Michael Phelps admitted that being an Olympic gold medalist can get you down, and he has even contemplated suicide, CNN reported. But things have gotten better.
Speaking at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group, Phelps revealed how he “didn’t want to be in the sport anymore,” and “didn’t want to be alive anymore,” after the 2012 Olympics, per CNN.
“You do contemplate suicide,” he told the audience, noting how he fell into a major depression after every Olympic event.
Phelps has 28 Olympic medals in total, 23 of which are gold, Bleacher Report reported.
He has led the U.S. men’s swim team in the previous four Olympics before retiring after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and yet, despite his illustrious career, Phelps suffered from severe anxiety and depression.
His all-time low came shortly after the 2012 Olympics, when he holed himself up in his bedroom for “three to five days,” barely eating or sleeping, CNN said.
It was then he decided to seek professional help, he said.
The event changed the trajectory of his life and Phelps now finds himself in a much happier space, sharing a child and expecting a second with his wife Nicole Johnson, whom he secretly married in June 2016 after dating on and off for eight years, Us Magazine noted.
Now Phelps is using his own experience to try and help others, saying that the feeling he gets when he hears that his story has helped someone was incomparable, CBS News said.
“Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than ever winning an Olympic gold medal,” he said. “You have the chance to save a life, and that’s way more powerful.”
Phelps has introduced a stress management program into the Michael Phelps Foundation, and works with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, according to CNN.
He said that mental health was still a taboo subject but it was starting to change, with dialogue shifting people’s understanding of the illness.
“People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change,” he said.
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