Eagles’ Lane Johnson opens up about anxiety, depression

DAY BY DAY: Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson walks off the field after warming up before the Eagles play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 31. David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

DETROIT — If anyone thinks Lane Johnson was soft to miss three Eagles games as he dealt with his anxiety disorder, his interview with Fox Sports before kickoff in Detroit on Sunday might change your mind.

“A lot of throwing up, every day. I was starting to throw up blood,” Johnson said. “I’d have tremors in my hands.”

Johnson said after the Eagles win at Detroit on Sunday that he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder after entering Oklahoma in 2009, but it didn’t debilitate him completely until this year when, during training camp, he tried to quit his antidepressant, or SSRI, cold turkey. He suffered severe withdrawal symptoms over the next few weeks.

Just hours before Game Four this season Johnson couldn’t take any more. He hopped in his truck and drove all the way back to his home in Oklahoma, cut off communication with the Eagles, and sought immediate treatment.

“I got help,” Johnson said. He didn’t clarify whether he remains on medication.

“It’s a beast. ... It feels like doom. ... The monster kept building and building and building,” Johnson told Fox Sports. “It finally came to a point where I said, ‘I’m not going to take it no more.’”

Johnson returned to Philadelphia two weeks ago, played well in a loss in Las Vegas, and started Sunday’s game in Detroit.

Why did it take Johnson so long to address his issue? After all, Brandon Brooks, the Eagles’ star right guard and Johnson’s best friend on the team, two years ago publicly addressed the anxiety issues that cost him playing time.

“I was ashamed, to be honest,” Johnson said. “In this league, the NFL, where it’s a gladiator-type sport, it’s not often talked about.

“I was living in hell for a long time.”

Didn’t his three Pro Bowls and his Super Bowl ring help?

“That only amplified the situation,” Johnsons said.

That’s because Johnson seeks affirmation. He admitted that, after games, he’d go online and search for his own name, fearing criticism: “I fear judgment.”

Johnson took pains to thank Eagles’ chief security officer Dom DiSandro, now in his 23rd season with the team, but whose title doesn’t quite depict his true role. He’s everybody’s big brother. Not everyone has a Dom DiSandro in their corner, but Johnson begged people suffering from anxiety and depression to follow his example and talk to someone — anyone.

“Just don’t bottle it up,” Johnson said.