DETROIT - A big man with a bigger personality might be hard for some to understand what Lane Johnson has been dealing with, but the Eagles' RT has been able to keep his secret struggles with anxiety and depression under wraps since college.
Those issues bubbled to the surface earlier this season when Johnson tried to quit his SSRI antidepressant cold turkey and began to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.
Just hours before the Eagles’ Oct. 3 game against Kansas City, that path forced Johnson to press pause and drive back to his home in Oklahoma.
"I told my mom and told my dad where I was at,” said Johnson. “It wasn't an enjoyable thing. A lot was going through my head really for a duration of time. A lot was talked about. ...They were behind me, they were concerned."
Johnson said he is stale now after finding returning to medication.
SSRI medication (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is a form of antidepressant that works by increasing levels of the level of serotonin within the brain. Without it, Johnson revealed a constant feeling of flu.
“A a lot of nausea,” he said. “A lot of vomiting."
Johnson was so out of sorts he didn’t tell the Eagles of his plans to drive home.
"Football wasn't even a question at the time,” he said. “It was something that I felt even before the season. I told a few close friends but really kept it bottled up because I felt ashamed of it, I felt like it was a crutch.”
That perceived shame never materialized in a real-world sense.
“Coming back, the support I've had from the team, from my friends, from my family, I couldn't ask for nothing better,” he said. “And getting out here and playing football again, you're reminded of how lucky you are to be in the position that you are in.”
Johnson wasn’t in Oklahoma long, but he ended up missing three games returning on Oct. 24 in Las Vegas.
The problems started for Johnson back in junior college and he was officially diagnosed with his issues while developing into a future NFL star at the University of Oklahoma.
He described the problems as similar to his friend and linemate Brandon Brooks, who missed multiple games during his NFL career with anxiety. Brooks and many others like team VP Dom DiSandro were singled out by Johnson on helping him get back to a stable place.
"The real message is, just don't bottle it up. It's easy to do that," Johnson said. "The bad news is that I think a lot more people have it than what meets the eye. I think it's easy to put on a poker face.
“... I remember hearing a stat at the combine that 40-50% of people in the NFL have some sort of condition. [The game] can do a lot of things for you but a lot of times it can be detrimental."
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.