Dear Mrs. Phelps,
I am certain you, a person loving and supporting a person who has a mental illness, understand that it’s not your “fault”. I know you know — intellectually, to be sure — that there’s not much you or anyone else can do to “fix” Mr. Phelps. As he so eloquently stated:
“The thing is — and people who live with mental health issues all know this — it never goes away,” he said. “You have good days and bad. But there’s never a finish line. I’ve done so many interviews after [the 2016 Olympics] where the story was the same: Michael Phelps opened up about depression, went into a treatment program, won gold in his last Olympics and now is all better. I wish that were the truth.”
You know this, and yet sometimes I’m sure you feel like you could or should do more. And if your husband is like me, he feels entirely guilty when he sees your pained face of loving concern. And if your husband is like me, it makes him feel even more guilty that nothing is “wrong” with him; he “shouldn’t” be depressed — he has everything. So no, you cannot “fix” him; this is, as far as science knows, an inextricable part of him (and me).
My advice? Before I go giving (more) unsolicited advice, let me say thank you. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson Phelps, for taking care of yourself, your children, and your husband. Thank you for standing by him and for encouraging him to take care of himself. Thank you for helping him share his story.
My advice is this: Keep doing the things that make you happy and whole. Please keep doing the things that make you smile. Your husband loves you, and if he’s anything like me, seeing you happy is salve for his tortured soul.
Just another tortured soul
P.S. Maybe Michael can talk to my (soon-to-be) husband for me? :)