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

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

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

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
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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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