"I didn’t have an anchor anywhere... I was a disaster, and I thought for so long that there was something wrong with my brain."
It was during an interview with Marie Claire last year that actress Dakota Johnson, who is best known for her role as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey confessed that she has been suffering from depression for a very long time.
“I’ve struggled with depression since I was young—since I was 15 or 14," she revealed in an interview with Elle. "That was when, with the help of professionals, I was like, Oh, this is a thing I can fall into. But I’ve learned to find it beautiful because I feel the world. I guess I have a lot of complexities, but they don’t pour out of me. I don’t make it anyone else’s problem.”
According to Goalcast, the root of her problem was her childhood. Being the daughter of two A-list stars at the time, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, Johnson grew up in the spotlight that she was not prepared for. Even though she had everything she would ever want as a kid, the drama surrounding the lives of her celebrity parents took a toll on her mental health early in life.
Griffith was just 14 years old when she met Don Johnson, who was eight years her senior. In the four years that they spent together, including the six months of marriage in 1976, their lives were fueled with drugs and alcohol. Years after the break-up, the couple got back together again and remarried in 1989. That was the year Dakota was born. But their time together wasn't meant to be and Griffith and Johnson called it quits for good. The couple got a divorce in 1996 after almost seven years into their second marriage because of the strain caused by Johnson's alcohol addiction.
With her parents living in different cities after the divorce, the stability in Dakota Johnson's life was no longer there, and it affected her immensely. But even before the divorce, her parents' turbulent relationship had resulted in a young 3-year-old Dakota being sent to therapy for help. "My parents had some problems of their own that put me in a position of having to deal with very grown-up stuff at a very young age. I needed some help with that, therapy-wise. And in turn, as a child, you trust someone, and then they f**k you over," she said, according to the outlet.
After she was diagnosed with depression in her teens, Dakota reportedly blamed herself for a long time. Because her parents were movie stars, she couldn't even attend a school like normal kids because they would take her foreign location every other day. “I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated," She told Vogue. "I didn’t have an anchor anywhere... I was a disaster, and I thought for so long that there was something wrong with my brain. Now I realize that it just works in a different way.”
With consistent professional help, things started to change for Dakota, especially after Griffith married Antonio Banderas in 1996. He became the anchor she needed growing up, the and was the source of paternal guidance and love she needed. Banderas and Griffith remained together for almost 20 years, and during that time, he gave her the hope she needed to understand that everything was going to be alright. After a rocky start in her early childhood, the now 31-year-old actress had the chance to experience what a real family feels like.
In 2019, while awarding Banderax with the Hollywood Actor Award for his performance in Pain and Gory, Dakota couldn't help but express her love for her stepfather, who took the place of her father, while trying not to break down on stage. "There are infinite possibilities for how relationships and family dynamics play out when parents re-marry […] I come from a family of many a marriage, and I got very lucky. I got a bonus dad, who I realized that, over time, is actually one of the most influential people in my whole life," she said.
The actress has always been open about her mental health struggle. She told AnOther Magazine that she suffered from panic attacks as well. “Sometimes I panic to the point where I don’t know what I’m thinking or doing. I have a full anxiety attack. I have them all the time anyway, but with auditioning it’s bad.”
During the pandemic lockdown, she told Elle, “I’m constantly thinking about the state of the world right now," she started, discussing COVID-19 in February before it had forced much of the country into quarantine. "It keeps me up at night, all night, every night. My brain goes to crazy dark places with it. My brain moves at a million miles per minute," she continued. "I have to do a lot of work to purge thoughts and emotions, and I am in a lot of therapy.”
Her vulnerability attracted directors and has now made her a reliable star in Hollywood.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Jamie McCarthy