Michael Phelps opens up about his struggle with depression and anxiety

Over the years Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, has used his voice to become a prominent advocate for mental health.

The legendary swimmer recently spoke at the Kennedy Forum's annual mental health conference in Chicago to open up about his struggle with depression and anxiety, CNNreported.

In the 20-minute interview with political strategist David Axelrod, Phelps discussed everything from his post-Olympics depression to the moment he sought help, revealing he's struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past.

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Phelps started off by explaining when he first realized he needed to seek help to maintain his mental health.

The 32-year-old discussed the intensity of his training and the Olympics, sharing that he was always one to push himself to achieve his maximum potential. 

But when the games were over, Phelps said he was left feeling depressed.

The athlete's awakening

Phelps noted that his first depression spell took place in 2004, the same year he was sentenced for a DUI.

"Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression," said Phelps. "After 2012 that was probably the hardest fall for me. I didn't want to be in the sport anymore."

Phelps explained that a year later he found himself battling suicidal thoughts. "I didn't want to be alive anymore," he said. "I'll never forget being in my bedroom at home, literally sitting in there for three to five days just not wanting to be alive."

The athlete shared that prior to seeking help he would try to repress his negative emotions, but after noticing a distinct change in his behavior, he realized it was time to open up to someone.

21 PHOTOS
Michael Phelps at the Rio Olympics
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Michael Phelps at the Rio Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Michael Phelps of the USA competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly Heats on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Michael Phelps of the United States prepares ahead of his Men's 100m Butterfly heat on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps competes in a Men's 100m Butterfly heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016. / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Phelps Michael of the United States celebrates his 20th golden Olympic medal after winning the Men's 200m Butterfly Final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games on August 09, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 9/08/2016 (Photo by Peter De Voecht / Photonews via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - USA's Michael Phelps competes in a Men's 100m Butterfly heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016. / AFP / François-Xavier MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Michael Phelps of the United States competes Men's 100m Butterfly heat on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: (L-R) Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte of the United States compete in the second Semifinal of the Men's 200m Individual Medley on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Michael Phelps of the USA and Thiago Pereira of Brazil smile after competing in the Men's 200m Individual Medley Heats on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps warms up before competing in a Men's 200m Individual Medley heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 10, 2016. / AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps celebrates with his gold medal during the podium ceremony for the Men's 4x200m Freestyle Relay Final as part of the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. / AFP / François-Xavier MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS-XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
Michael Phelps of the United States of America celebrates after the men?s 200m butterfly final of swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 9, 2016. Michael Phelps won the gold medal with 1 minute 53.36 seconds./ CHINA OUT
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 9: Gold medalist Michael Phelps of USA is congratulated by his fiancee Nicole Johnson, their 3 months old baby Boomer Phelps and his mother Debbie Phelps (left) following the medal ceremony for the men's 200m butterfly on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel of the United States celebrate winning gold in the Final of the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps of United States celebrates his gold medal after the final men's 100m freestyle at Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Michael Phelps of the United States is congratulated by Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary in the second Semifinal of the Men's 200m Butterfly on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps celebrates after he won the Men's 200m Butterfly Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Michael Phelps of the United States ahead of the second Semifinal of the Men's 200m Butterfly on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
USA's Michael Phelps warms up before competing in a Men's 200m Butterfly heat during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016. / AFP / Odd Andersen (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL- AUGUST 07: Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel of the United States celebrate winning gold in the Final of the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Lucas Oleniuk-Toronto Star (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Swimmer Michael Phelps carries the flag to lead the U.S. team during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games on Friday, Aug. 5, 2016, at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
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Phelps on finally seeking help

For Phelps, who described himself as "stubborn" and even embarrassed to talk about his own mental health at certain points in time, seeking help was perhaps more challenging than dominating the Olympic pool.

"I remember going to treatment my very first day, I was shaking, shaking because I was nervous about the change that was about to occur," the swimmer said.

He explained that after he finally started opening up he was able to live his most enjoyable life and considers publicly speaking up about mental health more powerful than winning an Olympic medal since it provides "the chance to save a life."

12 PHOTOS
Michael Phelps' Olympic history
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Michael Phelps' Olympic history
Team USA swimmer Michael Phelps prepares to swim laps during a practice session at Northside Swim Center in San Antonio, Texas, July 16, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
Michael Phelps (C) of the U.S. swims the butterfly stroke during his team's victory in the men's 4x100 meters medley relay at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympics August 17, 2008. Picture taken with underwater camera. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File photo
Michael Phelps of the U.S. poses with his gold medal after winning the men's 4x100m medley relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File photo
Michael Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale (L) of the U.S. celebrate after winning the men's 4x100m freestyle relay swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 11, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray (CHINA)
Gold medallist Michael Phelps of the U.S. listens to his national anthem during the men's 200m individual medley victory ceremony during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 2, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray 
Members of the men's 4 x 200m freestyle relay team, Michael Phelps, Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte and Ricky Berens (L-R) hold their national flag as they celebrate their gold medal win in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay victory ceremony during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 31, 2012. Phelps won the record 19th Olympic medal on Tuesday when he joined forces with his U.S. team mates to win the 4x200m freestyle relay. REUTERS/Jorge Silva 
Michael Phelps of the U.S. competes in the men's 400m individual medley swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 10, 2008. Picture taken with underwater camera. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (CHINA)
Michael Phelps of the U.S. holds up his award recognising him as the most decorated Olympian, during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. Phelps ended his incredible Olympic career on the perfect note on Saturday, winning his 18th gold medal for the United States in the men's medley relay, the last time he will swim a competitive race. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
A combination photo shows Michael Phelps of the U.S. holding each of his eight gold medals in the swimming competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Phelps won his eighth gold medal on Sunday, beating Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won at a single Games in 1972. The medals were won in: (Top row L-R) 400m individual medley (August 10), 4x100m freestyle relay (August 11), 200m freestyle (August 12), 200m butterfly (August 13). (Bottom row L-R) 4x200m freestyle relay (August 13), 200m individual medley (August 15), 100m butterfly (August 16), and 4x100m medley relay (August 17). REUTERS/Staff (CHINA)
Michael Phelps of the U.S. looks down at the pool after his team was beaten to the gold by France in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 29, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray 
Photographers surround Michael Phelps of the U.S. after he won his eighth gold medal of the games at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 17, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (CHINA)
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Despite Phelps' own progress he said the stigma surrounding mental health is still very present in the world today. However, he said seeing a surge in discussion over the past year has made hopeful for the future.

"Finally people are aware of everything that's going on and are talking about it. I think this is the only way that we can change," he went on, encouraging others to continue speaking up.

"I am extremely thankful that I did not take my life."

You can watch Phelps' full interview here.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call theNational Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1-800-273-8255. Here is alist of international resources. 

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