April 5th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, who first competed at the age of 14 in Atlanta in 1996, shares her struggles with bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse, and self-harm.
Looking back, I think my life story is very real. I have struggled with many issues, including depression, self-confidence and self-infliction that a lot of others can relate to.
Yes, I’ve won seven Olympic medals and have grown up pretty much my whole life in the public eye modeling for magazines and interviewing for newspapers, but deep down, despite the glamour and glitz on the outside, I was a regular girl struggling with my inner demons.
Success, whether it’s at the Olympic games, at work or in the gym, starts with your inner strength. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.
Despite my ups and downs, I’m still extremely proud of where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished. Over my four Olympic Games, I’ve won two gold medals, four silver medals and one bronze. I have met amazing people, including my coaches and fellow swimmers, and am very thankful and honored to have represented my country in those Olympic Games.
Above all though, the proudest moment of my life [beyond the Olympic medals] was giving birth to my amazing son, Blaise.
Before Blaise, life was a blur of swimming pools and airports, red carpets and flashy headlines. I was always concerned about the clock!
Now, my focus is on my son. After swim practice in the morning, I rush home to be with Blaise and my family. Parenthood has transformed my life - it has made me a better person. I have a much better perspective on what truly is important in life, which has helped me in and out of the pool.
My biggest regret? Everyone asks. I don’t have many! But I will say I was given an incredibly unique and wonderful gift of swimming, and for that I do wish I would have savored the moments and places it has taken me the last 20 years - specifically the 1996 Olympic Games.
I am very lucky to have had such a successful career and I hope that I can be a role model to younger swimmers dreaming of making the Olympic Games too.
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