In the years since opening up about his struggles with anxiety and depression, Olympian Michael Phelps says that his whole family has grown to understand the way mood disorders can affect your life — and how everyone can support their loved one struggling and each other on good days and bad days. In an interview with Carson Daly on TODAY, Phelps and his wife Nicole talked about how their family approaches mental health.
Particularly when it comes to highs and lows that can come with different mood disorders, Phelps said they can be challenging to keep up with: “One day I can wake up and I can feel like I’m on top of the world, and I can do absolutely anything and everything. And the next day I can wake up and not wanna get out of bed.”
.@MichaelPhelps and @mrsnicolephelps joined Carson Daly on the @TODAYshow this morning to discuss the importance of mental health and how they’re working together to be mental health advocates for other families.— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) January 29, 2021
Nicole says that, when framing these kind of challenging “good” and “bad” days to their young kids, she works to make sure they know those feelings their dad is having are totally valid but also not their fault or something they can control.
“I’m very vocal about making sure that the kids are aware that maybe Michael’s having a hard day,” Nicole said. “[The kids] didn’t do something that made Daddy feel this way. It’s Daddy having his own stuff.”
She adds that she also makes sure that same validating energy is present for Michael himself, by letting him have space for the complicated and heavy feelings and not try to force optimism or “brightside” him.
“I keep reminding Michael that I’m not here to judge him. I’m here to support him. I’m here to love him,” she said. “I’m here, open arms. I’m not going to say, ‘You can’t feel that way.'”
She’d previously told TODAY about her fears following the death of Kobe Bryant — how she really couldn’t fathom a life without him and how it inspired her to want to learn and know more about how to be part of the support system he needs.
“After Vanessa (Bryant) lost Kobe, all I could do was look at Michael and be like, ‘Can we please help you?’ Because if I lose you, I don’t know what I’m gonna do,’” she recalled. “Michael is the most amazing father and partner I could have ever asked for,” she said, adding that she went into therapy both to help her work through those anxieties and to better understand mental health.
“It’s helping me with everything. It’s support for me,” she said. “But more than anything, therapy provides me with the tools to be able to help Michael properly.”
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, or text “START” to 741-741 to immediately speak to a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.