Lane Johnson opened up on his experience with anxiety and depression in an interview broadcast by FOX Sunday, saying, “I was living in hell for a long time.”
Johnson, the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle, missed three games earlier this year with an unexplained personal issue, and when he returned he revealed on social media that he had been battling anxiety and depression for years and needed time to finally get help.
In an interview with Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, Johnson discussed the extent of his mental health battle.
“It’s a beast, man,” Johnson said. “It’s one of those things, it goes to bed with you, man. It wakes up with you, it’s there all the time. So (if you can’t) get a sense of how to control this, how to manage it, it will eat you up.”
Johnson said his struggles go back to his days playing college football at Oklahoma.
“I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in college,” he said,. “It kept building and building and building. It finally came to the point where I said I’m not going to take it no more.”
Johnson played in the Eagles’ first three games before leaving the club just before the Week 4 game against the Chiefs at the Linc. He missed that game as well as the Panthers and Buccaneers games. He returned to play against the Raiders last week, and he’s expected to play Sunday against the Lions.
“The first game (this year) against Atlanta, I told my mom, I said, ‘Something’s really wrong with me. I don’t know exactly what it is. I’m miserable. I know my mind isn’t right, I know my body isn’t right,’” he said. “So I left, I went back home, I didn’t have any communication with the Eagles.
“Trying to describe that to people who have no clue what it’s like, it’s very difficult. You lose touch of your sense of self. You lose touch of what’s really going on around you. And what we really tend to do is lock up, not say anything, I felt bad for my team, but there were signs that this wasn’t something that was new, spur of the moment, this was going on for months.”
Glazer asked Johnson to describe his spells of anxiety and depression:
“It feels like doom,” he said. “I just want to run away and not come back kind of thing. A lot of nausea, I lot of throwing up every day. … It got so bad, it was really starting to throw up blood, nerves, have tremors in my hands. This was something I dealt with for a long time. There’s medications that help with this, but you can’t mask everything.”
Johnson is in his ninth NFL season, and he explained why he waited so long to seek help.
“I was ashamed, to be honest,” he said, “In this league, the NFL, where it’s gladiator type sport, it’s something that’s not often talked about but is often felt throughout the league. We need to talk about it, but I was living in hell for a long time. I thought achievements, how I’ve done on the field, would make me feel better, but it only amplified the situation. Yeah, I’m glad I’m sitting here talking about it, finally being open about it.
“People fear judgment. I’m scared of judgment. You look at guys when they get done after a game, what do they do? First thing they do is go on Twitter, search for their name. And that’s me, but that’s the world that you need to escape and you need to get out of there and start having a purpose and a why and I guess I didn’t know my why for a while. It took a little time to really focus on myself and get the hope I needed and get into a good mindset again.”
Johnson urged anybody fighting with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues to get help and not put it off like he did.
“Find your closest friend, family member, tell a loved one,” he said. “There’s always help around the corner. It’s not far. It’s never out of reach. And whenever you do this, you realize that you have a lot more in common with everybody else around you than you think.”
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