Derrick Rose needs to come back. Now. Not for us. Not for the playoffs. Not for his family. Not for the city. Not for the cheering fans. Not for us.
Derrick needs to come back for his own peace of mind. Because that sudden traumatic knee injury last year took a piece of his mind.
So now he has to deal with this extraordinary anxiety. Or subtle fear that he will disappoint his family. Or a fear of disappointing the city. Or a fear of disappointing his cheering fans. Or us.
Or some real fears about which I can only guess: of re-injuring the knee, of being purposely fouled by someone like Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks, or some other physical injury which can occur at any point in any athlete's career.
I worked with a teenage girl, whom I’ll call Tiffany. This 10th grader witnessed a traffic accident while walking to school one morning. She watched the paramedics save lives and load bodies into ambulances.
Tiffany stopped going to school and was referred for trauma therapy to me by her school social worker. She was unable to sleep and had nightmares of reliving the entire scene, along with having auditory hallucinations of the sirens each night through her bedroom walls.
Tiffany’s acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder responses, were normal for the situation, including 1) phobias, or fears, that she would die and 2) social anxiety of not wanting to be around her friends, or go to school.
One part of the therapy involved systematic de-sensitization. This meant that her mother would walk to school in the morning with Tiffany, one block at a time, adding a block each day.
As we talked in each session, Tiffany was able to walk more and more blocks each day, along with reducing her fears of dying in an accident herself, and hearing sirens at night. Tiffany returned to school part-time within ten weeks.
Her friends, the school, and teachers were all supportive. Her parents were delighted. She finished out the school year going ½ day, while completing her remaining courses in a home school program.
So it all came down to Tiffany, her family, and my psychological help. Her phobias, or fears which she associated with school, were clearly understandable. That’s trauma: memory and association in the brain. She froze, and then fled the scene. But ultimately, she fought back and won. She exemplified all three "flight-fight-freeze" responses.
So when we are told that all the doctors have cleared Derrick to play, I hear nothing of a psychological clearance. I hear nothing of someone talking to Derrick about how his traumatic experience can become a barrier to how one’s mind can play tricks on you, or gain traction in one's "cognitive" or thought distortions.
It can trick you to believe you have to be 110% better than you once were. You have to be more than perfect. You can’t disappoint anyone, ever, anywhere. That’s inhuman.
And as Derrick told Chuck Garfien, “I think I can do everything, I just need to have the confidence to do it….you know, just me feeling normal. That’s why I say 'normal,'… i’m just trying to be normal…..it’s just trying to have the confidence …..mentally …I just have to get over that hump.”
Derrick, you’re human. And if that means playing 5 minutes the first game, and 10 minutes the next, and 15 minutes tops, so be it. And if that means you won’t dunk for the rest of the season, we won’t care.
This South Side Sports Chick just wants you to systematically sensitize yourself to the basketball court, to the competition, to passing the ball, to guarding an opponent, to running the floor, or hitting a jumper. This season.
What “normal” is to you, is something I won’t guess. But if it’s 110%, I wonder who defined that for you. Hopefully, not your family. Not the city of Chicago. Not your screaming fans. And not us.
Your confidence can come back. I know it. The city knows it. Your screaming fans know it. HIzzoner knows it. And even President Obama knows it. I’d say you’re in good company.
It’s just time for your mind to know it. Just grab some bench in my office. Let’s talk.