We all see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the big masculine guy who is as tough as nails as well as this hulking wrestler, taking down his opponents in the ring. However, what most of us didn’t know is that he secretly fights a totally different battle.
The 43-year-old wrestler-turned-Hollywood-heavyweight shared his own mental health history in an episode of Oprah’s Master Class. Johnson revealed that he had to deal with depression decades ago, after experiencing major career setbacks as a sports personality.
One fallback he had to face was when he was passed over by the National Football League and had to give his shot at playing in the Canadian Football League. At that time, he was living with his parents in their small flat. It was these events that caused Johnson’s mental health to be unstable.
Johnson said, “I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not going to be the last to go through it. And oftentimes—it happens—you feel like you’re alone. And you feel like it’s only you. And you’re in your bubble. And I wish I’d had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK.. . . It’ll be OK.'”
It is somehow expected that people would be skeptical about Johnson’s confession, especially that we’re talking about a guy who looks strong, inside and out, and seems to be living a happy life. But the thing is, depression is not how people usually see it.
People are only seeing things on the outside, and they’re unable to fully grasp the fact that anyone can be depressed. It’s a disease that chooses anyone, whether you’re physically healthy, religious or seemingly happy in life.
People think depressed people always look depressed, like they’re usually sulking, being negative about everything, and are being followed by dark clouds looming above their heads. But it’s not always the case.
Psychologist Rita Labeaune wrote in Psychology Today about a type of depression that often causes misconceptions about the condition—smiling depression, the kind of depression that other people don’t really notice.
Labeaune wrote, “Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. Some might not even realize that they are depressed, especially if they seem like they’re managing their day-to-day life. It doesn’t seem possible that someone can be smiling, chipper, functioning, and at the same time, depressed.”
In other words, even if someone has a very pleasant vibe or appearance, that doesn’t mean that they’re not depressed. Beneath the mask of happiness this person wears, there could be monsters lurking deep within them. Like what they always say, don’t judge a book by its cover.
Good thing for Johnson, things in his life took a good turn. He got another opportunity to return to the Canadian Football League, although he passed it up. He said, “My gut tells me I’m done.”
At the time, he was ready to embark on a completely new journey. This is when he started building a career in wrestling. He decided to pursue it, and ultimately, his mental health improved.
Johnson’s father wasn’t very supportive at first. His dad even told him that leaving his football career behind meant “throwing it all away.” Johnson recalled, “I said, ‘Maybe I’ll be no good. But I feel like, in my heart, I have to do this.'” Eventually, his father learned to accept his son’s career change and sincerely supported him.
Opening up about his dark past as he dealt with depression was hard for Johnson, evident in how he got emotional in the video released by Oprah’s Master Class. For an actor who has a built an image of being strong and macho, it was great to see “The Rock” show his softer side and bring awareness to this crippling disease.