Nicole Phelps revealed a particularly vulnerable moment she had with husband Michael Phelps amid his ongoing struggles with depression in a new interview, explaining how she told him: “If I lose you, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
The 35-year-old wife of the Olympic swimmer told Today Parents that in the wake of NBA star Kobe Bryant’s death, she had a realization about her husband’s battle with suicidal ideation.
“After Vanessa [Bryant] lost Kobe, all I could do was look at Michael and be like, ‘Can we please help you? Because if I lose you, I don’t know what I’m gonna do,’” Nicole told the publication. “Michael is the most amazing father and partner I could have ever asked for.”
She went on to say that she long believed she could play a bigger part in helping her husband deal with his pain.
“I used to think, ‘Oh, I can fix him. I can be his therapist. I can be what he needs,’” she told the publication. “But what I’ve learned is that you can’t take ownership for how they’re feeling, no matter how badly you want to.”
Nicole also explained that her three children with Michael ― Boomer, 4, Beckett, 2, and Maverick, 16 months ― want to “make him happy” and often “want to be near Michael when he’s having a rough day.”
“Especially Boomer because he’s the oldest,” says Nicole. “So we’ll say, ‘Hey Booms, Daddy’s having a hard time and just needs to take a moment to be alone.’ We want Boomer to understand it’s not about him, it’s about Michael.”
Nicole explained that she’s begun working with a therapist to process the ideas she’s had about losing Michael.
“It’s helping me with everything. It’s support for me,” she said. “But more than anything, therapy provides me with the tools to be able to help Michael properly.”
Nicole and Michael have long used their public status to be vocal about mental health, advocate for awareness of mental illness, and not shy away from the hardships it can cause.
On Instagram, she wished Michael a happy fourth anniversary in October 2020 with the caption: “There’s good days and there’s bad days but all days with you make me smile even when I don’t want to. ... I’ve never been able to explain our love. ... I just know it’s greater than us and gets greater than us year after year. I love you and I’m grateful for you!”
Earlier that same month, she posted a message to honor World Mental Health Day and told fans that, “It’s OK to not be OK.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.