Nicole Phelps reveals her fears about losing husband Michael to depression
Updated: Jan 27
It is with shock and sadness that I am writing this post this morning, because almost as soon as I'd finished yesterday's article about kindness and how to help people in mental distress, I received some devastating and upsetting news.
It was announced in the equestrian community yesterday morning, that an eventer who had spoken publicly about his struggles with depression, had very sadly died.
Since hearing this terrible news, I have felt sick to the stomach and have been unable to stop worrying about the ripple effect that will be created from this tragedy - principally the grief and sadness projected on to his parents, his wife and children, but also to his friends, all of whom will be deeply shocked and affected.
I feel such anguish about the fact that I can't do more to help people in mental crisis; it's really plaguing me at the moment and I'm desperate to have my efforts acknowledged so that I can have more of an influence with respect to helping, supporting, advising, and educating people; there's just so much I want to do.
I know it's not up to me to save the world from mental illness but I feel as though I'm not doing enough, especially since I have so much knowledge, insight and understanding regarding survival, effective treatments and coping strategies to combat mental health issues and problems.
Yet again, the urgent need for education, suicide prevention, and provision of effective medications is firmly reinforced. Tragedies such as this one make me even more determined to do all I can to help, through my writing and support of others, I just hope and pray that I can reach enough people.
Someone else that has been directly affected by depression and mental ill-health and is now determined to make a positive difference, is the decorated Olympic swimmer, and multiple gold medal winner Michael Phelps.
With his celebrity status and immense online presence, he is making a huge impact in respect to the breaking down of the stigma that still surrounds mental illnesses.
But, it is his wife Nicole, who has spoken-out recently, and after reading what she says I'm alerted to another complication that comes with helping the mentally-ill and that's the effect that it has on those that support and look after us.
In the interview, Nicole reveals her anxieties and fears for her husband, who is so often consumed by the horrific darkness that depression brings with it. She explains: 'You can't take ownership for how they're feeling no matter how badly you want to', and also "I used to think: 'Oh, I can fix him, I can be what he needs, I will be his therapist.'"
What Nicole is misunderstanding here, (not her fault and so often the case with non-sufferers,) is that this is a terrible illness, it's not something you can talk your way out of really, not when it's life-threateningly severe.
People can't comprehend why someone that is blessed with so much talent and so many gifts, could be depressed - this is what they need to understand; it's a terrible, debilitating illness, it's not sadness or low mood, it's something far, far worse which doesn't even feel survivable, it's death with a heart beat - a literal living hell.
What does become apparent when reading about Michael and Nicole's experiences is that they have talked openly about mental illness and the problems it creates; they even report that it has brought them closer together.
Having someone to off-load the horrors of your mind and the brutal suffering that you are experiencing, is essential if you are going to survive an episode of severe mental illness. Somehow, in letting it out it does slightly appease the torture, (only very slightly), but there is also the potential mental health impact for the supporter to consider.
There were so many times throughout my depressive episodes where I put my parents through immense worry and stress. I tried not to burden them with it, but after spending months at a time completely crippled with depression, unable to leave my room, (let alone the house), and desperately resisting my suicidal thoughts, there were times when I just had to let it out.
Mum has since told me that she was constantly terrified that she was going to find me hanging from a beam in my bedroom - so horrific for her, and then there's the worry when I'm manic and they have watch their son going out of his mind, have him forcibly sectioned, and then the subsequent distressing visits to the mental hospital. How any of us have survived this I have not the smallest clue, it's been a hideous and horrific ordeal for all of us.
I feel really bad about all the stress my illness has caused us all, but I also think that being honest and open about it, (plus giving up and stopping everything,) is the only reason I'm still alive.
Nicole and Michael obviously have the same openness regarding mental health problems, as I do with my parents. It is so essential that the mentally afflicted have this support and trust. I worry desperately for people that don't have anyone - they are so utterly vulnerable. I know that I would never have had a chance at surviving without my parents' love and support, and I really am so grateful.
It's so wonderful to have people like Michael, speaking out about mental illness and demolishing the stigma that still comes with it. He has been involved in creating an online therapy service, called Talkspace, which matches patients to an affordable and licensed therapist. He seems to have had the same reaction to his illness as I have had to mine; 'I must have survived for a reason, and now is the time to help others'.
If you would like to read the full article in The Independent with Nicole Phelps and her anxieties for Michael, I have attached it here. I have also added a wonderful and encouraging video with Michael which you can find on the home page.
As usual please share these posts to others and keep sending me any articles and mental health stories that you would like me to discuss.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,