The Most Decorated Olympian in History Opens Up About His Greatest Weakness

Sunday, September 9th

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time is no stranger to stress, anxiety and depression. Michael graciously joined I’m Listening for a candid, honest and eye opening conversation about how he has struggled over the years, and in 2014 began to seek help and discover tools to help him address his mental health concerns.

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Welcome to I'm listening I'm BJ Shea and joining us this morning is the most decorated Olympian of all time Michael Phelps Michael I do appreciate you being here on Sunday that's awesome. Or is going to go for me. Very idea of that the singer it's really surprising Michael is you know as a layman and as a person it's as was my life you see somebody who's accomplished what you've accomplished. Is such a great athlete of course celebrity all that a person who go are right there on top of the world they should have no problems and yet. You've got on the record usage you know what I I've had a lot of struggles with anxiety a lot of struggles with depression. And I thought you know this is good opportunity for you to tell people and wanna know why why did you wanna get that out there especially because a lot of people would think really Michael Phelps has got issues with anything. It's it's actually a lot and and something I've I've truly been thinking about recently more and more. You know whatever was that day's that you know that Tim Layden and I. Talked about her. Whenever the question was or whatever I'd gone through the 45 days before handed treatment. That day just felt right for me to open up you know right Avery show bizarre and and and I say I I'd like to go back and thinker or asked him what question. You know really started making me dive into opening up about the struggles that that I have had in my life and and that I still continue to have today among. You know it. I don't know if I'll figure out what it is but. I'm thankful that that you know that afternoon I decided to open up in and shared just the struggles that that I go through because there are so many people they go through the same exact things that I go through an and you know I think. I guess I'm I'm starting to realize more that that that really is something that makes. Me human and and that's what I like Cain and you know because that's the that's what I think of myself that as an and you know I think of myself is just a normal human being that. You know. Was talented in and worked hard and didn't give up on his goals and dreams to be able to accomplish what I have men and and you know obviously as you can tell they're there have been. A lot of bumpy points. Through my life but you know Datsyuk makes me that that's a makes me me. And and I'm OK with that. You know Michael when you talked about the fact I hope by I don't know why it is what the reason is Republicans figured out. The more I get to be involved with folks who are going through and I'm going to dislike you the more I do a show like this Ira I think what is what we get to figure out his. When we are talking about it and seeing that wait a minute. I'm not I'm in no amount on the minority here I'm actually in perhaps some might be an overwhelming majority maybe that is what we get to figure out that. They did the isolation and the loneliness if we take that out of the equation of just what we're feeling. Then maybe that will be helpful in dealing with the fact that all okay being human way I'm feeling at least I know it's not unusual 'cause everybody goes through it. Brad and and and that's probably why so many people tend to. And she said it best isolate or. You know shut down because. You know I I can say is an athlete you know I'd. I think we're supposed to be his big macho men and and we're not supposed to have any weaknesses that are you know so it's like you know that's that's. Part of what makes us who we are so so we compartmentalize that and and we stuff away and we don't talk about it then and you know we'd. Were forced to carry it through. Our careers long as that is and and you know do I think. That probably helped in some way yet I might of throughout my career. Brit Brit. It it's not healthy diet to carry something like that through life and and you know ending in 2014. I just came to the point where. I was sick and tired of carrying through my life and and I wanted to find change and and and that really I guess. For me forced me to become vulnerable. And and and I think that's also very scary word for people here because it's it's change right it's something out of the norm that something completely different than you've ever done. I'm so so it. It essentially does make you scared but. You know for me that was just something. That I was looking forward to those looking forward to finding that vulnerability because. You know I I I wanted to see change I wanted to see what else I could do you know what else I can do to help me and an end to make it change. You know Michael I I I I really let this opportunity to talk to you conspiracy about the the athletic schism and the connection because for me I I had this idea for me reaching for an Oreo cookie is an Olympic sport that's as far as Psycho there. But you you of course have done what you've done. And I've heard conversations. About how the highs and lows of training at the level you train at and of course endorphins and dope I mean how that actually. Can have an adverse affect on us from a mental standpoint I mean a regular person like myself. Wouldn't think that an athlete that your level there's so many that that would be contributing factor to just Tiger Stadium being as we just went and I'd even go but then I heard that conversation is that something you believe he had this is definitely true. I mean for me like. I guess from a very doing it sewing was almost like an escape for me you know is the only time where I was able to it to be in peace in the being quiet and and you know I I I guess. You know from going through my parents going to divorce when you know and at a super young age and and and you know kind of carrying so much delay assuming was the only place racquet religious. I guess release all the energy energy for me I've played a bunch of sports and and as you can tell me an area I jump all over the place I. I'm super super ADD so. As a kid growing up by a play lacrosse baseball soccer slam. I was a very active kid and and you know so for me summing was just a way to it to escape and and and you know kind of justice be able to focus on one thing in in in kind of peace and quiet for two hours. So so. No for me I'd I think probably what went on and you know outside of the water. Essentially could have played a big impact on on what happened and out of the pool. You know I I I guess and I carried so much anger and aggression as a kid growing up and and I'm assuming was I guess an outlet for me. And that to just. Let it all out I mean some is the only place were nobody can really hear whenever you send water so I could scream anything I possibly wanted and nobody would really hear it. You know you just kind of here's somebody screaming this of that and their days were I would I would push off along the scream. Just out of frustration. So you know I think that definitely drove me. You know in a way it's. To be able to push through some of the struggles that I had in the water and tell it to give me the opportunity that I had. This is I'm listening and we're talking to Olympian Michael Phelps. About his issues with mental health and Il Michael I'm wondering because we talked about being isolated. Is since we're finding out more and more and you will you eat your probably funny as well more more athletes. Are dealing with what you dealt with but it again you don't know it's just it's not just you. Did you have any teammates or anybody that you could ever have these kind of really because this is this is an about the weather you know that surfaced this sort of video chatting discussions are we having a small talk. Was there any teammate or anybody all that you could go hey man can I sit down have a real talk what you about this. I mean that there is never really an athlete and I didn't really necessarily feel comfortable talking anybody. And and honestly we've. I don't believe it is as. A US national athlete. We really had the opportunity or had. The chance to have somebody. Traveling with us to to really sit down and and talk about things that that we wanted to talk about and I'm so how crazy is that frustrating how crazy is that because unbelievable yeah him. And and a shocking. You know. In in in my opinion it's like you know. Where were built up to be these massive but these massive. Physical specimens that compete at the highest level of the Olympic Games but you know. That's the only part that that they really you know in my opinion that that people are really cared about the physical side rightly the mental side of it. Or or our well being linked. I didn't see that many people cared about that and and you know I can say truly that probably 758090%. Of athletes that that you know have come out of an Olympic Games have struggled with some kind of depression after Olympics or some kind of mental health MB because you do get that you know you build up that high and every every four years and and you come off then. In recent they're totally your thumbs and not really knowing. What you're supposed to do next so so you feel lost and and you don't really have anybody that you feel comfortable to turn to. Bit bit. You know I think for me in in 2014. When I found myself in that dark dark place where you know minuses that I didn't want to be alive in the sport is writers in my room. By myself for not wanting to talk to anybody not eating anything not like literally. Not moving for three or four days. You know for me after sitting there and thinking about everything I I wanted to find a different way I wanted to find a different answer. I was sick and tired of feeling I felt then and just that opportunity of of almost like. Sharpening up your tools you know that's kind of what I wanted to do and that's why I think that that's why I started to seek help and and and that's when I checked myself into the treatments. And and since then I've I've. In working with a therapist and and it's not something that I truly wanted to do back then that. You know I know it's something that has played a significant role in in making me who I am today in and feeling comfortable with who I am in my own skin and and you know that's. That's that's what I want that's what Iowa likes to be Elena via what do. To live life and in and enjoy everything I have known him very fortunate to be here and and and have the privilege to have a beautiful Finley into Austin kids. And Michael this is that this next question is not a question anybody ever wants to ask and maybe a lot of people don't wanna answer. But this is a show about mental health and also suicide awareness and it any time during those dark times did you ever. Contemplate suicide. Well of course. Me with without question it's it's been. 12 maybe three times that. An and I think is as you heard me say before. That's why I wanted to find help you know I I'm I'm always the person that. Has been extremely eager to try to get better to try to try to get stronger to try to whether it's tough to my mind off my body whatever it is to try to really get the best out of myself. And so for me that answer was trying to find help and and you know honestly that's probably the first come alive I've ever asked for help and and it wasn't the easiest thing. I was afraid of being rejected. In and somebody saying no. That but it you know if that's the case than these probably can't help me and like I can't take it so personal so you know I I I really was able to go through. Almost like a rebuilding. Process. Of just. Being comfortable with who. An and and that is not a long process. You know so. Going through those dark times. You know. I I I always obvious that we always all hope that. We don't go through those times again but for media I'll be honest and open and look and say I've probably gone through two or three impressions though since 2014. And and have to be an easy noble but you know what I I understand that that's part of me. That is apart of who I am and forever for the rest of my life I will go through those ups an downs but my biggest thing now is I wanna be able to teach myself more. Did you learn more about myself so I can go through those times. Safer happier with more help. You know I can be more prepared when they come around and and you know my wife and I've. We've we've built. A strong communications system over the last couple of years. Is make the joke that I just learned to communicate and it's it is actually true. Hmmm how it you know it it's it's it's great that I was able to kind of open up and cannot be afraid to talk about anything in and you know and when you say you know it is it is hard to ask these questions yet and it's. You know it it it is tough to talk about these things because of you know I do with them in and thinking about all of that. But for me it is it helps me and it does help me grow as a person to. Opened up and talk about the struggles and the experience and the experiences and yes even the dark places that I've been. And and I can tell you I. I never wanna go there again but I do know that it is possible and so I just have to continue to challenge myself every single day. To make sure that. I'm prepared. And and my wife is is. The one reason you know the strongest part. On that she's the glue that holds me together. So you know she's she's a big help for me and Anne and I think it's important just to find somebody that you can talk to somebody you can trust. Whether it's a loved one or it's a third party. You know and I know. Bird. I I I recently. Guess over the last year or so started working with another company. Who who. Gives you the opportunity. To get that help. 24 hours a day seven days a week in and you know so it's so when I talk about therapy and I'm going to see a therapist. You know I know how difficult it is to see a therapist. You know sometimes sometimes it can take 2345. Weeks to get in to see a therapist and by that time here. Quote unquote. Feeling better. But it. In all honesty that it's probably just like you Sergey you suppressed it and and it will come back up again and so I think for me being able to work with a company where. And and and you know and and an organization where I can pick up my phone and I know that I can talk to a therapist. But I can call her but I can text there. When I reckon facetime are it doesn't matter and and I know that I can do whenever they need so for me like that's part of me. Kind of sharpen my tools and being ready for anything. You know I've I've always learned. You know for me at this and so much sums were assuming right and I was always taught to be as prepared as you possibly can. So for me I'm just kind of stacking up some resources that I can use. When I do find myself. Isolating or giving somebody Heisman. Because I that's that should be a warning sign for Meehan and I'm now aware of those things. I guy I liked the idea of talking about tools because there's a lot of us that are. A lot of us that are good at talking and it it's not a problem for registered while talking and use words is a way to get themselves going through but I like furlough for us who if you earlier this silent type which you to know Lila express if you like to build things do things if you're the kind of person you're just used to getting steals and a toolbox. I like how you put it that way because that's really what it is everybody has coaching and every part of their life financial coaches all sorts of things. Eight the company you're talking about Michael is that talks base. Talk Asia and and and I was just canals that the the other cool thing that you know somebody doesn't wanna protect their anonymity they can. No they don't have to do video calls or. You know the fate you know facetime call this that they can pick up the phone call or they can just type. And and I think that. I've for me personally I've found has been a huge help. I know I've had family members who have tried it out where it has helped as well. An and I have friends who have used as well. And so for me it's it's. Yeah like you said just a way to sharpen those schools up a little bit and in anonymously like. To be able to have what talks is is offering. To everybody all over the US to be able to have therapist in your state. That you're talking to on a daily basis if you need. I think it's pretty powerful and and and also if you think about how much we live on our cellphones in this day and age yeah. It makes the excuses. Go because it's right there in front of units were. An and you know I will say to those who happen though those who are out there and who are hesitant about talking about it or seeing somebody. And you're not alone and because I was there as well. I was scared to go into somebody and then to be judged. The snow but at the end of the day they wanna helpless and and and I know. My therapist that I some Baltimore was it was he was there to help me and and I felt very comfortable and and and I was open and and for me I'm somebody who always like step you know kind of grab the bull by the horns and and go for a challenge and I will say it was very challenging but it gave his. Something that I can say is truly changed my life. And and is help to me experience life in in my opinion LA should be. Talking with Olympian Michael Phelps. About talks face which is a great a great system that will help you get. The kind of talk and therapeutic intervention that you need. I'm how to use that Michael is so fight. I'm and I nice phone. I patter any kind of divisive idea in any resenting and economize he was down of the captain and you sign up so I mean for me I had I work with a therapist here in the area and every now and then. You know she'll reach out to me in check in order or and you know I just get on in and just kind of almost like word vomit I guess he says this. Unload everything that's in my head that's going on in and it it it is so helpful mean and and she helps me kind of break things down little by little and in and gives me little tools to get through those things. And for a lot of folks. The is sometimes they go look therapy is not the issue I would love to do it but they just don't have the financial means Michael. If you think of a therapist I mean you can go for an hour and you might. Mean they might charge 2005200. And sometimes north of lake. 500 dollars for now so if you think so so talks face offers plans as low as fifty dollars a month. Her. Every two weeks I believe in his. Where you can go on and there are so many different levels of things that are available and and I feel the price points are perfect in an and they are kind of reasonable because. You know like I said all of these high numbers of these therapist it's it's they're astronomical so people can't find the help they need in and I feel like talks peace is giving them. And the opportunity at a very very affordable price. And the big thing about societies because of course with what we're doing today as we wanna change societies. View. On mental health. On suicide suicide prevention. And take the stigma away and one of the most successful things you can do to get a society to change is of course is you start with the children and I wanted to give a quick shot onto the Michael Phil's foundation could you guys are doing some great stuff for kids thank you. You know offer for me we just celebrated our tenth anniversary. This past weekend actually and and not only is for healthy and active life thousand. Water safety for children. And we've recently added mental mental health component. Where we're trying to almost help kids talk about the emotions and the feelings that they go through and and and understand where they come from. Look when I was in treatment that was probably my least favorite thing to do for the first probably three days. And a woman and her nerves come in like 6 AM wake me up and tell me to look at the wall and they count on emotion and what I felt. I was pretty ticked off every morning at 6 o'clock when she woke me up and let's be honest. But after the first few days. I started to realize why I was feeling that way an and an aid if you kind of helped me just. I don't know I just take a step back and say OK I'm feeling angry Lima feeling angry okay I'm mad that somebody did something a certain way and this that and the other. Many like all right well it's not that big a deal okay. I can let it pass. I'm so so I think for me. It it was a good way just to really realize. Why have his feeling all of these different emotions and and as kids they think it's a great way for them to start at a young age. You know I was very fortunate to learn a lot of things goal setting here. Whatever was at a young age that is helped me through life and and yes I wish I would have learned other things so I think it's a great opportunity to be able just to teach kids at such a young age. To be able to understand their emotions and and and understand where they're coming from. And also understand that it's okay to not be okay. In an and try to get them felt comfortable to open up and talk and and not compartmentalize things and I like I'll be the first to admit I am. I could I could probably win a gold medal at compartmentalizing. And that's not a good thing like I I'm not saying that and a good way to really bad that I was doing that for so long. And but but it's you know it's not fun carrying that stuff along. Your whole entire life. And I had I I think I carried. Sold much excess baggage through you know fifteen years of my life that that I didn't need to. And and you know that I I don't wanna say hold me back in and and I don't wanna say this that put it. It made life more challenging. And you know for me it it did it it it it put me in. Pretty bad spots in and you know for me like that's that's why I enjoy and love. Talking about the experiences that I had and in the experiences that I still have. Because it's me and and I'm OK with who I am. And an and I think for a long time in my career. I don't think I was comfortable looking myself in the Mir. But you know I don't care that I have struggled loser that I get depressed from time to time more. You know I I have anxiety here in there like I don't care because that makes me land. And and that changed from. You know from from who I was to who I am today. Just from you know kind of letting my guard down a little bit and and and opening up and and realizing that I'm not alone. You know I'm not the only one that struggled with us and and you know that's. You know for me. You know that's why enjoyed doing what I do now and and and don't ever wanna get back in the pool because I you know for me. Saving a life is is much much more important to me than winning a gold medal and a fight can save just one line. Then I feel like I've done something and that's all I want to do now. I'm Michael I I couldn't have said it better and thank you so much for sharing your story. And it's time where there's a lot of divisive this in the world. A person just like yourself taking the time to just talk about yourself and what you're going through is perhaps one of the most unifying things anybody could do and and I appreciate you spending his time with us today and and I just one again incurred everybody. Just talk or or honestly. Read articles. You know I I've I every the players should be on time and there is a great great piece the other day about. A goalie from Canada. And and talking about his mental struggles you know it's not only athletes that go through amidst its performers it's singers is businessman it's it's. Everybody it's people people every single day who get up out of bed the same way that we do struggle through these problems and and you know we can all help each other and I think that's something that's so powerful. Just talking to somebody asking how they're doing their you know running in my hand when they needed. You know I know you know for me. I have Allison and and Allison Schmitt who looks at us and in my life. Who know me very very well and they are constantly challenging me. To open up and ended talk even more in in and in the talk. I'm deeper into. The the the struggles that I've had and the stories that we know that the memories or moments that I guess I've gone through. An and it has truly helped. And that's and that's fantastic Michael for folks that don't know Allison of course a former teammates so she and familiar with the world that your flee with and you are sharing your knowledge or experience. And she did and the fact that she can say okay you know what I'm going to you've you've lived this life. First from an athletic standpoint that's fantastic. Thank you and honestly think you guys for having me men and I think you can say stigma and you can say there is stigma around a bit but I honestly do feel that. We've been able to break barriers and we've been able to have them and have saved lives. I'm so I think if we continue to talk about it and and just understand that it's okay and not DOK every day is not going to be perfect but. You know if you can work on and you know those little small things that are gonna help you. I'm just be prepared for whatever comes you know life is basically really about solving problems right. And whenever one problem is that away another problem comes up so penalized just about managing everything and an understanding who you are in and and I think that's you know something that's you know for me was such an enjoyable journey. And and you know I hope. To hear and read so many other stories who. Others have gone through similar things. And like Michael said man talking is the key and we're gonna feature information on talks face on our website I'm listening dot org. Michael Phelps again thank you so much for being with us. No thank you very very much for having me.