Michael Phelps will forever be recognized as one of the top Olympians of all-time, but even he admits to having his own battles with depression. No matter how many gold medals Phelps has, the world-record swimmer revealed that even he has had the thought of suicide pass through his mind in the past as he explored his own history with anxiety and depression during a recent behavioral health advocacy conference.

“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” Phelps explained to the health professionals in attendance, according to CNN. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through.”

Not so coincidentally, 2004 was the year that saw Phelps was charged with driving under the influence, leading to critics slamming Phelps for being reckless (deservingly so considering the charge, honestly). Some felt that would be the downfall of Phelps at the time, and he admitted to losing his focus and mindset as he battled to recover from his poor decision. Phelps came to realize he used drugs as an outlet for coping with down moments and depression. Phelps admitted to losing the passion for the sport of swimming after the 2012 Olympics, and for him that felt like his life had lost all meaning.

“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore,” Phelps said. “I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

Phelps did what many dealing with depression, unfortunately, do not do for one reason or another. And that’s going to get treatment to help him recover a will to live and get past those thoughts.

“I was very good at compartmentalizing things and stuffing things away that I didn’t want to talk about, I didn’t want to deal with, I didn’t want to bring up — I just never ever wanted to see those things,” said Phelps. “I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change. That’s the reason why suicide rates are going up. People are afraid to talk and open up.”

Just this week, Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in his apartment after an apparent suicide. A suicide note left behind left some to feel Hilinski was battling his own demons inside, although the circumstances in his life that led to the suicide are still likely to be determined and studied. Hilisnki’s death was a reminder that not everyone gets the help they may desperately need in their lives before it is too late.

Phelps seemingly has managed to overcome his battles with depression, thus becoming a beacon of hope for anyone dealing with similar issues in their lives.

“Those moments and those feelings and those emotions for me are light years better than winning the Olympic gold medal,” said Phelps. “I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life.”

Hopefully Phelps coming out and discussing these topics will allow others to feel the courage to get the help they may need before allowing depression to take over their lives and lead them to make some unfortunate decisions.

[CNN]

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Previously contributed to NBCSports.com. Host of the Locked On Nittany Lions Podcast. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.