Michael Phelps opens up on mental health challenges of quarantine

Matt Weyrich
NBC Sports Washington

The coronavirus pandemic has made its presence known across all corners of the globe, infecting millions and leaving even more out of work. But for many who struggle with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, an additional battle is taking place while much of the world remains quarantined at home.

It's a battle very familiar for former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. The Maryland native has spoken in the past about his struggles with depression and on Monday, he published a letter on ESPN with one message for others in similar situations: We're in this together.

"Before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, I shared my mental health issues publicly for the first time," Phelps wrote, as told by ESPN's Wayne Drehs. "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."

Phelps said concern over the safety of his family coupled with the lack of certainty surrounding both his future and the future of the world have left him on edge and defensive. He said the pandemic has made him "the most overwhelmed I've ever felt in my life."

In order to help himself stay positive and focused, Phelps relies on his 90-minute gym routine before spending time with his wife and three sons. When he feels like he's gotten too much into his own head, he heads into his office to collect himself and "reset" before returning to his family.

"There are a ton of people fighting the exact same thing. It doesn't matter what you went through, where you've come from or what you want to be," Phelps wrote. "Nothing can hold you back. You just need to learn the tricks that work for you and then stick with them, believe in them, to keep yourself from getting into a negative cycle."

He may be a 23-time gold medalist, but Phelps wants to continue to help others to understand that no one is immune to mental health conditions-even professional athletes. 

"There's nothing to hide from," Phelps wrote. "Nothing to be afraid of. The fight is only against yourself."

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Michael Phelps opens up on mental health challenges of quarantine originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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