Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has opened up about how therapy has helped him learn to accept his depression and anxiety and how it helped him set himself on the right path to improving his mental health. The most decorated Olympian of all time said that he works on his mental health daily.
Phelps told news sources, “Throughout my career, I had a team of people around me that were paying attention to my physical health. If I needed to get stronger, there were 10 people finding out ways for me to get stronger, but mentally that was not the case”. In 2004, post winning six gold and two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics, Phelps said that he felt the ‘post-Olympic’ depression for the first time.
“I felt like I didn’t want to be alive”
He continued, “You work so hard for four years to get to that point, and then it’s like you’re… at the top of the mountain, you’re like what the hell am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? Who am I?”. Phelps took a short break after the 2004 Olympics and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“I kind of compartmentalized those feelings and sure enough over time, they decide to re-appear whenever they wanted until I was able to get a better understanding of who I am and how I work and why and how I am”. He said that however, it was not until he received his second DUI in 2014 that he pushed himself to do some self-reflection and self-awareness. In 2014, he checked himself into an in-patient treatment centre for 45 days.
Speaking about his experience there, Phelps said, “As soon as I came out, I continued the therapy that I had in my treatment center. For me, you know, when I first started it was kind of freaky, kind of scary, something that was new and I didn’t really know what to expect, and I guess that was where vulnerability snuck in the first time”. He said that after he left the facility, be finally began to feel mentally well. “I started to feel like a person. Being able to learn more about me, how I worked, why I worked, why I work that way through treatment and through unpacking all the extra crap that I had inside of me”.