Michael Phelps: ‘I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life’

(CNN) Faraway from the familiar waters of an Olympic pool, swimmer Michael Phelps contributed the story of his personal experience with depression at a mental wellness conference in Chicago this week.

“You do contemplate suicide, ” the particular winner of 28 Olympic medals told a hushed audience in the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum , a behavioral wellness advocacy group.
Interviewed at the meeting by political strategist David Axelrod (who is a senior political commentator for CNN), Phelps’ 20-minute debate highlighted his battle against stress and anxiety, depression. and suicidal thoughts — and several questions about his athletic expertise.

The ‘easy’ part

Asked what it takes to become a champion, Phelps, 32, immediately replied, “I believe that part is pretty easy — it could hard work, dedication, not giving up. inch

Pushed for more details, the Baltimore indigenous described the moment his coach informed his parents he could become a good Olympian and he recalled the taste associated with defeat when losing a competition by “less than half the second” at his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, which usually meant returning home without a honor.
“I wanted to come home with hardware, inch said Phelps, acknowledging this sensation helped him break his 1st world record at age 15 plus later win his first precious metal medal at the Athens Olympic Online games in 2004.
“I was always starving, hungry, and I wanted more, inch said Phelps. “I wanted to force myself really to see what our max was. ”
Intensity has a price.
“Really, right after every Olympics I think I dropped into a major state of melancholy, ” said Phelps when requested to pinpoint when his problems began. He noticed a design of emotion “that just was not right” at “a certain period during every year, ” around the starting of October or November, this individual said. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression mean I went through. ”
That was the same yr that Phelps was charged along with driving under the influence, Axelrod reminded the spellbound audience.
And there was a photo taken in the fall of 2008 — just weeks after however won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics — that will showed Phelps smoking from a bong. He later apologized and known as his behavior “regrettable. ”
Drugs were a means of running from “whatever it had been I wanted to run from, ” this individual said. “It would be just myself self-medicating myself, basically daily, to attempt to fix whatever it was that I had been trying to run from. ”
Phelps punctuated their wins at the Olympic games within 2004, 2008 and 2012 along with self-described “explosions. ”

one Do not leave the person alone.

2 . Remove any fi rearms, alcohol, drugs or sharpened objects that could be used in a committing suicide attempt.

3. Contact the U. S. National Committing suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

4. Take the individual to an emergency room or seek assist from a medical or mental physician.

Source: American Base for Suicide Prevention. For more suggestions and warning signs, click here.

The “hardest fall” was after the 2012 Olympics, said Phelps. “I didn’t wish to be in the sport anymore… I did not want to be alive anymore. ”
What that “all-time low” looked like was Phelps sitting down alone for “three to 5 days” in his bedroom, not eating, hardly sleeping and “just not planning to be alive, ” he mentioned.
Finally, Phelps knew he needed help.

‘I was not ready’

“I remember going to treatment our very first day, I was shaking, trembling because I was nervous about the alter that was coming up, ” Phelps informed Axelrod. “I needed to figure out the thing that was going on. ”
His first morning within treatment, a nurse woke your pet at 6 a. m. plus said, “Look at the wall plus tell me what you feel. ”
On the wall put up eight basic emotions, he remembered.
“How do you consider I feel right now, I’m pretty ticked off, I’m not happy, I’m not really a morning person, ” he angrily told the nurse, laughing at this point at the memory.
Once he began to talk about his emotions, “life became easy. ” Phelps told Axelrod, “I said to me personally so many times, ‘Why didn’t I do this particular 10 years ago? ‘ But , We wasn’t ready. ”
“I was very good on compartmentalizing things and stuffing details away that I didn’t want to discuss, I didn’t want to deal with, I actually didn’t want to bring up — I simply never ever wanted to see those things, inch said Phelps.
He has implemented stress administration into programs offered by the Michael Phelps Foundation , and works with the Males & Girls Clubs of The united states .
These days he understands that “it’s OK not to be OK” and that mental disease “has a stigma around this and that’s something we still cope with every day, ” said Phelps. “I think people actually finally realize it is real. People are talking about this and I think this is the only way it can change. ”

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“That’s the reason why suicide rates are getting up — people are afraid to and open up, ” said Phelps.
Today, simply by sharing his experience he has the opportunity to reach people and save life — “and that’s way more effective, ” he said.
“Those moments and people feelings and those emotions for me are usually light years better than winning the particular Olympic gold medal, ” stated Phelps.
“I am extremely thankful that I failed to take my life. ”