World, meet Allison Schmitt. She’s a 26-year-old swimmer who helped the U.S. women’s swimming team win a gold medal in Rio de Janeiro this week. She also won a silver medal of her own for in the 4x100m freestyle relay. She’s one of the most successful Olympic swimmers in recent history.
Oh, and she also has depression.
The swimmer opened up to The Today Show this week about her experience with the mental health disorder. And her candid account is downright inspiring.
“When I woke up in the morning, I would look forward to going back to bed,” she said. “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?’”
Schmitt said that the condition often stood in the way of her performance in the pool. She sought treatment to help manage her depression early in 2015, Today reported.
Additionally, Schmitt also had to cope with the loss of her cousin, who died by suicide in May of last year. She told the outlet she wished her cousin and everyone else struggling with the disorder knew that they weren’t alone and that, with the right treatment, things do get better.
Nearly 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression, which brings about debilitating physical and emotional symptoms. What’s worse, there’s still a large stigma attached to the disorder. That’s why statements like Schmitt’s are so necessary: They give a broader context to the illness, normalizing those who have it.
In an interview with The Huffington Post earlier this month, the swimmer talked about the stigma that comes with reaching out for help ― particularly when you’re a successful sports figure.
“I think as an athlete we’re taught that if we can push through anything we can make it wherever we want to go, and we’re always told to not ask for help,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt is living proof that a mental health condition not only doesn’t define a person or influence their capabilities ― but that you can thrive in spite of one.
While she’s racking up medals in Rio, she’s also clearly a champion for mental health awareness.
For more Olympic coverage: