On Peace of Mind with Taraji, Golden Globe Award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson and her co-host and best friend, Tracie Jade, address the importance of mental health awareness and use their platform to help eliminate the stigmas surrounding it. And on a recent episode of the popular Facebook Watch series, they were joined by Karl-Anthony Towns, who discussed how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has impacted his life in ways that most of us could never imagine.
As we previously reported at The Root, the 25-year-old briefly touched on this topic during NBA Media Day. But on Peace of Mind, he revealed that he not only lost another relative recently to the virus, but that he suffers from guilt after surviving his own bout with COVID-19 earlier this year.
“Eight,” he said. “I just lost a close one last week to COVID. Another one.”
One of the first was his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, who was placed in a medically-induced coma before eventually succumbing to the virus last March.
“It was difficult because, as her son and someone who loves her so dearly, I just didn’t want to see her in pain. So I was trying to do everything possible to make her comfortable and get her better quicker. So I was doing everything in my power and she was getting worse,” he said. “COVID causes a lot of swelling. And the swelling is what got my mom. And she got a blood clot on the day she was gonna get taken off the ventilator. She had pre-existing conditions too, but nothing to be worried about. So I flew in, I put the hazmat suit on and everything and I went in there. ‘Cause I was like, if anyone’s gonna go see her out, I’ma see her out. I spent some hours with her and I knew it was gonna be the last time, so I was kind of working that out.”
He continued, “When I went through my COVID thing, and even as bad as it got, and it got pretty close to having the same amount of COVID like my mom had. I did, but I felt really bad because I was like, ‘I wish that other families, who weren’t making max money in the NBA, could get the same treatment, and share more memories with each other.’ I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt. So I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt ‘cause I was just like, ‘I wish they had the resources I had.’”
While the two-time NBA All-Star was lucky to survive his own encounter with COVID-19, it definitely took a toll on him. He lost 50 pounds and the psychological toll was just as taxing.
“I think before COVID, for me as a Black male, I think the biggest stress I was going through was as being a leader of my team and being someone as the captain of our team. I take the health and mental health of my brothers who I call, or teammates, my family. I take it very serious as if it was mine,” Towns said. “And for me to be in Minnesota with Philando Castille, George Floyd—it’s hard for me to step in the locker room with so many men of color and try to tell them that their wives of color, their kids of color would be safe here when I don’t even feel safe. After, obviously with COVID, family stuff, and everything, it was a whole different approach. I really learned that you can’t be so worried about being perfect. You just gotta be the best version of yourself. You know, time runs out.”
Towns also admits that while he’s a big advocate of therapy, he has yet to make time for himself to properly process everything he’s endured by going.
“I have not gotten therapy. I’m a big advocate for it,” he said. “I just didn’t have time to drop everything off my shoulders. [...] I couldn’t let emotion and fear get over me and stuff like that. [...] I didn’t want to go to therapy and not be ready to talk. ‘Cause then I’m just sitting there. I could bullshit my way through anything. I could give you a sense of feeling, but no feelings. If I go in there, I gotta be ready to talk.”
Hopefully, Towns is able to prioritize going to therapy in the immediate future, but in the interval, I commend him on being so transparent about the challenges he’s faced throughout the course of the past two years and using his platform to increase awareness around mental health.