Dwayne Johnson on depression
Actor Dwayne Johnson shares his struggle with depression and explains why he believes sufferers should be better supported
HE WAS 15 years old when he witnessed something that would haunt him for the rest of his life. His mother, desperate and penniless, parked her car at the side of a highway and walked straight into oncoming traffic.
Her son sprang into action. Tall, muscular and strong for his age, he leapt out of the car and yanked her out of the way of vehicles barrelling towards her.
Three decades have passed since the life-changing incident, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his family will never have to worry about money again. He’s one of the highest paid movie stars in the world, earning around $22 million (R265 million) a film, and his action mega-movies routinely top box-office charts.
Yet that day when his mom, Ata (now 69), nearly took her life led to feelings of depression that still plague him today.
The 45-year-old star recently delved into his personal battle, encouraging other men not to keep silent about their inner demons.
“Depression never discriminates,” he told his 12,5 million Twitter followers. “It took me a long time to realise it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes who have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
Dwayne, who’s promoting his latest blockbuster, Rampage, also told British newspaper the Sunday Express he reached a point where he didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere after watching his mother’s near suicide. “I was crying constantly.” Another trigger for his public confession was a recent episode of his TV show Ballers in which his character, Spencer Strasmore, visits the grave of his brother who committed suicide.
“Got me thinking about how many of us have been affected by suicide of friends or family,” he wrote, this time on Instagram. “Struggle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level or another.
“My mom tried to check out when I was 15. She got out of the car and walked into oncoming traffic. Big rigs and cars swerving out of the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road.
“To this day she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t.”
DWAYNE’S social media posts are usually a mix of pics of him working out, which he does daily and with great intensity, goofing around or promoting his many movie projects. So it was a surprise when he ventured into something a lot deeper.
“We [have to] do our best to really pay attention when people are in pain,” he wrote. “Help them through it, get them talking about the struggle and remind them they’re not alone.”
His intimate post quickly notched up 1,5 million likes, with fans and fellow actors thanking him for sharing his story.
Although this was the first time Dwayne had spoken publicly about his mom’s near-suicide, he’s been open in the past about his difficult childhood.
His dad, Rocky Johnson (73), was a professional wrestler long before WWE
‘Struggle and pain are real. We’ve all been there on some level’
crafted a global cult of celebrity around the athletes.
Back then wrestlers lived like nomads, eking out a living in different parts of America for a few months before moving on.
By the time Dwayne reached high school he’d lived in 13 states and “life sucked”.
“I’d just be getting settled and then it’s the anxiety of a new school, new friends . . . ”
When he turned 12 things got really rough. His parents moved to Hawaii, where his mom’s family lived. His dad worked less and his parents argued constantly.
“Times were lean,” he told The Hollywood Reporter recently.
He watched his parents struggle to afford the basics as they were evicted from their apartment and had their car repossessed. “We come home and there’s a padlock on the door and an eviction notice. My mom starts bawling.
“She just started crying and breaking down. ‘Where are we going to live? What are we going to do?’, ” the actor said.
Frustrated and angry, Dwayne started stealing and getting arrested. Then he’d get into fights and be in more trouble. With his parents fighting with each other and him being an only child, he found it difficult to talk about his feelings. “I had a hard time staying on the right track, staying in school. Had a lot of arrests doing things I shouldn’t [have been] doing,” he recalled.
IN THE end sport was his salvation. Although he’d been having wrestling lessons with his dad since age six, he focused on football, playing for is University of Miami team, the Miami Hurricanes, and later for the Calgary Stampeders in Canada. When injuries ended his football career in the mid-’90s, he turned to wrestling and was soon a WWE superstar – and not too long after that a Hollywood career came calling. He’d found fame and fortune yet depression continued to dog him and he had therapy regularly.
“I’ve had a few bouts of depression, as [it] happens to a lot of us,” he said in an interview with Esquire magazine.
“Around 2008, 2009, I was going through a lot of personal sh*t,” he said, referring to his divorce from Dany Garcia, the mother of his daughter Simone (16).
“I was just struggling, man. Struggling to figure out what kind of dad [I was] going to be. Realising I’d done a piss-poor job of cultivating relationships, and a lot of my friends had fallen by the wayside.
“I was scared. Personally, everything was in a very bad and challenging place. And then professionally, I couldn’t bet on myself. I wasn’t used to that. I’d always felt I could put in the work and fix the scenario with my own two hands.”
Therapy helped him a lot. He and Dany remain friends, co-parents and business partners – she’s the manager and cofounder of their production company, Seven Bucks.
These days Dwayne is engaged to his long-time girlfriend, singer-songwriter Lauren Hashian, with whom he has a two-year-old, Jasmine. Lauren is pregnant with their second child.
A little while ago Dwayne told talkshow host Oprah Winfrey that one of the most important things for depression sufferers to realise is they aren’t alone.
“You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not going to be the last. Have faith that on the other side is something good.” S SOURCES: THE EXPRESS ON SUNDAY, ROLLING STONE, THR.COM, VARIETY, ESQUIRE
Dwayne with fiancée Lauren Hashian and their daughter, Jasmine. The couple are expecting their second child later this year.
ABOVE LEFT: Dwayne with his parents, Ata and Rocky. ABOVE MIDDLE: With his daughter Simone. She and Ata (ABOVE RIGHT) are often at his side at his movie premieres. LEFT: Dwayne shooting a scene for Ballers that reminded him of his mom’s suicide attempt.