Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, recently opened up about his issues outside of the pool.
At the conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group, Phelps admitted that he has contemplated suicide in the past. It all started before the Athens Olympic Games in 2004— the first time he’d compete in the games.
“I wanted to come home with hardware, I was always hungry, hungry, and I wanted more,” said Phelps of his 15-year-old self. “I wanted to push myself really to see what my max was.”
The games in Greece were just the beginning of Phelps’ problems. After he broke his first world record, the hunger for making more history began to grow. Phelps really felt that hunger after he came down from the high of each Olympic games.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” Phelps said when asked to pinpoint when the depression began.
The winner of 28 medals also recognizes he used drugs to run from “whatever it was I wanted to run from,” which makes sense considering the infamous 2008 photo of him smoking out of a bong. While each Olympic games presented its own problems, the 32 year old says that the hardest fall came after the 2012 games.
“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore … I didn’t want to be alive anymore,” Phelps said.
Knowing things needed to change, he sought treatment and realized that things became easier once he began to express his emotions instead of compartmentalizing them. Since then, he’s decided to help kids who may be going through similar issues by adding stress management programs to the Michael Phelps Foundation with the Boys & Girls Club of America.
“Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal,” Phelps added. “I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life.”