Michael Phelps is in the news nit because he’s on the gold medal stand. He shared the story of his personal encounter with depression at a mental health conference in Chicago earlier in January.
“You do contemplate suicide,” the winner of 28 Olympic medals told a hushed audience at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group.
“I was always hungry, hungry, and I wanted more,” said Phelps. “I wanted to push myself really to see what my max was.”
Intensity has a price.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” said Phelps when asked to pinpoint when his trouble began. He noticed a pattern of emotion “that just wasn’t right” at “a certain time during every year,” around the beginning of October or November, he said. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through.”
That was the same year that Phelps was charged with driving under the influence.
“Drugs were a way of running from “whatever it was I wanted to run from,” he said. “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 punctuated his wins at the Olympic games in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with self-described “explosions.”
The “hardest fall” was after the 2012 Olympics, said Phelps. “I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore … I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Phelps goes on to describe how he decided to get help and gives insight into his therapy sessions that helped him fight depression.