Royce White Opens Up About His Mental Health Disorders That Are Preventing Him From Playing in the NBA

February 5, 2013 – 10:00 am by Chris Fedor

It’s been a dream of Royce White’s to play in the NBA since he was a young kid. There’s no question he has the on-the-court skills to make that dream a reality. He showed them to the entire sports world last year while he was at Iowa State and it led him to getting drafted in the first round by the Houston Rockets. White hasn’t played in an NBA game though.

Standing in his way are off-the-court mental disorders, including an anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD and even a fear of heights. It’s admirable that White is willing to fight for his cause and willing to put his dream on hold because of what it could mean to his health but unfortunately right now it’s also hard to see any scenario where Royce White plays in the NBA if he can’t fly from city to city because of his fear of planes.

Royce White joined 790 the Ticket in Miami with the Dan LeBatard Show to talk about whether he can explain his mental health disorders that he deals with, how open he is willing to be when speaking about the traumatic things that have happened in his past, what happened in his childhood to cause these things, what it would take for him to play in the NBA and what he said to teams leading up to the NBA Draft.

Whether he can explain his mental disorders:

“It’s tough. A lot of mental health conditions overlap on one another and they look similar but they can have totally different symptoms or they can have the exact same symptoms. Like I’ve been saying lately, it’s a very grey area and in order for us to start understanding mental health and start to try to support it, we have to be okay with it being grey until it’s not grey anymore and our science isn’t advanced enough for it not to be grey but I deal with anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder is what it’s called and also OCD, which is the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and PTSD just from symptomatic experiences that I’ve had in my youth. From those disorders I’ve kind of created hyper vigilance which is the constant scanning for threats externally and internally and they all play a factor and you have to be conscious with all of them. I also have a phobia of heights. Now my fear of planes more comes from my PTSD from an experience with a plane more so than actually being scared of a plane.”

How open are you when you speak about the traumatic things that have happened in your past:

“I try to be really open with it. One of the things that I found and that I will recommend to all the anxiety troopers out there is that for me the best treatment so far is being honest with myself and taking a very reflective approach to my own path and trying to figure out how those situations really made me feel. It’s kind of like a self therapy and I guess I have one up on most people because I advocate so much that I know how to do that, I’ve learned how to do that but it’s been the best way for me. I’m very honest about it so shoot away.”

What happened in his childhood to cause these things:
“For the plane thing, my first anxiety attack or panic attack came from a marijuana incident, the last time I ever smoked marijuana fortunately, and the next two months I had panic attacks two or three times per day. It just so happened that was right around the time I started to travel alone to do my basketball. Anybody that knows about high school basketball, the Nike circuit, the Elite camps we go to, they’re all back-to-back-to-back. I was having panic attacks on the way to airports, the plane sometimes, other airports, in my layover cities, the cities I was going to play in and it was just a very scary and uncertain time for me and I think that’s left a real scar on me as far as traveling in general. Besides the fact that I already have a phobia of heights in itself. (Host: Are you talking about anything else outside of planes?) Going back, you’d be surprised when you start to look back. Here’s the thing about PTSD, your brain interprets what is a traumatic experience, nobody can decide that for you. Society can’t say ‘oh that’s not that traumatic’ because it’s how you took it. For me I was in a tornado on a bridge one time and I was around eight-years-old and today I can still feel that every time it starts to storm really bad, subconsciously, it gives off physical symptoms that start to manifest and I’ve had other things, I saw my mom in a very abusive relationship, I’ve had friends that were shot and killed and there’s a number of things I have gone through that are very traumatic for me. I saw a friend almost die once at basketball practice in the fourth grade. One of my best friends, he had to have open heart surgery and it was a very scary experience so there’s a lot of things.”

How he responds to the criticisms that sometimes get sent his way:

“I like to respond with positivity back to those who sometimes have trouble finding understanding because if I can’t be understanding to them then I can’t expect them to be understanding to me. I don’t believe in meeting negativity with more negativity so usually I just try to send some positive energy back their way. If I can’t send something to them directly like through Twitter or in person then I will just try to think a positive thought about whoever said that negative thing to me and just add some positivity to it because the reality is we don’t know as much as we think we know about anything and mental health is one of those things that is really, really dynamic and it’s not really on the front burner in society and so the opinions are not really that valid and I don’t take them that personal.”

What it would take for him to play in the NBA:

“We are already there. We came to an agreement where we basically said we’re going to hit the reset button and start over and the premise of that reset is going to be, we’re going to acknowledge that anxiety disorder does exist, we’re going to acknowledge that it is a disability, we’re going to acknowledge that under ADA law that it does require reasonable accommodation, it requires care and understanding because it’s a very new topic for the NBA, professional sports and really everybody. That’s what we did here and I was comfortable with that and hopefully going forward we will get an official protocol in place that gets into some real detail of how the school system’s and colleges and how other people in the medical world have been successful with treating mental health.”

What he said to teams prior to the NBA Draft:

“Here’s what I said, I said ‘right now my anxiety is not a big issue, it’s not debilitating but I can’t say what a full NBA season would do because I haven’t played one, I can’t say what the next three months will bring because mental health is that dynamic.’ That’s what I mean about the grey area is that we have to become okay with that or else we’re doing the topic a disservice to try to think we can polarize it so much. That’s what we did. We said ‘hey listen, I don’t necessarily know what will happen but here’s what I hope will happen.”

Listen to Royce White on 790 the Ticket in Miami here (Audio begins 1:25:00 into the podcast)

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