SEVERE WX : Freeze Watch View Alerts

Michael Phelps: 'I'd like to be able to save a life if I can'

It was in 2014, following a second drink driving charge and a six-month suspension from USA Swimming, that M...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 12:26 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 12:26 PM

It was in 2014, following a second drink driving charge and a six-month suspension from USA Swimming, that Michael Phelps started to talk.

It wasn't easy at first. The 23-time Olympic gold medalist had suffered a downward spiral that had got so bad he confined himself to one room for five days.

Depression

Diseases and disorders

Health and medical

Mental health

Mental illnesses

Michael Phelps

Olympics

Sports events

Sports figures

But talking has helped and Phelps -- the most decorated Olympian of all time who retired after Rio 2016 -- can now speak openly about his struggle with depression.

"It's a dark, dark road sometimes and you just want to make sure you are staying open," 33-year-old Phelps tells CNN.

"I'm very comfortable talking to my wife, I'm comfortable talking with a therapist ... but in the beginning I wasn't."

READ: Phelps calls on US Olympic Committee to do more to help athletes struggling with depression

'I didn't want to be alive'

It was at the age of 15 that Phelps competed in his first ever Games in Sydney.

He didn't medal then, but went to amass 28 over the course of four Olympics -- 16 in individual events and 12 in relays.

Yet after the glow of competition had faded, Phelps' mental health would start to suffer. It was after London 2012, having announced his first retirement from the sport, that he reached rock bottom.

"There was a part of my life I didn't want to be alive," he says.

If his career has been interspersed with controversies relating to depression, including alcohol abuse and being photographed smoking from a bong and his struggles with depression continue, Phelps is prepared to speak openly about his mental health.

"You know, two to three weeks ago I went through a pretty scary depression spell," said Phelps.

"This is something that's going to continue to happen in my life. But the more I can learn about myself and understand why I'm going through these things."

READ: Five-time gold medalist Missy Franklin opens up about depression

He credits his wife Nicole -- an American model and former Miss California USA -- for helping him through his recent ordeal, and says that speaking to a therapist offered stability during his darkest days.

"I didn't want to see a therapist in the beginning but once I did I found that I felt better and I was healthier, I was learning so much more about myself that I didn't know," he says.

"[My wife] is my everything and my rock and helps me through everyday life. I definitely wouldn't be who I am without her. She was somebody who really helped me through my most recent time.

"I do like who I am and I'm comfortable with who I am. I couldn't say that a few years ago. So I'm in a very good place and just living life one day at a time."

Tokyo 2020?

Now a paid spokesman for the online therapy company TalkSpace, Phelps is working to try and raise awareness of depression and other mental health issues by telling others about his own journey.

"I'd like to make a difference," he says. "I'd like to be able to save a life if I can. You know for me that's more important than winning a gold medal.

"The stuff that I'm doing now is very exciting. It's hard, it's challenging but it's fun for me. That's what drives me to get out of bed every morning."

READ: Michael Phelps welcomes new baby boy

Now a father of two boys, Phelps says this time his retirement from swimming is for good. He hopes to travel to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, but has no intention to compete.

A Games without the sight of a long-limbed Phelps launching into the pool will be sorely lacking, but the greatest Olympian of all time has no regrets about ending his career at Rio.

"I finished my career on a high," he says. "You know it's how I wanted to do it and I always said to myself I can hang my suit up how I want, it's the best way to retire.

"That chapter is done and the next chapter I hope to be bigger, more exciting and more impactful."

Visit cnn.com/sport for more news and videos

His greatest battle, in many respects, has always been outside the pool.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Florence
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 63°
Fayetteville
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 62°
Scottsboro
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 61°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 162720

Reported Deaths: 2735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson24088384
Mobile17166319
Tuscaloosa10641142
Montgomery10576205
Madison961998
Shelby766067
Baldwin688871
Lee666965
Calhoun480663
Marshall450051
Etowah444553
Morgan442835
Houston426535
DeKalb357929
Elmore329258
St. Clair313843
Limestone300333
Walker290293
Talladega277737
Cullman271925
Lauderdale243743
Jackson228218
Autauga214131
Colbert212532
Franklin210732
Blount203925
Russell19993
Chilton192632
Dallas189427
Dale186252
Coffee185111
Covington178729
Escambia176031
Clarke139117
Tallapoosa138587
Chambers138147
Pike137014
Marion111831
Barbour10569
Marengo105322
Butler102041
Geneva9597
Winston95313
Pickens90018
Lawrence89933
Bibb86615
Randolph85316
Hale78330
Cherokee76915
Clay76712
Washington75912
Henry7366
Lowndes72328
Monroe66310
Bullock65117
Crenshaw61630
Fayette60413
Perry6026
Cleburne5819
Conecuh57313
Wilcox57212
Macon55020
Lamar5255
Sumter48721
Choctaw39512
Greene34616
Coosa2193
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 259488

Reported Deaths: 3341
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby37618571
Davidson32908350
Knox1330196
Rutherford12485116
Hamilton12251111
Williamson749657
Sumner6439117
Wilson495064
Putnam463859
Montgomery442861
Out of TN430436
Sullivan410052
Madison392780
Washington387758
Bradley372923
Maury363039
Blount355441
Sevier353423
Robertson270243
Hamblen256950
Tipton250123
Dyer236338
Unassigned23047
Gibson223449
Coffee201428
Hardeman193933
Greene192755
Obion186527
Anderson184816
Bedford180522
Trousdale17949
Dickson179119
Fayette177427
Lawrence173220
McMinn172939
Carter172136
Cumberland169827
Loudon169713
Wayne16237
Jefferson162224
Weakley161926
Monroe153629
Warren152011
Lauderdale150717
Roane14478
Hardin144423
Henderson144326
Macon138425
Franklin135124
Haywood133428
Hawkins128629
Overton126825
White126615
Johnson12118
Marshall120512
Carroll118127
Cocke116716
McNairy116330
Rhea115121
Cheatham112012
Campbell111613
Bledsoe10404
Smith104014
Giles102238
Lake9924
Lincoln9514
Fentress94812
Crockett91722
Henry84512
Hickman84115
Marion82613
DeKalb79018
Chester74416
Decatur68211
Grainger6414
Grundy60013
Union5604
Claiborne5498
Polk53813
Unicoi4865
Jackson4778
Humphreys4694
Lewis4586
Morgan4587
Benton44110
Cannon4362
Houston43117
Clay42216
Scott4165
Sequatchie3702
Stewart35613
Perry3508
Meigs3396
Pickett2879
Moore2862
Van Buren2132
Hancock1273

Community Events