COLORADO SPRINGS — This week, NBC’s Kate Snow spoke with the most decorated Olympic athlete, American swimming sensation Michael Phelps, as part of the release of an HBO documentary featuring Phelps and several other U.S. Olympic athletes discuss the challenges of reaching the Summer or Winter Games and then coping with the emotional aftermath called “The Weight of Gold.”
Think about it - who appears to have things in life more under control than Olympic athletes who dedicate their lives to performing on the highest levels of competition. Yet Phelps, the greatest achiever of them all, and many others have battled severe depression and even thoughts of, or death by suicide.
Phelps told Snow, “I think that's the one thing that I'm surprised about, people who I open up to are like, ‘Oh yeah, you won all these metals like how can you be depressed?’ I'm like, ‘Well, I'm human, right? I'm a human being and I go through the typical struggles that everybody does."
Phelps says once he figured out he could ask for help and got help things not only got better but saved his life.
Cassandra Fallon, a licensed marriage and family therapist here in Colorado Springs sees a general reluctance in most people when it comes to taking that first step of reaching out for help in the form of counseling.
Cassie says, “It's really hard to ask for help. We kind of come from a culture of - suck it up, buttercup, or pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
So if you're struggling emotionally or mentally even a little bit, no matter who you are you should reach out for help.
Cassie says someone doesn’t need to be severely depressed or mentally ill to benefit from therapy. “No matter your age, size, style, culture, family - life is hard and a lot of times asking for help is hard, but once we do, life doesn’t have to be so hard.”
If you have tried therapy in the past and didn’t have a good experience, Cassie says, “Try try, try again. I've been to therapy myself and sometimes, it's like I wasn’t ready to go through certain things at the time. Maybe the counselor wasn't a good fit. Perhaps it just wasn't a good time.”
Cassie also says the benefits of therapy can be as wide-ranging as the reasons people seek help. “It's not always right away, it's not always snapping your fingers and everything is fixed. It's very slow, sometimes like baby steps.”
Cassie also adds the benefits can be both subtle or substantial. “Sometimes it maybe I slept for an hour longer than I usually do, or that argument (I had) went a little shorter than it would have usually, days upon days with my partner, or I got a little bit less sad when some event happened. Ultimately, over time when you compare things from when you start therapy to 3 months, 6 months. 9 months down the line and you’re able to see improvement in relationships, less conflict in your life, or better sleep. Feeling physically better, we know that emotions really have an impact on physical health. It can even increase your satisfaction in your work or home life. Grades can go up, performance can go up.”
The bottom line, especially with so many stressors in our world today, Cassie says, “Everybody has problems, everybody we all do, and so we all need help, we all need it.”
Sure, many can soldier through life with a stiff upper lip, but navigating our emotions and challenges doesn’t have to be something you go through alone.
If you are interested in speaking with a counselor either in person or online or have any questions feel free to reach out to the folks at Thriveworks in Colorado Springs, at (719) 266-3919 or, you can visit their website (https://thriveworks.com/colorado-springs-counseling/)
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