During a recent mental health conference in Chicago, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps shared some more personal details of his very public life.
After each of his Olympic appearances, dating back to his first in 2000, the 28-time medalist said he battled rounds of debilitating depression.
“You do contemplate suicide,” he said, according to CNN.
With a DUI in 2004 and backlash over his marijuana use four years later, Olympic years have coincided with added anxiety that has intensified following the games.
While it takes years of dedication and relentless practice to reach his level of success, the 32-year-old athlete said his athletic achievement is “pretty easy” and consists of “hard work, dedication, not giving up.”
His mental health struggles, on the other hand, were significantly more difficult to define.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” he said, noting the first severe bout came in 2004 and he hit bottom in 2012.
“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore,” he said, adding that he “didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
After seeking professional help, Phelps said “life became easy” as he slowly began understanding his depression.
“I said to myself so many times, ‘Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago?'” he said. “But, I wasn’t ready.”
Now he is trying to combat the social “stigma” associated with mental health issues, looking back at his own life as proof that proper treatment can make a big difference.
He told the audience that he was “extremely thankful” he did not take his own life.