Mike Johnson on How He Overcame a Painful Past of Sexual Assault and Depression (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Stream Queens | May 27, 2021
Mike Johnson decided to live a life of authenticity. And as he told ET's Lauren Zima, that meant confronting some painful experiences from his past while writing his debut book, Making the Love You Want.
The self-help book opens with The Bachelorette alum revealing that he was sexually assaulted at a young age by a babysitter. He didn't tell his parents about the experience until recently. "It was kind of hard for me to talk to my mom and my dad about it at first," he admitted, noting that he had spoken about the trauma to friends when he was in the military, but didn't have the courage to tell his parents until he started his book.
"It was hard for me to write as I was writing it. I had to take deep breaths," Johnson recalls. "It was absolutely emotional homework for me, but it's so therapeutic once you get it out there."
"You can't just bury things that hurt you, because it will come up at some point in time," he adds. "You have to go through it, because if not, it will come up to haunt you."
Viewers of The Bachelorette saw Johnson briefly open up about some of his past struggles on the show, like when he shared with Hannah Brown his pain over his ex-girlfriend's miscarriage. For the most part Johnson brought some levity to the show, and was known for his wide smile and happy attitude.
In Johnson's mind, he wasn't holding anything back from Brown, The Bachelorette or the show's producers by not speaking about his sexual assault or other traumas. "It just didn't come up in conversation," he says. He notes that if he were the lead -- Johnson was rumored to be in the running for the Bachelor both last year and this one, but the roles went to Peter Weber and Matt James -- he would have been in a position to share more and go more in-depth about his background.
"There's a time and a place for everything, and I was extremely happy to just be on the show," he explains.
Among Johnson's other reveals in Making the Love You Want are that he robbed homes and stole electronics as a teenager, spent his college years "having sex as if women were going extinct" and fell into a deep depression following a past relationship.
He was most scared of speaking to his mom about "the illegal things that I've done." He owns up to his previous promiscuity, but says it isn't something he's proud of or even thought of discussing with Luke Parker, another contestant on Brown's Bachelorette season who became a born-again virgin following his college sex addiction. And as for his depression, he's confident he's learned the skills not to sink back into that "hole" again.
"I don't feel that it would ever happen to me again, but if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan," Johnson says.
"I felt incredibly fragile. I felt like porcelain. I felt like glass," he remembers of his depression. "I didn't know how to love myself. The things I teach in my book, I didn't know at the time."
The Air Force veteran says he got out of his depression by focusing outwards. "If you are genuine when you make somebody smile, if you are genuine in giving positivity, it literally makes you feel better as a human being," he says. "That's the biggest thing I can say when someone is depressed -- to just try and make someone else happy and be genuine with it. Don't do it for selfish reasons, just try and not be in that hole and try to make someone else happy."
That skill and others which he details in his book are what Johnson says taught him self-love and the importance of honesty. He's now ready to share that love with others.
"Just because I've gone through things, doesn't mean that I haven't overcome them... You can go through something, but it doesn't define who you are as a person," Johnson shares.
"I went on the show with an open heart. I'm well past a mature state in my life to where I know what I want," he says. "I know what I desire, I know what I bring to the table. I know I'm wonderfully made and I know that I am going to do everything I can to make my lady happy when we're together."
Making the Love You Want is available where books are sold starting Friday.