Success does not define mental health - Michael Phelps's journey

Success does not define mental health - Michael Phelps's journey

Michael‘s story

Michael Phelps, the most decorated American Olympian in history, regularly maintains his mental and physical health. 

“Throughout my career, I was surrounded by a group of people who were concerned about my physical well-being. There were ten people researching ways for me to become stronger if I needed to. But psychologically, it wasn’t the case, said Phelps. 

He started prioritizing his physical and mental health equally after years of struggling with sadness, anxiety, and suicide thoughts. 

Phelps claimed that in 2004, after taking home six gold and two bronze medals from the Athens Olympics, he first experienced “post-Olympic depression.” 

“[You] work so hard for four years to get there, but when you get there, you’re like, ‘What the heck am I supposed to do?’ What should I do now? He said, “Who am I? 

After a brief vacation, he quickly resumed his preparation to compete in the Olympics in 2008 and 2012 after the 2004 Games were over. 

Until I was able to gain a greater understanding of who I am, how I work, and why and how I am, Phelps said, “[I] kind of compartmentalized those feelings and sure enough over time, they decided to reemerge whenever they wanted.” 

However, it wasn’t until he was charged with his second DUI (Drinking under influence)  in 2014 that he was forced to think on and become more aware of himself. 

In his own words, “I felt like I didn’t want to be alive anymore and I felt that I was causing a lot of stress and troubles for other people around me, so I believed the best thing for me to do was simply leave.” 

Phelps spent days in his room in the depths of his depression thinking through his options. 

I simply determined that it was time to go forward in search of a different road or route, he stated.

Starting therapy

Phelps entered an inpatient treatment facility in 2014 and was there for 45 days. 

“As soon as I left the treatment facility, I carried on with my therapy. I suppose that was the first time vulnerability crept in because, for me, when I first started, it was kind of strange, kind of terrifying, something that was new and I didn’t really know what to anticipate. 

He started to feel better mentally once he left the facility. 

“I began to feel like a human… I suppose I could accept who I was and adore myself. Being able to learn has helped me since for a long time I thought of myself as a swimmer rather than a person.”

The chance to safely explore emotions in a kind and empowered setting that promotes self-compassion and understanding is provided by therapeutic spaces. 

While treatment offered Phelps a better awareness of himself and coping mechanisms for his mental health, he claimed that maintaining mental health is a continuing process. 

“My anxiety and despair won’t magically vanish overnight. I’ll never be able to tell someone to leave with the snap of my fingers. Let me be alone. It affects me. It is a part of who I am. It will always be a part of me, he declared. 

Phelps emphasized that he needs to be adaptable in managing his mental health. He compared developing the strongest possible mental fortitude to perfecting the art of swimming.

“Throughout my career, we had to figure out how to get there through a process of trial and error; there wasn’t a plan for winning eight gold medals. For [my mental health] then… I can’t expect to have all the answers today, but I also have to be kind to myself since I’m still learning, which is challenging sometimes,” he remarked. “I try to learn as quickly as I can and be as excellent as I can, but sometimes that’s not possible.” 

He uses self-care techniques like writing, counselling, and exercise to help him manage, but he understands that what works today might not work tomorrow. “I’m always learning. I’m always developing,” he said.

A word from Ganeshaspeaks

Mental health is not a destination but a life long journey. Good mental health is a gateway to a happy and meaningful life. Prioritize your mental health, for it is your passport to stress free living. has a team of highly qualified wellness experts to help you with your mental wellness. Download the app now.

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