While you may know him as the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps hasn't always felt like he was deserving of all the attention. He has opened up about his struggle with depression, and how bad it really was.
"I can tell you I've probably had at least half a dozen depression spells that I've gone through. And the one in 2014, I didn't want to be alive," Phelps said in an interview with TODAY.
In 2014, Phelps was dealing with the fallout of a DUI arrest, which resulted in him being suspended from the USA Swimming Organization for six months. He took it hard, locking himself inside of his bedroom for four days, but he has revealed what helped him push through.
"But going through my all-time low, you know, kind of seeing where I was and then seeing what I have now, I'm so thankful for my family and friends around me who were able to help me and were able to communicate with me," Phelps said.
Phelps shared some of the details about his struggle in the interview, including how he ended up letting it build up so much that he completely shut himself off from his family for days...
"After years, and years, and years of just shoving every negative, bad feeling down to the point where I mean, I just didn't even feel it anymore," he explained. "It was a long, long, long road and I just never wanted to deal with it. And for me, that sent me down a spiral staircase real quick and like I said, I found myself in a spot where I didn't want to be alive anymore."
He explained that he spent years burying his stress, and attempting to ignore it. "You know, for me, I basically carried just about every negative emotion you can possibly carry along for 15, 20 years and I never talked about it. And I don't know why that one day I decided to just open up. But since that day it's just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy life and it's something I'm very thankful for."
Now that he's a father, he wants to make sure that if his children are ever experiencing the same kind of emotions, they know help is out there. The Michael Phelps Foundation created a documentary titled Angst, which he hopes will help people see that there needs to be an open dialogue about mental illness.
While his depressive episodes have been hard to deal with, he accepts that they are a part of who he is. "You know, I get the question from time to time now, 'If I could change anything in my life, would I?' And no. You know, yeah, some of them have been absolutely miserable and brutal and haven't been the funnest experiences to go through, but they've made me who I am today and they really have helped me grow as a person."
He says that his family helped him make it through, supporting him and helping him learn how to be a better parent. "I was able to grow through it. You know, I think I'm now finally to the point where I can look at myself in the mirror and like who I see," he said. "I mean, it's life. We all go through ups and downs. And I have a great support system and a great group around me and I'm happy."
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, call your doctor or if you need help finding someone, click here.