Michigan’s own Allison Schmitt is known as the swimmer with a smile, the happy one by the pool. The Olympic freestyler will tell you now that the smile was real, but she was also secretly struggling.
Schmitt won five Olympic medals during the 2012 summer games in London. Three were gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle race, the 4×200-meter medley relay and the 4×100-medley medley relay. She won a silver in the 400-meter freestyle and a bronze in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay.
She returned to her hometown of Canton Township on a high, greeted by family, friends and fans. But then, the high turned into a low.
“There’s this thing that they call post-Olympic blues and I think I had a little bit of that and I kept isolating myself and isolating myself. So, I just kept digging into a hole,” Schmitt told Local 4. “I didn’t really know how to describe it, I just wanted it to go away and to be happy and to be kind of like my old self.”
She had begun suffering from depression.
She said she wasn’t good at asking for help and that might have been part of the problem.
“I would just want to sleep all the time and someone asked me, ‘What do you look forward to getting up in the morning?’ And what I looked forward to was going back to sleep,” Schmitt said. “I would never really respond to my messages or phone calls; especially to my mother because I feel like she has that mother sense that if there was something wrong she would always call me when I was crying and I would be like, ‘How does she know?'”
Schmitt kept quiet about what she was feeling for quite some time, but in January she opened up to the three people who are closest to her.
“I don’t think anyone put any pieces of the puzzle together, because even outside the pool I could still put a smile on, I could still have fun,” Schmitt said.
However, her friend and teammate Michael Phelps did notice and said something during a swim meet in Austin, Texas, in January.
“At the Austin Grand Prix, I walked out after the 400 (meter freestyle) where I probably didn’t give it my all, but I pretended I did,” Schmitt said. “Michael had said something to me. He said, ‘Hey, I can tell,’ we had been going to practice for the past few weeks together, and he said, ‘I can tell in the past few weeks you’re not acting yourself. Something seems weird. If you need help just let me know. I have been through it and there is other people I can have help you.'”
Schmitt said she started crying on the pool deck. “I just started crying and I said, ‘I do need help,'” she said.
She confided in Phelps, and two of her coaches; Bob Bowman and Keenan Robinson.
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