Swimming great Michael Phelps appeared on the “Today” show on Thursday morning to champion a cause that many Americans can relate to: the struggle with anxiety and depression.
The 33-year-old Baltimore native, who now resides in Arizona with his wife, Nicole, and their two sons, Boomer, 2, and Beckett, 8 months, was candid in the seven-minute interview about his private battle with depression throughout his entire career, which stretched over four Olympic Games.
“For me, I think looking back on 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 told that we weren’t allowed or we weren’t supposed to show weakness ever because being an athlete you’re supposed to be strong and able to push through anything. So I think my struggles carried on throughout my career and I hid them really well,” said Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals.
After his most trying stretch in October 2014, a time when he said he didn’t leave his house for days and contemplated taking his life, he found himself ready to open up. Addressing the issues and openly talking about them proved a valuable step.
“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 said he still contends with stretches of depression and his mission is to encourage others with mental health issues to also open up. He has been a spokesman and advocate of Talkspace, a 24-hour-a-day online therapy company that makes a licensed therapist available via text, audio, or video messaging.