Michael Phelps quietly struggled with his mental health behind closed doors.

"I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from."

At the 2012 Olympics in London, the world recognized Michael Phelps as the unrivaled champion of the swimming pool.

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.


But behind closed doors, the American athlete says, he was wrestling with inner demons far away from the prying spotlight.

“I went in with no self-confidence, no self-love," Phelps said in a recent interview with NBC's "Dateline" of his time in London four years ago. “I think the biggest thing was, I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and nobody else.”

Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images.

The most decorated Olympian in history — the man who's won a record-breaking 18 gold medals in the swimming pool — says he had been struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse for a while. And nobody except his closest friends and family knew about it:

“100%, I was lost, pushing a lot people out of my life — people that I wanted and needed in my life. I was running and escaping from whatever it was I was running from.”

It took a life-changing run-in with the law in 2014 for Phelps to realize he needed help.

About a year and a half ago, Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence — the second time he was charged with the offense. The arrest was a major wake-up call.

“I was [in] the lowest place I’ve ever been," he told "Dateline." "Honestly, I sort of, at one point, I just — I felt like I didn’t want to see another day. I felt like it should be over."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

Phelps checked himself into a rehab clinic in October 2014, where he says he cried himself to sleep the first several nights. But through treatment, Phelps was able to address many of the underlying issues affecting his health, including a turbulent relationship with his father dating back to childhood.

Today, as Phelps trains for the Olympics this summer, he says he's in a much better place.

When celebrities speak out about their mental health struggles, it's worth noticing because their courage can be contagious.

Take, for instance, Hayden Panettiere. The Internet rallied behind the actress after she addressed living with postpartum depression in recent months.

"The postpartum depression I have been experiencing has impacted every aspect of my life,” she told followers on Twitter last week. “Rather than stay stuck due to unhealthy coping mechanisms, I have chosen to take time to reflect holistically on my health and life. Wish me luck!"

Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for NBCUniversal.

In March, "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller chose to take a viral Internet meme making fun of his weight and use it to shine a light on the dangers of depression.

When the viral photo was taken about six years ago, he was suicidal. Food had been "the one thing I could look forward to," he'd explained in a Facebook post:

"Long story short, I survived. So do those pictures. I'm glad. Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons."

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images.

These stories about our favorite actors and athletes — the same people whose posters line our bedroom walls and epitomize the glitz and glamour of success — can be difficult to hear.

But their openness can inspire fans and readers to face their own struggles, and that bravery can become a powerful catalyst for change.

Now, Phelps is looking ahead to the Olympics this summer with his eye on the prize. But win or lose, he already feels like a champ.

I’m having fun again," Phelps said. "This is something I haven’t had in a really long time."

His fiancée, Nicole, just gave birth to their son earlier this month. And becoming a dad has been the "best feeling" he's ever felt in his life.

It sounds like he's already snagged the gold.

A photo posted by Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00) on
Family

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture