem to Value Guns over Teenagers

Why Do We Seem to Value Guns over Teenagers

In light of the school shooting in Denver today and the other school shooting in North Carolina, I decided to publish this article. These shootings are happening all the time at least it seems like it. The shootings yesterday and today received very little press coverage because we are becoming use to them. School shootings are no longer major news. However, if we mention altering gun laws, like New Zealand did, it is a major story. The NRA starts screaming we are losing our Constitutional rights, if we implement sane guns. Never mind about how many children have been killed in school shootings since 2000, just don’t change laws regarding assault weapons.

I am fortunate enough to work with Dr. Joseph Marshal, the founder of Alive & Free. I am one of the founding members of the National Advisory Board for Alive and Free. His program has saved many troubled teens all over the world. I have been at his Tuesday night meetings and have seen teens endure two hour car rides each way to attend the Tuesday meeting.

His program teaches teens that their lives are valuable and that they can do anything if they stay alive and out of jail.

He sent me a draft of an article he wrote about guns and teens and I think it is very good. It addresses the issue that violence doesn’t just happen in East Oakland or Richmond it also occurs in Walnut Creek and Danville too. As we have seen, it occurs all over the United States.

I asked him if I good post it on Patch. There are many people who believe we don’t have those issues here. Yes we do and I treat teens who tell me we do. Dr. Marshal said yes so here is his article about guns.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVERYBODY HAS A GUN?

Written by Dr. Joseph E. Marshall Jr.

Guns are in the news again. The recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon thrust the issue of guns squarely back in the public eye. Guns are once again front and center–as they were after the Newtown school shooting three years ago and both gun control and gun rights advocates are once again pressing their cases.

However, this isn’t a piece about gun control or the 2nd Amendment or the right to own a gun. It’s not about legal guns or illegal guns or good guns or bad guns. And it’s not about politics or studies or research. This piece is about the kids I deal with and some of the things that I’ve encountered with them when it comes to guns.

Many of the young people I have dealt with over the years firmly believe in carrying a gun. It’s actually a commandment that they live by–”Thou shalt carry a gun for protection” is the way they put it. It’s dangerous in the neighborhoods they live in they say and they don’t want to be caught ‘slippin.’ They’d rather be caught with it than without it because you never know what’s on the other man’s mind. And they’ve been told that if you pull a gun, you’d better use it. Young people also say that there are way too many guns on the street and in their community–but their answer to the “way too many” is to add another gun to the mix, because quite frankly they’re scared.

Now what strikes me is that everyone else seems to pretty much believe the same thing. They all say they need a gun (or sometimes lot of guns) to protect themselves. They all live by that same commandment–”Thou shalt carry a gun for protection.” The athletes and entertainers say they need one because they’re famous and they’re a target; the homeowners say they need one because their homes might get broken into; school staff and teachers say they need to carry guns on school grounds because they have the right to protect themselves; students themselves carry guns to school because they’re having a problem with somebody at the school site.

Suburban communities see disturbances in Ferguson and Baltimore and they arm themselves to protect against…well actually I’m not sure who. And then there are those citizens who are concerned that the government will take away their rights or impose some kind of martial law–and they’ve got to protect themselves–and they store caches of weapons to do so. Quite frankly, it looks like everybody else is scared too!

THEY’RE ALL SCARED!

So what do you do when everybody’s scared and everybody’s got a gun? Good question. And what do I say to the kids who are smart enough to look at everybody else and see that everybody else’s justification–to protect themselves–is pretty much the same as theirs?

We have a lot of great talks–the kids and I. They put their thoughts out there, I put out mine and we go back and forth. We have to because this is serious stuff and I’m trying to keep them Alive & Free.

One thing that really gets them to thinking though is when I talk about what it was like when I was their age–you know back in the day. They really find it hard to believe when I tell them that I did not go to one funeral of a peer when I was a teen. That I didn’t wear any T-shirts with dead homies’ names on them and that I didn’t have a scrapbook full of obituaries. There were no makeshift street vigils with teddy bears and balloons. Yes there were a lot of fights, but there weren’t a lot of deaths. Why? It’s really pretty simple. Nobody had a gun!

I remember the first time I saw a gun. I was 16 years old and I went to the playground to play basketball. My friend had a .38 and showed it to me. Absolutely freaked me out. The instrument of instant death was right there in his hand. It made me look at him in a whole different way because I knew I had a chance if we ever had a fight, but I knew I had no chance if he had that gun.

As the years went by it began to get all bad in my neighborhood and the neighborhoods around me–from nobody having a gun to everybody having one. From fights to shoot-outs. From no funerals to nothing but funerals. All because of those damn guns. All because everyone was scared and trying to protect themselves.

“It’s not like that anymore Dr. Marshall, but I sure wish it was,” the kids tell me. “I’m just glad we don’t have to worry about that here.” And they’re right. I figured out a long time ago that in bringing together and working with all kinds of kids–gang members, drug dealers, friends, enemies, turf rivals and everything in between–I really only had one thing to worry about. You could bring your attitudes, your past behaviors, your fears, your concerns, your different backgrounds, your belief in your need to protect yourself–all of that–but the one thing you couldn’t bring with you was a gun.

So I did my own form of gun control–I banned them. And if they brought them and I found out, I took them away and then I told them they could come anytime but the gun was not welcome. And then we talked about risk factors for violence–the gun being number one–and we talked about the mentality you have and the power you feel when you’ve got one. And we talked about being afraid and how to handle it when you’re feeling that way. And we watched movies like Juice and South Central and we analyzed them. And I told them that in spite of what everyone else was doing the worst possible thing they could do was have a gun. And then I gave them our number one Rule for Living–The Rule of Life: “There’s nothing more valuable than an individual’s life.”

So tell me have I been wrong all this time? Should I have let them bring their guns because they felt the need to protect themselves? And further was I wrong myself in not having a gun to protect myself and them in case someone came in here to harm me or them? I need to know because I want them to stay Alive & Free, and if I’m not doing it the right way please tell me.

What I can tell you is this. It’s been 28 years and 1456 Tuesday night meetings and 200 college graduates produced and not one gun death here. Not even a fight. Imagine that! It’s almost like the old days, huh?

Yes I know everybody’s got a gun. But not here. Stay Alive & Free.

You can learn more about Dr Rubino and Dr Marshal by going to Dr Rubino’s website http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Dr. Rubino’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental Health Issues Are Not A Punishment

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past decade.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

This is Me!

This is Me!

Our society places a lot of expectations regarding how teens should look and act. However not everyone fits into these molds.

We set standards about physical appearance for teens & create depressed kids. Listen to these lyrics. No teen should be ashamed of their body & personality. They deserve to feel proud. They deserve to be proud of the body and personality they were born with as a baby.

As adults we need to learn to accept teens for who they are not what we expect. Every teen should be able to say “this is me!” They also deserve the people in their lives to accept them. If we did maybe suicide and Cutting would not be epidemics in the teenage population. Maybe we could prevent teenage girls and boys from developing eating disorders and drug addictions.

Please listen to these words and think about how teens saying these words feel. The Greatest Showman – This Is Me (Official Lyric Video) https://youtu.be/CjxugyZCfuw via @YouTube.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating adolescents. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com

Mental Health Care in the 21st Century

Mental Health Care in the 21st Century

In our society there is a huge negative stereotype about mental illness and treatment for mental illness. You would think with all the advancements in the world and society, that our attitude towards mental health would have changed by now. However, it has not and that is why the month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness. Many people are surprised that in the United States in the 21st century, statistics show that 1 in 5 people could benefit from psychotherapy (CDC). Also suicide is the third leading cause of death for children 10 years old to 18 years old (CDC).

Most people when they think about psychotherapy or mental illness, think of someone sleeping in the street or some one with severe schizophrenia. Because of this stereotype many people feel ashamed or embarrassed if they are told they need therapy. Family members also feel ashamed and embarrassed and never mention it to other people if someone in their family needs psychotherapy. People are afraid that other people will think they are “crazy” too, if someone in their family is going to therapy. However, most people who need treatment for a mental illness need treatment for depression or anxiety not schizophrenia.

Research studies show that most depression is due to a chemical imbalance in brain. Diabetes is due to the pancreas not being able to coordinate glucose levels in the body. We don’t make a person with diabetes feel embarrassed or ashamed so why do we make someone dealing with depression feel embarrassed or ashamed?

What is the cost of this stereotype? People who have depression are at risk for suicide. The Center for Disease Control statistics show that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged10 to 24. Yes ten year old children are suffering from depression and are killing themselves. One of the most common methods is a gun. People assume this is a guarantee. Wrong, a gun is not a guarantee. Quite often the gun jumps and the person lives. However, they have to undergo multiple surgeries to try to rebuild their face. However, no matter how good the surgeon, the person is left with multiple permanent scars. Psychotherapy and medication might have prevented the suicide attempt.

However, because of our negative stereotype, depression and suicide have never been taken seriously. As a result, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most common place in the world for people to jump off when they are trying to commit suicide. It wasn’t until just recently that the Bridge District voted on what type of anti-suicide barrier they are going to build. However, even though they have voted for an anti-suicide net, they are still debating the details. The Golden Gate Bridge is 78 years old. It has taken over 78 years to do something about a life or death issue and they are still debating over minor details. BART has been around for decades and people have been jumping in front of trains for years. However, BART understands the issue and that it must be addressed despite the stigma. BART has an anti-suicide campaign showing we can address the issue of mental health without shame.

Often we assume it is a money issue. Only poor people commit suicide because they cannot afford treatment. The suicide of Robin Williams destroyed that myth. He had plenty of financial resources for treatment and had been in and out of treatment centers for years. In an interview with Dyane Swayer he described how overwhelming depression is, he said, “no matter what there is always that little voice in the back of my mind saying jump.” If that voice is always there but society is saying there is something wrong with you for having depression in the first place or because you have not over come it, are you going to ask for help or keep seeking help? No.

Yes society often blames the patient. Why don’t they try harder? Why didn’t they think of their family? After Robin Williams’ suicide a number of comedians and actors talked about their silent struggle with depression. Rosie O’Donnell stated it best, “when you are that deep down in that black hole with intense emotional pain, the only think you can think about is how to stop the pain. You don’t think about your family or anything else.”

I ask you to think about your opinion or thoughts about mental illness. Think about a 10 year old boy feeling that suicide is the only way out of his pain. Think about the fact that he is dealing with a medical diagnosis similar to diabetes or high blood pressure. If this is right, why is there this negative stigma about mental illness? If a child has diabetes he receives medical treatment, there are summer camps and there is no shame put on the child or the family. Think about the fact that the bill President Trump is pushing would make Depression and anxiety pre-existing conditions so insurance companies could deny people health care.

We need to make a change in how we view or react to mental illness. We live in the United States of America and we are supposed to be the super power in the world. You wouldn’t think that in the most powerful nation in the world that the third leading cause of death for our children is suicide. We must change this ridiculous stereotype we have about mental illness and start providing people and children with appropriate treatment for their mental illness. The life you save might be your’s child’s life or the life of a family member or friend.

We may want to look at England. The Duke and Duchesses of Cambridge and Prince Henry have formed a program called, Heads Together. The goal of the program is to eliminate the negative stereotype about mental health and to make sure people who need psychotherapy receive it. In fact, the Duchess of Cambridge said publicly that if either of her children ever need psychotherapy that they will receive it. We might want to follow their example.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist. He is very active in eliminating the stereotype about mental health. He is an active member in Heads Together in London, a non-profit founded by Prince Willam, Henry and Princess Kate to help people understand that people need mental health care. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice or his work visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

A Man Not Ashamed to Admit He Has Anxiety

A Man Not Ashamed to Admit He Has Anxiety

In our society people do not discuss mental health and it is something people feel embarrassed about. They also feel shame if they have mental health issues or if they go to a psychotherapist. However, our lives have become very complex and difficult, especially for children and teenagers. Besides coping with everyday life issues, we now face mass shootings and killings on a regular basis. Technology is advancing very quickly and the way we do things is changing very quickly too. As soon as we learn one thing, there is a new way to do the task that we need to learn. This makes our lives stressful and creates anxiety.

While we have this negative stigma about mental health, teenagers worry about it a great deal. Especially since 1 out of 5 teenagers deal with mental health issue. As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I see a large number of teens for panic attacks especially boys. I believe teenage boys are more prone to anxiety attacks because of the stereotype that boys don’t cry and they see emotions as weak. However, in our society men do cry and have emotional problems. Emotions are not a sign of weakness for men and boys. The documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” address this issue that men and boys face. I recently read an article by the basketball player, Kevin Love, which addresses this issue and explains how it impacts men and boys. I have included what he wrote so you can understand what men and boys face in our society.

On November 5th, right after halftime against the Hawks, I had a panic attack.

It came out of nowhere. I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real — as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.

 

“I DID ONE SEEMINGLY LITTLE THING THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A BIG THING.”

Kevin Love discusses his decision to seek help after suffering from a panic attack. (0:54)

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I’ve never been comfortable sharing much about myself. I turned 29 in September and for pretty much 29 years of my life I have been protective about anything and everything in my inner life. I was comfortable talking about basketball — but that came natural. It was much harder to share personal stuff, and looking back now I know I could have really benefited from having someone to talk to over the years. But I didn’t share — not to my family, not to my best friends, not in public. Today, I’ve realized I need to change that. I want to share some of my thoughts about my panic attack and what’s happened since. If you’re suffering silently like I was, then you know how it can feel like nobody really gets it. Partly, I want to do it for me, but mostly, I want to do it because people don’t talk about mental health enough. And men and boys are probably the farthest behind.

I know it from experience. Growing up, you figure out really quickly how a boy is supposed to act. You learn what it takes to “be a man.” It’s like a playbook: Be strong. Don’t talk about your feelings. Get through it on your own. So for 29 years of my life, I followed that playbook. And look, I’m probably not telling you anything new here. These values about men and toughness are so ordinary that they’re everywhere … and invisible at the same time, surrounding us like air or water. They’re a lot like depression or anxiety in that way.

So 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.

PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Then came the panic attack.

It happened during a game.

It was November 5th, two months and three days after I turned 29. We were at home against the Hawks — 10th game of the season. A perfect storm of things was about to collide. I was stressed about issues I’d been having with my family. I wasn’t sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 4–5 start, were weighing on me.

I knew something was wrong almost right after tip-off.

I was winded within the first few possessions. That was strange. And my game was just off. I played 15 minutes of the first half and made one basket and two free throws.

After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. 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 reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.

Coach Lue came up to me. I think he could sense something was wrong. I blurted something like, “I’ll be right back,” and I ran back to the locker room. 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.

The next part was a blur. Someone from the Cavs accompanied me to the Cleveland Clinic. They ran a bunch of tests. Everything seemed to check out, which was a relief. But I remember leaving the hospital thinking, Wait … then what the hell just happened?

PHOTO BY JED JACOBSOHN/THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE

I was back for our next game against the Bucks two days later. We won, and I had 32. I remember how relieved I was to be back on the court and feeling more like myself. But I distinctly remember being more relieved than anything that nobody had found out why I had left the game against Atlanta. A few people in the organization knew, sure, but most people didn’t and no one had written about it.

A few more days passed. Things were going great on the court, but something was weighing on me.

Why was I so concerned with people finding out?

It was a wake-up call, that moment. I’d thought the hardest part was over after I had the panic attack. It was the opposite. Now I was left wondering why it happened — and why I didn’t want to talk about it.

Call it a stigma or call it fear or insecurity — you can call it a number of things — but what I was worried about wasn’t just my own inner struggles but how difficult it was to talk about them. I didn’t want people to perceive me as somehow less reliable as a teammate, and it all went back to the playbook I’d learned growing up.

This was new territory for me, and it was pretty confusing. But I was certain about one thing: I couldn’t bury what had happened and try to move forward. As much as part of me wanted to, I couldn’t allow myself to dismiss the panic attack and everything underneath it. I didn’t want to have to deal with everything sometime in the future, when it might be worse. I knew that much.

So I did one seemingly little thing that turned out to be a big thing. The Cavs helped me find a therapist, and I set up an appointment. I gotta stop right here and just say: I’m the last person who’d have thought I’d be seeing a therapist. I remember when I was two or three years into the league, a friend asked me why NBA players didn’t see therapists. I scoffed at the idea. No way any of us is gonna talk to someone. I was 20 or 21 years old, and I’d grown up around basketball. And on basketball teams? Nobody talked about what they were struggling with on the inside. I remember thinking, What are my problems? I’m healthy. I play basketball for a living. What do I have to worry about? I’d never heard of any pro athlete talking about mental health, and I didn’t want to be the only one. I didn’t want to look weak. Honestly, I just didn’t think I needed it. It’s like the playbook said — figure it out on your own, like everyone else around me always had.

PHOTO BY JEFF HAYNES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

But it’s kind of strange when you think about it. In the NBA, you have trained professionals to fine-tune your life in so many areas. Coaches, trainers and nutritionists have had a presence in my life for years. But none of those people could help me in the way I needed when I was lying on the floor struggling to breathe.

Still, I went to my first appointment with the therapist with some skepticism. I had one foot out the door. But he surprised me. For one thing, basketball wasn’t the main focus. He had a sense that the NBA wasn’t the main reason I was there that day, which turned out to be refreshing. Instead, we talked about a range of non-basketball things, and I realized how many issues come from places that you may not realize until you really look into them. I think it’s easy to assume we know ourselves, but once you peel back the layers it’s amazing how much there is to still discover.

 

A message from Kevin Love’s Grandma

 

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN.”

Kevin’s grandmother records a greeting for his 25th birthday in 2013. (0:33)

Since then, we’ve met up whenever I was back in town, probably a few times each month. One of the biggest breakthroughs happened one day in December when we got to talking about my Grandma Carol. She was the pillar of our family. Growing up, she lived with us, and in a lot of ways she was like another parent to me and my brother and sister. She was the woman who had a shrine to each of her grandkids in her room — pictures, awards, letters pinned up on the wall. And she was someone with simple values that I admired. It was funny, I once gave her a random pair of new Nikes, and she was so blown away that she called me to say thank you a handful of times over the year that followed.

When I made the NBA, she was getting older, and I didn’t see her as often as I used to. During my sixth year with the T-Wolves, Grandma Carol made plans to visit me in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. Then right before the trip, she was hospitalized for an issue with her arteries. She had to cancel her trip. Then her condition got worse quickly, and she fell into a coma. A few days later, she was gone.

I was devastated for a long time. But I hadn’t really ever talked about it. Telling a stranger about my grandma made me see how much pain it was still causing me. Digging into it, I realized that what hurt most was not being able to say a proper goodbye. I’d never had a chance to really grieve, and I felt terrible that I hadn’t been in better touch with her in her last years. But I had buried those emotions since her passing and said to myself, I have to focus on basketball. I’ll deal with it later. Be a man.

The reason I’m telling you about my grandma isn’t really even about her. I still miss her a ton and I’m probably still grieving in a way, but I wanted to share that story because of how eye-opening it was to talk about it. In the short time I’ve been meeting with the therapist, I’ve seen the power of saying things out loud in a setting like that. And it’s not some magical process. It’s terrifying and awkward and hard, at least in my experience so far. I know you don’t just get rid of problems by talking about them, but I’ve learned that over time maybe you can better understand them and make them more manageable. Look, I’m not saying, Everyone go see a therapist. The biggest lesson for me since November wasn’t about a therapist — it was about confronting the fact that I needed help.

PHOTO BY BRANDON DILL/AP IMAGES

One of the reasons I wanted to write this comes from reading DeMar’s comments last week about depression. I’ve played against DeMar for years, but I never could’ve guessed that he was struggling with anything. It really makes you think about how we are all walking around with experiences and struggles — all kinds of things — and we sometimes think we’re the only ones going through them. The reality is that we probably have a lot in common with what our friends and colleagues and neighbors are dealing with. So I’m not saying everyone should share all their deepest secrets — not everything should be public and it’s every person’s choice. But creating a better environment for talking about mental health … that’s where we need to get to.

Because just by sharing what he shared, DeMar probably helped some people — and maybe a lot more people than we know — feel like they aren’t crazy or weird to be struggling with depression. His comments helped take some power away from that stigma, and I think that’s where the hope is.

I want to make it clear that I don’t have things figured out about all of this. I’m just starting to do the hard work of getting to know myself. For 29 years, I avoided that. Now, I’m trying to be truthful with myself. I’m trying to be good to the people in my life. I’m trying to face the uncomfortable stuff in life while also enjoying, and being grateful for, the good stuff. I’m trying to embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly.

I want to end with something I’m trying to remind myself about these days: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

I want to write that again: Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.

The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life. Like DeMar said, “You never know what that person is going through.”

Mental health isn’t just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn’t have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing. No matter what our circumstances, 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. So 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.

Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience treating teenagers and children. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.