Michael Phelps has achieved greatness in the pool, amassing six Olympic gold medals and establishing himself as one of the most celebrated and revered Olympians of all time.
Yet, far from his aquatic exploits, Michael is grappling with a debilitating mental illness that is preventing him from reaching his full potential. In this candid essay for MailOnline, he reveals how depression has transformed him into an anxiety-ridden shell of his former self – forcing him to retire from competitive swimming just six months before Tokyo 2020!
Michael Phelps’ Childhood (and the Story Behind His Huge Rival: Ryan Lochte)
Phelps’ childhood was anything but ordinary. As an infant, he endured a difficult pregnancy that resulted in the birth of a twin brother named Boomer; two years later Phelps experienced another sibling addition when Kai was born.
Despite his numerous endeavors, the elder Phelps recognized that swimming had been the one thing that provided him with tranquility throughout his youth. He had perfected his craft from a young age and honed its perfection until it was second nature for him – even acquiring a medal for doing so!
While Phelps’ prowess in swimming has long been renowned throughout the world, his early days would not have transpired quite as they did if it hadn’t been for Ryan Lochte and Gisele Bündchen.
Michael Phelps: From ‘O.G.’ to Winner (of All the Races)
At age 19, Michael Phelps became the youngest swimmer ever to take home an Olympic gold medal. He swept the pool at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, obliterating his own records and becoming a worldwide phenomenon overnight – not unlike Paris Hilton in 2007 when she was catapulted into fame after appearing on ‘The Simple Life’ reality show.
Phelps’ journey has been nothing short of exceptional, but he has seen past glory and successes in his career come with struggles as well: depression, substance abuse, infidelity; all of which have contributed to his blurring line between triumph and sorrow.
Phelps and the Pressure to Perform
Phelps is often heralded as an unparalleled career success in the sporting world. Yet, unlike many renowned athletes who have attained fame and fortune, he has not experienced the happiness that often accompanies such acclaim:
Phelps’ circumstances are quite different from those of other celebrities whose lives have been transformed by their achievements. Indeed, it’s widely accepted that the pressure of expectation can wreak havoc on even the most successful among them – leaving them feeling overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and desperation.
The demands made upon Phelps throughout his athletic career have undoubtedly been rigorous; yet in spite of this he remains humble and appreciative towards his peers. On a more personal level however – despite being at the pinnacle of success – Phelps remains an introspective individual who cherishes his time alone with his thoughts.
Michael Phelps Returns Home to Pennsylvania (And Begins His Fight for Mental Health)
After dedicating himself to an illustrious swimming career that spanned over two decades, it was time for Michael Phelps to retire. However, upon his return home to the United States in 2012, he struggled with the realization of leaving behind a life immersed in fame and adulation.
Intent on finding relief from his overwhelming emotions, Phelps turned to alcohol and drugs. His dependence on these substances proved detrimental, as he swiftly experienced serious consequences such as losing his driving license – not unlike one of the darker episodes in his life thus far!
Unable to cope with feeling so depressed after retirement, Michael Phelps embarked on a journey seeking help by visiting leading psychiatrists in the Philadelphia area. Initially apprehensive yet hopeful of a happier future free from gloom – Michael eventually welcomed the opportunity of counseling sessions and began taking proactive steps towards remedying his mental state through medication. Eventually, this resulted in an all-around improvement for him!
Michael Phelps’ Depression
Phelps has candidly admitted to feeling depressed and anxious, most notably after his retirement from swimming. Despite this melancholy period of his life, he remains composed and at peace with his situation; allowing him to finally embrace the joys of fatherhood.
Phelps’ depression was brought on by an array of factors, including: having reached the pinnacle of success in swimming; then facing the prospect of ceasing that activity for good – something which made him feel distinctly bereft. Not only was he keenly aware of how much effort had gone into achieving this level of success yet also exposing it all up to take a stab at fame and fortune elsewhere seemed like just a logical step when one considers their current circumstances!
Doped Dreams and Episodes of Rage
Phelps also struggled with anger and rage issues. During his time at the University of Maryland, he was once seen bellowing at an assistant coach as well as hurling a chair across the room when he felt disrespected;
In 2006, after discovering that some of his urine samples had been adulterated, Phelps became incensed at the situation: ‘I haven’t been able to eat, I haven’t been able to sleep… I’m sitting here fuming. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world’.
This fleeting demonstration of wrath did not last long – it was only one instance of Phelps’ volatile temper.
Phelps credits his early success in the sport of swimming to his mentors.
His first coach, Bob Bowman, was instrumental in Phelps’ development as a swimmer. After mistakenly starting him at age three, he decided to give up on that endeavor and quickly shifted gears to introduce Michael to aquatics using the breaststroke technique; as well as how to properly breathe while submerged in water! By age six, Bowman had wisely recognized his potential and made it his life’s mission to provide guidance in this area.
To this day, Phelps attributes much of his success to Bowman’s unwavering devotion and guidance – with which he has become intimately acquainted.
Motivators and a Light at the End of the Tunnel
Though he amassed an impressive array of accolades during his illustrious career both on and off the pool deck, Phelps’ enthusiasm for competing did not diminish over time.
His motivation to swim remained unparalleled throughout his active years, with Phelps still training hard even as far back as 2014 when he was 31; this example demonstrates how age should never be a barrier in one’s quest to conquer new heights.
If you lack inspiration or find your efforts falling short, stargaze may be just what you need to get things fired up again! In order to regain momentum and fuel your resolve, it is necessary to shed negative thoughts and refocus on those positives that bring about happiness in life.
It is a testament to the indomitable spirit of Michael Phelps that he was able to overcome his battle with depression. When one thinks of Olympians, they typically envision individuals who are ebullient, exuding self-confidence; however, it was during his time in the throes of depression that Michael was at his most introverted.
In order to understand and cope with depression, it is crucial to be open about one’s feelings. Those suffering from depression often feel isolated and ashamed – making an effort to reach out for help can be an effective way of combating feelings of negativity. Additionally, making amends with those whom one may have hurtful words towards or neglectful behaviors towards can help alleviate any lingering guilt and provide closure in regard to any past issues.
As a result of his struggles with depression, Michael Phelps has realized that he needs to take greater responsibility for his own happiness. It is imperative that we all do so – especially when adversity strikes!