Olympic Skiing Legend Lindsey Vonn Says 'Depression Is Something I Work on Every Day'

Lindsey Vonn opens up about her decades-long battle with depression — and the tactics she uses to stay on top — in her new memoir Rise

Hollywood at Home Lindsey Vonn photographed at her home in Vail, Colorado on May 23, 2017
Lindsey Vonn. Photo: Winnie Au

Two years after retiring as the most decorated and fearless female skier of all time, Lindsey Vonn is sharing painful new details about the highs and lows of her storied career including the countless physical injuries she endured along the way — and, most poignantly, her mental health struggle, which sometimes made it difficult to get out of bed.

"I've been dealing with it since I was 18," Vonn, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week's print issue. "It's definitely been a roller coaster of a journey."

Vonn, who first went public about her decades-long battle with depression to PEOPLE in 2012, gets candid about living with the mood disorder in her new memoir, Rise.

"I've come a long way and I'm proud of that," Vonn, 37, says. "But I'm a work in progress and I continue to work on myself every day."

With 82 World Cup wins, three Olympic medals and 20 World Cup titles, the downhill racing legend admits that skiing down a mountain faster than anyone else became her escape. "It was like a coping mechanism to deal with all the other aspects of my life," says Vonn. "It's where I felt most in control, quiet and at peace."

But not even skiing could compensate for the dark hole that threatened to consume her when, at the age of 18, her parents announced that they were divorcing.

"I was in a bad spot," recalls Vonn, who says she would cry herself to sleep at night. "It started when my gym sessions kept getting later and later, and eventually I was at the gym at 7:00 at night, then not at all. That's when I knew I had a problem."

Lindsey Vonn
Marco Trovati/AP/Shutterstock

After she reluctantly booked an appointment with a doctor, she learned that her symptoms were consistent with depression and was prescribed Zoloft. Within a month she felt like her old self again.

"Because depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, it definitely helped me and gave me a bit of stability," she says.

To learn more about Lindsey Vonn's battle with depression, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE.

Besides taking antidepressants, Vonn also went to work, she says, doing everything she could "to make sure I'm maintaining good mental health by doing all those things that help me stay positive like journaling, being with friends and working out."

But her illness was always lurking in the background and her lowest point came in 2014 — after her four-year marriage to Olympic skier Thomas Vonn ended in divorce — when she suffered a serious knee injury that forced her to miss the Sochi Olympics.

"That was definitely the hardest time for me," says Vonn, whose numerous injuries over the years required nine major surgeries. "My physical therapist would have to drag me out of bed at times."

In general, Vonn says she thinks athletes are often viewed as "superheros but we're human like everybody else."

Luckily, in the time since she first spoke out about her mental health, things have changed, Vonn feels: I'm "happy were destigmatizing this."

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