Michael Phelps is having a hard time in lockdown: ‘My emotions are all over the place’

Embed from Getty Images

You know what I kind of slept on? The fact that Michael and Nicole Phelps had their third son last year and named him Maverick. I mentioned her pregnancy and then completely forgot about it. Belated congratulations to the Phelps family! So what is like for the family of five during lockdown? According to Michael, it’s tough. Michael struggles with depression,anxiety and some PTSD. He recently relayed a personal essay to Wayne Drehs for ESPN detailing how he’s managing his emotions during quarantine. According to Michael, a five-time Olympian who battled addiction publicly and set world records many times over, this is the most overwhelmed he’s ever been. The reason Michael is talking about this is because he’s been an advocate for mental health since his triumphant comeback in 2016. He also sits the board of Talkspace, an online mobile therapy center, and wants to remind people that there is no shame in reaching out for help. Therapy can be a lifeline in this very chaotic time.

On quarantine getting to him: It has been one of those months. Nonstop, my mood jumping up and down and all around. The pandemic has been one of the scariest times I’ve been through. I’m thankful that my family and I are safe and healthy. I’m grateful we don’t have to worry about paying bills or putting food on the table, like so many other folks right now. But still, I’m struggling.

On dealing with mental health is an on-going struggle: The thing is — and people who live with mental health issues all know this — it never goes away. You have good days and bad. But there’s never a finish line. I’ve done so many interviews after Rio where the story was the same: Michael Phelps opened up about depression, went into a treatment program, won gold in his last Olympics and now is all better. I wish that were the truth. I wish it were that easy. But honestly — and I mean this in the nicest way possible — that’s just ignorant. Somebody who doesn’t understand what people with anxiety or depression or post-traumatic stress disorder deal with has no idea.

On the challenge of quarantine: The pandemic has been a challenge I never expected. All the uncertainty. Being cooped up in a house. And the questions. So many questions. When is it going to end? What will life look like when this is over? Am I doing everything I can to be safe? Is my family safe? It drives me insane. I’m used to traveling, competing, meeting people. This is just craziness. My emotions are all over the place. I’m always on edge. I’m always defensive. I’m triggered so easily.

On wanting to hide: This is the most overwhelmed I’ve ever felt in my life. That’s why I have times where I don’t want to be me. I wish I could just be “Johnny Johnson,” some random person.

On Nicole getting the brunt of it: The other night, I had a blowup with Nicole, my wife. It wasn’t good. But at the same time, I was able to let out all those pent-up emotions. Sometimes you need that. It was hard. But I feel so much better today. Sometimes that’s just part of the process for me.

On giving back: Earlier this month, I donated 500 months of free Talkspace therapy to medical workers on the front lines fighting COVID-19. For every single one of us right now, our heroes are those front line workers. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I only hope therapy can be as life-changing for them as it was for me. The Michael Phelps Foundation has also committed more than $100,000 in grants to add social-emotional curriculum as part of the IM Program we created for Boys & Girls Clubs throughout America.

[From ESPN]

First of all, I love that he donated therapy for frontline workers. My gawd, if anyone deserves that it’s frontline workers. I think it is very important that prominent people like Michael are speaking in favor of seeking out therapy if people need it. This is a very hard time and most of us have no idea what we need to get through it. Asking for help is probably the healthiest thing you can do for your family. I feel for poor Nicole being the sounding board for Michael’s blowup, the poor woman is running a household with three kids under five and just eight-months postpartum. At least Michael mentioned in the essay that he’s making dinner every night so she gets somewhat of a break.

I know there are times that I want to blend into the wallpaper and nobody knows who I am, I can only imagine what it’s like to be someone as famous as Michael Phelps who’s never allowed to turn that spotlight off. In the full essay, Michael admits he messed up in life. He knows every bad thing he did and he’s not asking us to forget that. The whole essay is very emotional. Michael is relying on routine to keep him sane but even then, he can be knocked off balance so easily. I think Michael’s words are a good reminder that just because everyone is suffering right now doesn’t mean we have to do so in silence. It’s okay to say that quarantine is getting the better of us and if a resource that can help, we should use it.


Photo credit:Getty Images, Instagram and WENN/Avalon

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

18 Responses to “Michael Phelps is having a hard time in lockdown: ‘My emotions are all over the place’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. BonnieT says:

    I love this. I think his transparency about how he, Michael Phelps- award winning athlete and Olympic GOAT- has mental health issues, good days and bad, etc. is a fantastic counterbalance in the toxic masculinity that we see so much of currently on public display. Not even going into all the other layered issues that could also be taken from this, I’m glad someone who grabs as much spotlight as Michael Phelps is speaking up and advocating for mental health.

  2. Eleonor says:

    This is important: I have friends battling anxiety and even if they had zoom therapy session they struggled a lot.
    And it’s wonderful he donated for medical workers.
    I wondered about that a lot: they need support and they deserve it more than everyone.

  3. anniefannie says:

    Love his honesty, love his vulnerability even love that he acknowledges his blow up w/his wife cause let’s be honest we often take out our emotional issues on our loved ones.
    Being present and aware of this is what heals and bonds us and hopefully moves us to do better.
    Donating therapy to healthcare workers seals it for me, I wasn’t a fan when he was in the olympics ( found him arrogant) but I am now!

  4. BlueSky says:

    I’m also struggling with depression during this time. Like him, it’s all the uncertainty. My anxiety is about all these places opening up and people out not giving a sh@t about wearing masks or social distance. All I keep thinking is “We are never going to get through this and it’s going to get worse.” My gym opened this week and there is no way in hell I’m going near that place. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will be working out from home through the summer.
    I’m grateful as well that I’m able to work from home and pay my bills because I know it could be much worse.

    • Snazzy says:

      I’m with you @BlueSky. I have always struggled with depression, and now it’s even worse, because not only does the situation add to my anxiety, but I feel guilty at being depressed because I know I am blessed (healthy, working from home, etc). So basically, I’m just all over the place. I just want to crawl under the covers and sleep this whole situation away. For now I’m just trying go get one or two things done per day to make myself feel like it’s not a total loss, and it’ll have to be enough.

      Sending you properly physical distanced hugs and positive vibes in this difficult time

  5. Alissa says:

    I struggle with depression and anxiety on a good day, so this has been really really hard. I’ve had longer stretches where I feel alright, but then I have a really hard time. for most of last week I was in a pretty depressive funk.

  6. SomeChick says:

    He seems like a mensch. I’m sure he does more than just make dinner so she can get a break. At least I hope so!

    I feel for anyone with PTS. At the “end” of this, we’re all going to have PTS. Post traumatic stress is not a disorder – it is a reasonable, understandable reaction to trauma. (I’m not capping on you, Hecate, I know that was the quote.) But, as someone who also has deep yet invisible scars, the first time I heard someone just say “PTS” without the “D” it was a revelation.

    What an adorable family!

  7. WilliamJoelene says:

    Please treat yourself as kindly as possible if you’re feeling anx/dep. I hope you catch a break if you’re feeling this way. Its a very understandable reaction and I’m glad people are talking about it. Huge respect to those caring for younger or older family members!

  8. SJR says:

    Good for him for speaking openly about his mental health struggles!
    I really admire him for bringing it into the open.

    Far too often we are taught that life should follow a plan, everybody the same, from point A to B to C, etc.
    Not true at all. I am damn near 60 and the stiff upper lip BS has cost me deeply in my emotional life.
    I hope we all learn to share ourselves more openly, bringing us closer to true understanding, knowing and closeness.

  9. Loreen says:

    All those questions he’s asking and worrying about has been my life for the past 4 years as homebound because of chronic illness.
    When the pandemic hit, nothing in my life changed. Except now, everyone talks about the struggles of living restricted and about the insecurities for the future.

    No one really cared about stuff like this until it affected them.

    I hope, that when everything is back to some kind of normal, people don’t forget about us, who still has to live a life in a prison at home and body.

    The feeling of being forgotten and tossed aside is the worst.

    This article was a major trigger for me, wished I’d never clicked on it. Just so sad now.

  10. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    This hits home for me. I have anxiety, depression, and ADHD. The pandemic has my emotions all over the place. Some days I feel like I’m drowning. It’s truly helpful for him to share his experiences.

  11. Call_Me_Al says:

    I love Michael Phelps. He has always been so open about his struggles, admitting when he has done wrong and discussing his process. This has been so helpful to others struggling with mental health issues, addiction, and poor choices.
    When I was first starting out as a mental health counselor for children in 2005-2009, I ran a social skills group for boys ages 8 and under. They had various issues including autism spectrum, fetal alcohol spectrum, ADHD, and mood disorders. During this time, the video surfaced of MP smoking marijuana. He quickly came out and admitted he was wrong and owned his poor choices in a video. We watched the video (of the apology) in the group, and it blew the boys’ minds. That MP could be humble and admit he made a mistake was kind of life-changing for them. These boys had impulse control problems out the wazoo and often felt ashamed and “bad”. MP helped them realize they could be flawed AND strong.
    I’ve never stopped loving MP!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I love your story and thank you for helping serve the youth, but I would hope that you realize there is a place for medical marijuana and even recreational. I live in a state where it’s legal either way now, and it was a huge help to me when I was really deep in depression.

    • bananapanda says:

      That’s a very cool story. I’m still fascinated (as a former collegiate swimmer) that Michael Phelps has crossed so many barriers in his career. Swimming is generally considered a white bougie sport yet he seems to have an array of fans and fellow athlete friends. It could be due to his upbringing but also credit to his mom for raising a good kid.

  12. Also Ali says:

    “The pandemic has been a challenge I never expected. All the uncertainty. Being cooped up in a house. And the questions. So many questions. When is it going to end? What will life look like when this is over? Am I doing everything I can to be safe? Is my family safe? It drives me insane.“

    This. Getting through this involves so much more than “sit around and watch Netflix” .

    I loved his whole response, very thoughtful and honest.

  13. TyrantDestroyed says:

    It’s very important that we talk about mental health during these times. There’s people having very difficult times. I recently learned that a former co-worker slightly older than me terminated her life on mother’s day under terribly sad circumstances. My thoughts go to everyone that is struggling.

  14. T says:

    I have so much respect for Michael. The growth, self awareness and transparency he shows is incredible.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I love this, so important. “It never goes away” — so so true. Therapy and medication can help for sure but there is not a magical happy ever after.

    Depression and anxiety can be killers, I am so glad to see prominent people speaking out.