Michael Phelps is one of the most well-known athletes in the world. The swimmer is the most decorated Olympian of all time, holds the all-time record for most Olympic gold medals, and holds the world record in several events.
Even the best athlete in the world, however, can experience the harsh reality of depression. At the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group, Phelps opened up about his personal battle with depression.
Phelps was interviewed by political strategist David Axelrod. He opened up about life as an athlete, what it takes to win, anxiety, and depression.
When asked about what it takes to win, the 32-year-old said, "I think that part is pretty easy- it's hard work, dedication, not giving up."
The swimmer said that after he lost his race at his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, he felt a hunger to push himself.
He said, "I wanted to come home with hardware...I was always hungry, hungry, and I wanted more. I wanted to push myself really to see what my max was."
Phelps then talked about the state of depression that he would battle after every major race.
He said, "Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression." He said that he would notice "a certain time during every year," around October or November, that he would experience depression.
Phelps said that his first "depression spell" was in 2004. That very year, he was charged with driving under the influence. After his record-winning accomplishments in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps was seen smoking from a bong.
The swimmer said that drugs were what he used to run from "whatever it was I wanted to run from. It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from."
Phelps said that his "hardest fall" was after the 2012 London Olympics. He said, "I didn't want to be in the sport anymore...I didn't want to be alive anymore." He described that low-point as sitting alone for 3-5 days, barely sleeping or eating, and "just not wanting to be alive."
After his low-point, Phelps began seeking treatment. He said that while it was difficult, he began opening up about his feelings. When he began to do that, he said that "life became easy."
Phelps realized that a key to health is being vulnerable and talking about what is going on in your internal world. Now, he has the opportunity to help others who are battling depression. He implemented a stress management program to the Michael Phelps Foundation and works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He said that having the chance to reach people is the best feeling.
He said, "Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal...I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life."
Thankfully, Phelps was able to get help before it was too late. Now, he is helping others. What do you think about this? Let us know! In breaking news, an iconic American store just announced the closure of 182 stores nationwide.