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"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 Phelps said

By Jason Duaine Hahn
January 14, 2021 03:01 PM
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Michael and Nicole Phelps
C Flanigan/Getty
| Credit: C Flanigan/Getty

For years, former Olympian Michael Phelps has spoken about his struggle with depression and how he tends to his mental health.

His wife, Nicole, is now sharing her experience of supporting her husband through the difficult times he's gone through, which include battles with anxiety and suicidal ideation.

"I used to think, 'Oh, I can fix him. I can be his therapist. I can be what he needs,' " Nicole — who shares sons Boomer, 4, Beckett, 2, and Maverick, 16 months, with Phelps — told Today. "But what I've learned is that you can't take ownership for how they're feeling, no matter how badly you want to."

The mother of three also shared that when Phelps is having a "rough day," she talks to their children to let them know he may need some time alone.

But she admits things became more difficult for her in January of last year when NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Nicole told Today that she became frightened of the thought of what life would be life without her husband.

Michael and Nicole Phelps
Credit: Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty

"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 said. "Michael is the most amazing father and partner I could have ever asked for."

To take care of her own mental health, Nicole recently began seeing a therapist, implementing journaling and meditation into her regimen.

"It's helping me with everything. It's support for me," she told Today. "But more than anything, therapy provides me with the tools to be able to help Michael properly."

Even with the difficulties of the past year, including the abrupt changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Nicole said the bond between her and Phelps is even stronger.

RELATED VIDEO: Olympian Michael Phelps Speaks Out About His Battle With Depression

"We've definitely grown together through this and learned a lot," Nicole said. "It's not easy, but I'm married to the most incredible human being."

Last month, Phelps spoke with PEOPLE about the things that help him strengthen his mental wellbeing, including talking to a therapist.

"Once I realized that it's okay to not be okay, I started sharing the emotions that I was going through, or the thoughts that I had and I felt safe with that, and that's what's helped me be able to grow and learn more about myself," he said. "Being able to unload some of the things that I was holding on to, it truly gave me space to grow."

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.