Too often, people make assumptions about the types of people affected by mental illness. A recent example is the shock many expressed when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson admitted to having struggled with depression. Sure, he may be physically strong and he may be cast in “tough guy” roles but he’s a human being just like anyone else. Depression does not discriminate – it affects people from all walks of life – and the honesty of people like Johnson help us realize how many people around us may be suffering in silence.
During an appearance on OWN network’s “Oprah’s Master Class” he explained: “I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could 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 … I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. It’ll be OK.’ Hold on to that fundamental quality of faith. Have faith that on the other side of your pain is something good.”
In his youth, Johnson played for the University of Miami but, after he graduated, he was overlooked by the NFL. After being added to the practice roster of Canadian Football League team, the Calgary Stampeders, he suffered even more disappointment when they let him go. At 23 years old, instead of having the successful athletic career he’d dreamed of, he was living with his parents in a tiny apartment. “You just feel like you’re alone,” he said. “You feel like it’s only you. You’re in your bubble.”
After his failed football career, the burly, animated, Johnson was a natural fit for professional wrestling. He quickly became a household name when his alter ego, “The Rock,” became a popular character in the WWE (spawning the catchphrase “Can You Smell What the Rock is Cooking?”). “It wound up being one of the greatest chapters in my life,” he said. He may not have realized it, at the time, but this was all preparing him for an even bigger presence in the spotlight.
By now, most of us have seen, at least, one movie featuring Dwayne Johnson. Whether you’re a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise or have seen the family flick, The Tooth Fairy, you’ve probably been entertained by his big personality. Today, he is in a position to encourage and inspire others to pursue their dreams and never give up. It must feel like a far cry from his days of bitter disappointment and poverty.
The message is clear – many of us have suffered from depression but, if we remember that something better is waiting on the other side of the dark clouds, we can make it through the tough times, one day at a time.