Allison Schmitt may have just won her eighth Olympic medal, but the elite swimmer can recall a time when victory seemed impossible. In an interview on Wednesday with Today, Schmitt says that her struggle with depression almost ended her swimming career. Anyone who has battled depression might find her experience familiar. "When I woke up in the morning, I would look forward to going back to bed," she told Today. "As soon as my alarm went off, I knew that it's time for practice. But my thoughts were, Okay, when can I get back into bed." "I was failing every time I dove into the pool," Schmitt continued. "A place that I loved, a sport that I loved. [I would] dive in every time and fail, what I thought was failing. I didn't know what else to do." Schmitt had previously opened up about her experience with depression to ESPN, where she explained that she began to speak publicly about the illness after her cousin committed suicide last year. "If there was one thing I could say, is — if I knew and [could] help her and let her know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel," she told Today. According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, one in four college athletes experiences "depressive symptoms," with women being twice as likely as men to have symptoms. Schmitt began seeing a psychologist early last year, and has also received support from fellow Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, whom she counts as a very close friend.
"When you're in a place like that, you just kind of continue going into a dark hole," Phelps told Today. "I didn't want to see her go through some of the things I went through." Today, Schmitt continues to speak out about her own experiences in hopes of removing the stigma surrounding mental health, particularly among athletes — who don't necessarily have higher rates of mental illness, but do seem to struggle more when it comes to reaching out. "I knew this was a time that I could save the next person who was struggling, the next person who thinks their life is not worth it," she told ESPN.