Royce White is misunderstood.
For White and the millions who suffer from GAD, though, it isn’t that simple.
Last week, miscommunication between the Rockets and their first-round pick ignited drama within the organization. White isn’t attending practices, games or therapy, and according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the franchise is fining him for every absence. But no matter who’s to blame, it’s clear a large fraction of the general public can't comprehend the daily battle that White fights.
This past Tuesday to Thursday, White ranted on Twitter about his hiatus from the Rockets and attracted many a response. While he had plenty of supporters, numerous fans will find their faces in the dictionary next to the word ''ignorant'' after their replies to White. Here’s a sample.
@highway_30 dude shut up & play ball, nothin is wrong with you— D.Heckard (@ThaHECKler_) November 14, 2012
@highway_30 are you sure you got the right diagnosis because you sound like a schizo ...— Kayla Cantu (@kay87c) November 14, 2012
@highway_30 Royce White is an idiot. I'm so sad ur making millions. Get over yourself. You'll be out of the league and nobody will miss you!— TheSharpElectricStar (@SharpElectrStar) November 14, 2012
Dr. Michael Gervais, director of High Performance Psychology at DISC Sports & Spine Center in Los Angeles, Calif., distinguished one from the other, saying in a recent interview, “Anxiety is born out of a way to protect us from the dangers in our environment. It turns into a disorder when it becomes toxic.”
Now, reading up on the mental illness can only educate to a certain point. To further understand just how much GAD affects one’s life—or in White’s case, GAD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder—watch Grantland’s documentary of the former Iowa State Cyclone’s battle with it on draft day.
As you can see, those quick to tell White, “Suck it up,” because he has the lavish life of an NBA star are clueless. His life is no cakewalk.
Sure, maybe he does deserve some blame for his rift with the Rockets. On Tuesday, Feigen reported that White went “missing” and, according to a source, his absences were unexcused—a claim the rookie denied. And some, like Houston sports radio-show host Matt Jackson, believe he’s simply bitter about being demoted to the D-League, which White also shot down.
But before condemning him, connect the dots with me for a moment.
Out of all White’s tweets, this one most accurately declares the primary point of his rant.
While #anxiety is the issue, the main piece of that isn't AIRPLANES, it's asking for support 4 my disorder thats consistent and fair.— Royce White (@Highway_30) November 14, 2012
Key word: consistent.
By pleading for consistency, White isn’t simply fulfilling the stereotype of your typical stuck-up, entitled celebrity.
He actually needs it. Change can create conflict for those with anxiety disorders.
Gervais, a sports psychologist who’s worked with NBA players in the past, explained how athletes—or anyone—typically conquers symptoms like the ones that White has. He said, “It’s traditionally based in cognitive behavioral training—which is a fancy word for saying that we change the way we think and move.”
And when we change the way we think and behave, then what we’re doing is seeing the world in a different way. And when that takes place, we’re able to eventually become more grounded in the present moment. And when we become grounded in this present moment, we’re able to reach a high performance in whatever walk of life we have.
White is in that process; one of adapting to change.
Houston prefers that White sees its team psychiatrist rather than his usual one. Now combine that with his demotion to the D-League—along with the potential that other circumstances may have not been revealed. Those aren’t necessarily damning gaffes by the Rockets, but much of White’s frustration originally stems from such change.
@houstonrockets Fining me for saying I'm more COMFORTABLE with my own Doc. vs yours is for sure showing "support" to my health. That's low!— Royce White (@Highway_30) November 15, 2012
Gervais stressed just how difficult it is to achieve clarity after significant change like White is experiencing. He said:
You have to work extremely hard…know how to guide your mind to be able to let go of your chronic worry, relentlessly training to be able to breathe well before tension and anxiety creep into the body and mind and being able to breathe well when you do experience tension. And finally, to be able to shift one’s perspective to the real threat in life as opposed to the perceived threats.
And just as the cherry on top of the anxiety sundae, it’d be foolish to forget the amplification of angst caused by the public spotlight, as Gervais so eloquently put it, “If you hold a cup of water and try to walk on a tight rope with hundreds of thousands of people observing, the tension to perform well is certainly compromised.”
Now, according to White, his anxiety isn’t his greatest issue—the Rockets are. But despite that, worries over his health are still immense enough for him to question whether he should hang up the high tops.
I'm not PLANNING to quit, but if its between my HEALTH and BASKETBALL, health takes precedence. You should never choose ANYTHING over it.— Royce White (@Highway_30) November 16, 2012
All that I’m saying is—don’t criticize White because you don't have the slightest clue what he’s fighting through. Let he who is a professional athlete with GAD, OCD and PTSD and has seamlessly adapted to change cast the first stone.
*All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.