Michael Phelps: Pandemic Has Been One of the Scariest Times I've Been Through

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

Michael Phelps speaks during a Panasonic news conference before the CES tech show, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Former swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, opened up in an essay for ESPN about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his mental health:

"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.

"Before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, I shared my mental health issues publicly for the first time. It wasn't easy to admit I wasn't perfect. But opening up took a huge weight off my back. It made life easier. Now I'm opening up again. I want people to know they're not alone. So many of us are fighting our mental health demons now more than ever.

"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."

Phelps noted he was struggling with the "uncertainty" during the coronavirus pandemic and with "being cooped up in a house." He's been trying to keep a daily exercise routine, journaling to help during this time and making dinner each night, but when he gets overwhelmed, "I literally give myself a timeout."

He also encouraged people who were struggling during this time, or in general, to speak with a therapist.

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"The past two months, when I've probably needed help the most, I haven't done much of anything with a therapist," Phelps said. "I know that's part of my problem."

Phelps, 34, holds a number of Olympics records, including the most lifetime medals (28) and gold medals (23). He took home at least six medals in four different Olympics and eight medals twice (2004, 2008).