Twenty-three-time gold medalist Michael Phelps may seem to have lived the American dream as the most decorated Olympian of all time.
But as he’s done in the past, the swimmer again recently opened up in an interview with TODAY about his struggles with depression that nearly led him to end his own life.
“Looking back at my career, I was probably hiding a bunch or compartmentalizing a bunch of the stuff that I was going through just because I think I was always taught that we weren’t allowed or weren’t supposed to show weakness or something like that, ever, because of being an athlete you’re supposed to be strong and be able to push through anything,” said Phelps.
“My struggles carried on through my career, and I hid them really well,” he continued. “But I really think going to the last Olympics, I was just ready to kind of open up and let everything come out. And for me, this is something that is very important, and there are so many people that struggle from very similar things that I go through and still go through.”
Phelps says the height of his depression hit in 2014 when he isolated himself from family and friends and began to contemplate suicide.
His all-time low hit in October of that year after he was arrested for a second DUI.
“For me, I was so down on myself, I didn’t have any self-love, quite honestly I didn’t want to be alive,” said Phelps. “It was a really, really crazy time.”
The TODAY hosts remarked that his story really proved that you can be incredibly high-functioning while still having very dark private struggles. I think this is true of Phelps and so many people with high-functioning mental disorders today. People assume that because you can exceed the benchmarks of success by a worldly standard, you’re are doing okay on the inside, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
What became a breakthrough revelation for the athlete is that he finally realized it was OK to ask people for help and support in what he was going through.
“I finally realized I can ask for help and it’s OK not to be OK and, for me, that’s what changed my life,” he said.
Phelps has since officially retired and has now made the decision to dedicate his time as a family man and advocating for mental health issues. He has also partnered with Talkspace, an app that offers quick and easy 24-hour access to therapists for those in need of help.