Channing Frye opens up about dealing with depression
Channing Frye has a smile that can light up any room. His sense of humor has become a beloved staple of the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room, it’s true. However, on the inside, the former Arizona Wildcat standout has been dealing with a bout of depression.
As most hoops fans know, Frye, now 34 years of age, lost both of his parents within months of each other towards the end of 2016. Frye’s mother, Karen, succumbed to a bout with cancer. His father, Thomas, suffered a dilated cardiomyopathy, which caused his death on Thanksgiving.
Frye recently sat down with Complex magazine to discuss portions of his personal struggles. Amid the wide-ranging discussion, the former No. 8 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft (New York Knicks) opened up about coping with the loss of his family, his vulnerability, and how he is trying to move on.
Q: Why did you first decide to open up about your struggles with depression?
A: The biggest thing for me was just being able to be comfortable with the situation as much as possible, telling my story and normalizing it which is kind of hard because nobody thinks about these things until they happen. For me, it felt good to talk through my emotions: to talk through how I felt and how it affected me and how I can be vulnerable. In my situation (playing in the NBA), a lot of guys are happy all the time. We live great lives. We do what we love to do. We’re paid nice. But life also happens. I just wanted to show who I really was: that I am vulnerable, I am upset, I am sad. I do cry and I do miss them.
Q: When did it get to the point where you needed to take a step back from what you were doing?
A: I’m pretty good at hiding things but I didn’t know until the season was over how emotionally exhausted and how broken I really was. I’ve spent a lot of time over the summer talking to professionals and being able to adjust and to be able to let go of some of the things that I felt. As professional athletes, we’re suppose to tuck emotion down away and you get used to that because in a game, you may not like a play, but you have to let that go and continue moving on. Real life is different. What worked for me was just having a time and a place to be emotional and to open up about how I felt and to acknowledge that I’m not okay. Some serious crap went down and I need to be around a good positive situation for me to continue to be successful and to be okay with not being okay.
Q: Do you find NBA fans to be sympathetic to your situation?
A: Yes and no. I just think they don’t understand. The way that athletes have been viewed for so long, it’s like, ‘listen, no matter what’s going on in your life, you come out here, you do your job, and then you go back home.’
It’s hard when you can’t get out of bed, or when you can’t enjoy the little things, when you know you should; when you’re around people that you love but you don’t feel the love, when you’re doing things that you like, that you should be proud of yourself for, but you know you’re not; when it’s just like a funk. Your body aches, your mind aches, and for me, that’s how it was. It was like, no matter how much I stretched or warmed up, I still was stiff, I still felt broken. I can attest for people when they start to feel like that, even if you may think you’re okay, go see somebody; talk to somebody. You may learn something about yourself that you didn’t know and you can avoid that situation from getting deeper. Luckily my friends got me from doing this, but moving into substances to mask it or to hide it or to not feel it. I think sometimes you have to feel all that grunge, that pain, that hurt, and that way you can acknowledge it and that way you can address it and let it go.
Q: Did you have a place to go to or activity that helped you through your situation?
A: For some people it might be on the treadmill, or listening to a certain song. For me, it was my 35 minute drive to practice everyday. That was my time to have conversations just me in the car and my music. There are certain songs that I listen to that mean a lot to me. They put me into that vulnerability mode because they were the songs that I was listening to during my moments there at the funerals.
After my mother’s funeral, I had to take a train to Washington D.C. The train attendant came by to give me a soda and saw me losing it. I was like ‘sorry, I just came from my mom’s funeral, would you mind giving me a second?’ She was the nicest lady in the world. I think that hour and a half train ride I literally was sobbing the whole time, I had to be strong for my brother and for my family and stuff like that, but that was my time to really like just be like ‘this sucks.’
When I feel like I need to address those feelings, I turn this music on and I go to that place. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability is tough, especially being a man. I had a heart issue, and a lot of it was caused by stress and anxiety. I know that my father had really high anxiety too.
Q: How were your teammates during this period?
A: Those guys really understand me. Richard (Jefferson), LeBron (James), Kevin (Love), James Jones, Tristan Thompson, J.R. (Smith), they understand who I am on a daily basis, they know when I’m just not me that day, and they know how to get me back to being me, to remember that this is fun.
This year is a different role for me, our team is really deep. I’ve had to take a step back, just because different role, different team, different personnel, but I’m still challenging myself to become better and be ready. For me personally, this year is gonna be one of my best years as I challenge myself individually. Can I be consistent? Can I keep my positivity up? Can I be that locker room guy that I know I can be? Can I do all of these things? Or am I going to go by the wayside because things don’t go my way? That is what is going to make me a better person in the long run, and I think that’s what’s going to help our team.
As a result of Tristan Thompson’s recent calf injury, Frye, who had been relegated to an ultra-reserve role due to all of the new faces on the Cavs’ roster, is expected to see more playing time. Maybe the added usage will help his overall well-being.
Frye and the Cavs, who have now lost four straight games, will be back in action on Friday night at the nation’s capital for what will be the first of four regular season meetings with the Washington Wizards. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with ESPN and Fox Sports Ohio having live broadcast coverage.
If you or someone you know is in need of intervention, don’t stand on the sidelines. There are many ways to reach out for help.
– Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
– Text LA to 741741 to talk with a trained Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7
– Teens can talk with a teen listener at 310-855-4673 or Text TEEN to 839863