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How a Bout of Depression Led to Dwayne Johnson’s Career-Defining Moment

Ballers star and charismatic charm machine Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently opened up on the OWN Network’s Oprah’s Master Class about his struggle with depression, and how his personal experience with the condition helped him find his career path. Johnson struggled with the disorder after being cut from his football team and while living in his parents’ basement in what he describes as a “real low point” in his life.

“I found that, with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone,” Johnson said. “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.’”

Johnson says that it forced him to reconsider his career choices, and when an opportunity arose for him to return to football, he declined, and began pursuing a career in wrestling instead.

Depression is still one of those illnesses that is very difficult to talk about, especially in public. Part of the stigma can be attributed to misinformation—there are enduring misconceptions that depression is just a bout of sadness, and not a mental illness that requires treatment. And it’s a lot more difficult to talk about emotional health than it is to talk about physical health.

But those stigmas are falling away, which may explain why recently some celebrities have come forward and started talking about how they wrestled with the condition. Only last month, Sarah Silverman, while promoting her new film, I Smile Back—about a woman who suffers from depression—admitted to having firsthand experience with the disorder.

“The depression I experienced [felt] like a chemical change,” Silverman told NPR’s Terry Gross. “It was like my perspective of the world changed about three degrees, and everything I saw was different.”