The wife of Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps has opened up in detail about their constant battle with depression and her fears of losing her husband.
Nicole Phelps has shared her family's journey and the challenges of being married to someone battling mental health issues.
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Michael - the most decorated Olympian of all time with a record 23 Olympic Games gold medals - has been very open about his struggles with depression.
His wife Nicole has had to learn the best ways to support him and in an interview with Today Parents, she revealed that one of the most important things she’s learned is that she can’t take responsibility for making him better.
"I used to think, ‘Oh, I can fix him. I can be his therapist. I can be what he needs,'" Nicole said.
"But what I've learned is that you can’t take ownership for how they’re feeling, no matter how badly you want to.”
Nicole said the tragic death of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant filled her with dread about what her own life would be like without her husband.
She revealed that Michael was in the middle of a deep depression and had a history of suicidal thoughts, adding that the thought of losing him was unbearable.
“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,’” Nicole said.
“Michael is the most amazing father and partner I could have ever asked for.”
Helping their kids understand
Nicole admitted that it can be hard for their three kids — 4-year-old Boomer, 2-year-old Beckett, and 16-month-old Maverick — to understand what their dad is going through.
"The boys want to be near Michael when he’s having a rough day. They want to try and make him happy — especially Boomer because he’s the oldest,” Nicole explained.
"So we’ll say, 'Hey Booms, Daddy's having a hard time and just needs to take a moment to be alone.’ We want Boomer to understand it’s not about him, it’s about Michael.”
At the same time, Michael wants their kids to learn that his struggles are part of life, and that they shouldn’t be ashamed about struggling with their mental health.
“They understand there are times when I need a break, where I say, ‘You know, Daddy’s having a hard day,’ or ‘Daddy’s not feeling good,’” Michael told Today Parents in January.
“It’s showing that it’s OK to not be OK. Mental health is something that’s so important in our family.”
Therapy helping Nicole deal with challenges
Michael knows that supporting him can take an emotional toll on Nicole.
“Nicole loves me and wants to help. She wants me to get better,” Michael said.
“But she’s struggling herself. She needs that support as well. I know it’s hard for her.”
Between taking care of their three children, supporting Michael emotionally during his bouts with depression, and dealing with the emotional trauma about possibly losing him, Nicole was definitely struggling.
She decided to start seeing a therapist, and began meditating and journaling to process her feelings.
Together, they’ve helped her get to a better place to help Michael, their kids, and herself.
“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.”
with Yahoo Sports US
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