Over three million American adults suffer from depression. If you've never experienced depression, it's hard to illustrate just what it can do to a person. Everything can be going well in a someone's life, and for seemingly no reason whatsoever, they deal with intermittent bouts of debilitating sadness. And spotting someone with depression isn't always so obvious. It's a disease with a stigma attached to it, so those afflicted by it often try to keep it hidden. It doesn't matter who you are, anyone can be susceptible to mental illness.
Michael Phelps seemingly has it all. He has the type of life many young boys dream about when growing up. The man is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. He's graced the cover of the Wheaties box and can eat like a maniac and still maintain that figure. He has a beautiful family and is a perfect role model of where hard work can get you.
Want another reason to think Michael Phelps is amazing? The man raced a bloody great white shark. It appears he's living out someone's ludicrous vision board. However, as previously stated, looks can be deceiving. Phelps opened up about issues he's dealt with.
After this incident, he went into a depression spiral, locking himself in his room for four days. He described this as his rock bottom.
"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 described what lead him to this point, how he would bottle up his feelings instead of dealing with them.
"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. It was a long, long, long road and I just never wanted to deal with it."
Phelps credits finally opening up and discussing his feelings as what saved his life.
"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."
Phelps also wants to help other children, those potentially dealing with depression. The Michael Phelps Foundation created a documentary titledAngst. It discusses bullying and mental illness, and hopes it can create an open dialogue on the subject.
Phelps says that while he hasn't enjoyed his condition, it has made him stronger.
"You know, yeah, some of [the experiences] 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."
Phelps knows that depression isn't a battle to win, it's a condition that you deal with for the rest of your life. But he says he is ready and positive about his future.
"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. 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."