Anxiety requires a light source


We saw Patrick McCaffery step away from the Hawkeye basketball team to get some emotional grounding in his personal life.

We saw the same thing from Naomi Osaka several years ago in the world of women's tennis.

McCaffery came right out and said his anxiety was at the forefront of his problems. He told his fans in a social media post that he needed to step away to regain control.

Admirable, if not heroic.

I grew up in a world where you didn't talk about issues like this. You went to work. You didn't show weakness, even though your family knew it existed, and there were issues. You just didn't show it.

Not only has McCaffrey, who also battled cancer at the young age of 13, showed it to his family, he's showed it to us all.

Facing death at any age is horrible. I was six inches away from my daughter's face when she died. Talking about anxiety is part of the cure.

Steve Worster is a referee in southeast Iowa and we worked together for a year or so in the newspaper business. He expressed his condolences to me last night, two years later, and apologized for not being at Kelsey's funeral.

The words meant just as much now as they would have then. Not only has the network of people who deal with anxiety on a daily basis become more visible, but so has the acceptance and support of those people.

Iowans are the friendliest people in the world. My wife left for Texas and said she won't come back to Iowa. But I know it's not about the people, it's the rural atmosphere that she doesn't like. She's a worldly woman and is drawn toward robust things.

I didn't fit that mold, and I can accept that. But if it weren't for the people of this community and my family's acceptance of who I am in a post-Kelsey world, I'm sure I would be dead right now. I was moments away.


Patrick McCaffrey is telling people about his moments before it gets so dark he can't see out of it. It's brave... not weakness. Basketball is a game. Life is no game, I don't care what your Nikes or Adidas say, this isn't a game.

But handling it right, talking with the right people, sharing stories, and opening up about what's happening in your life is the right path. Burying it deep down creates a festering of life. It tends to snuff out the very light we need in those moments.

McCaffrey opened the window instead of drawing the  curtains - not only allowing us in to see his demons, but more importantly for him to see out.

A bold stroke. It should be a lesson to anyone who's dealt with it but say they're strong enough on their own to deal with it. Maybe.

But is it worth the price you pay in the fight? To some, yes.

Not to me.

Some people are private people and are strong. That doesn't mean they don't struggle. Hearing, and talking, ...and writing about the struggles are empowering to everyone.

The Steve Worsters of the world are around you and real. It's a medication that you don't have to swallow every night just to sleep six hours.

I personally have told several people that their texts checking in on me are the very reason I still see the sun every day. Many of their texts, even recent ones, I keep and re-read. They bring a smile to my face.

Doctors can prescribe, but a support system will subscribe - and that makes doing life doable.

Mental health is workable. You have to exercise it and unfortunately it's not always a private workout, like you can do with bands, weights and a medicine ball. This is serious work and you can't really procrastinate on it.

McCaffrey is starting a journey with a social media post that assuredly followed a family and team conversation. He put out one message. There's great healing power in that.

I should know. You should know. I do it all the time - one message at a time - But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Opinion, Column, Beside the Point, Chuck Vandenberg, anxiety, Patrick McCaffrey, emotional, health,


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here