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This individual epitomized success: 23 gold, three silver, and two bronze. Although the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps had his fair share of mental health issues. Ever since he was young, Phelps was detached from his father as his parents ended up being divorced, leaving his mother, Debbie, to take care of Michael and his siblings. Diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 9, he used swimming as an outlet for all his excess energy. After the 2008 Olympics, where he won a historic eight gold medals, Phelps had a photo of him smoking from a marijuana pipe. From then on, his life went downhill. He hated his image of perfection and had no one to trust except his family and coach, Bob Bowman. Once an individual reaches the pinnacle of the sport and works so hard for a singular goal for four years and achieves it, they feel lost, clueless, and lacking the drive they once had. When Phelps first retired in 2012, he admitted he wanted “nothing to do with the sport,” which allowed him to live a more free life where he could have fun outside of the sport. However, his fun ended abruptly when he was arrested for a DUI. From an American icon to a shamed individual, Phelps contemplated suicide after this incident and underwent severe depression. He felt the world would be better without him and admitted that he could not sleep, eat, or move out of his room following the incident. After going through intensive behavioral therapy, seeking advice from fellow Baltimore sports icon Ray Lewis, and reading “The Purpose Driven Life,” Phelps was able to get his life back on track. He finished his career strong at the Rio Olympics, winning five gold and one silver medal. 

One thing we should take from his story is that life is full of challenges and successes. And speaking and reaching out to those around you when you feel challenged is the most important thing to do. Phelps’ ability to acknowledge his mistakes and his willingness to improve his current situation is what makes him so successful. Even after beating his challenges, Phelps is raising awareness and opening up about his struggles to the rest of the world, especially his fight with depression and ADHD. Not only is he helping himself, but he has also helped countless other individuals in similar situations to what he once went through by normalizing the discussion of mental health.

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Despite being the former world #1 in female tennis and 4 Grand Slam titles, Naomi Osaka had her fair share of mental health struggles. Before 2018, Osaka flew under the radar, so her games were not as heavily scrutinized as some other high-profile players. However, after her victory over Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open, she said, “the amount of attention I get is kind of ridiculous.” From magazines with her face on the front cover to the media discussing her family origins, needless to say, she was overwhelmed by the pressure of being on top. From then on, she said she “tied winning to [her] worth as a person,” and when she could not replicate her initial success, this did not bode well for her (Ruiz, 2021). She opened up about her bouts of depression and skipped press conferences as that triggered an adverse effect on her mental health. Her personality is quite reserved, and she often gets anxious about speaking to the whole world while trying to give them the best answers possible. Even if that meant being fined $15,000 and threatened with expulsion, she realized that her health superseded anything else (Hislop). Her bravery and willingness are inspiring for those in the same shoes as her, as it teaches them the importance of self-care and being open to talking about their struggles.

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At the age of 18, Demi Lovato was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. She stated that this condition arose from her childhood bullying as well as from her treatments for addictions and eating disorders. She was depressed for many years but experienced manic episodes to the point where she was writing seven songs in a night until 5 A.M. Through this time, she felt disoriented and did not know why she was feeling the way she felt. Using her experience, she started a mental health campaign called Be Vocal. She felt it was important to encourage others to speak out about their mental health problems and save their own lives and that of others. When she was diagnosed, she felt relieved and took steps toward recovery. Now, Lovato works on improving her mental health daily, mainly through exercise, which she uses as a sanctuary to get her mind off the things bothering her in life.

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One of England’s most prolific football stars, David Beckham, admitted his struggles with living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He stated in an interview that he needs everything to be in a straight line or in pairs, and if that is not the case, he puts the item elsewhere to gain temporary relief. His case has gotten to the point where he has three separate fridges containing his food in one, salad in another, and drinks in the third. OCD is actually quite common amongst the athlete population, around double the normal population, likely due to the fact that many of them have routines and compulsions they follow to get a performance that is “just right.” These can progress to become excessive and consuming, which can harm an athlete’s levels of motivation through burnout or impact day-to-day relationships with friends and family.

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Lady Gaga is an illustrious American singer and songwriter. Despite her international success and influence, she has admitted that she had struggled to live with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). At the age of 19, she experienced symptoms of PTSD after being raped, and she could not process such traumatic experiences well then. After she gained fame and success as a musician, it was even harder for her to cope with her suffering as she barely had the time since she was traveling the entire world and had to shift her lifestyle. But one day, she started feeling intense pain throughout her body, similar to how she felt after being raped. Having gone through the overwhelming effects of PTSD, Gaga is working towards creating better awareness for mental health disorders, even wanting courses to be implemented and taught in schools through her Born This Way Foundation.

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