April 5th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Olympic swimmer discusses personal struggles

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. 

If you read my story - and you can in my book “In the Water They Can’t See Me Cry” -  I want you to be inspired, be confident in your own skin and imperfections, and know that there are always loved ones around to help. 

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.

soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. brett

    a courageous young woman!

    April 5, 2012 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy

      I so understand her story ... I was a "cutter" when I was in my late teens (still have the scars). Sad to say, but cutting "moved" the mental pain to physical pain – which was easier to deal with.

      Now I am almost 50 years old and I look at my scars and remember the pain that caused them. But those scars are also why I am tough and successful survivor in life!

      April 7, 2012 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
    • donna

      I can't wait to buy her book.

      April 7, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
    • oldguy

      There is nothing in the article as it now appears about cutting. Was it edited to eliminate the reference or what.

      April 7, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
    • Jen King

      To 'Old Guy'...It is referred to as 'self-infliction'

      April 8, 2012 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
    • tom

      What the F... is "cutting"? Would be nice if the story could explain the jargon.

      April 8, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse |
    • pain leads to cutting

      Amy, your observation is very accurate. When we look at our scars, we remember the pain that caused us to cut, not the pain of the cuts. Psychological/psychiatric pain is excruciating and has no analgesic rescue. Physical pain distracts from mental pain and is self-limiting. Cutting made life bearable during very dark times indeed. I cut while I was desperately ill, not because I was some bummed out teenager. It's important for people to know that distinction.

      April 8, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  2. Penewhite

    What a boring story

    April 5, 2012 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MizzGivens

      I'm sorry, what? I was sleeping.

      April 5, 2012 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
  3. GL

    She's hawking her BOOK for $$$$$ !! Nothing more.

    April 5, 2012 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen King

      And it's what she talks about in the book..it's called an autobiography..and you're what? A Snookie fan?? All authors go on a publicity run for books, along with musicians, movie stars, etc.

      April 8, 2012 at 08:35 | Report abuse |
  4. Draconis

    Cutting what? Just read the first 3 paragraphs of blah blah blah blah... if you don't explain what she did in the first paragraph I'm moving on.

    April 5, 2012 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      Cutting = self mutilation

      April 5, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
  5. j

    I fell asleep reading this. Anyone have the abridged version?

    April 5, 2012 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cary

    I agree, boring story, she is just trying to sell her book. Have never been impressed with her, she has badmouthed other USA swim team members while at the same time promoting herself through pictorials in magazines.

    April 5, 2012 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Butt

    Stupid is stupid does. This article is a mess. She was cutting rug or cutting herself. Either option who cares. How is this news?

    April 5, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Yes, you're a Butt – didnt you see:

      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.

      April 5, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • crazyvermont

      You might be concerned if you knew how many young people in this country cut "self mutilate" as it's an indictment on our society. My wife sees this in her practice almost daily and what the article didn't point out is cutters are often victims of sexual abuse(about 6 out of 10). I will agree the story failed in it's attempt to hold attention or clearly tell the story, which is a shame

      April 6, 2012 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • oldguy

      What's the relationiship between cutting and extreme piercing such as lip, tongue and eyebrow; 20 earings; or sexual organs?

      April 7, 2012 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  8. Johnny Dollar

    I was so appalled by the headline that I couldn't read the article. I think the only respectful thing to do would be to return her medals. She didn't earn them honestly. Whether it's in standing in line at the supermarket or taking part in something so prestigious as the Olympics, cutting is cheating.

    Yours Truly,
    Johnny Dollar

    April 5, 2012 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sky Masterson

      Well said Johnny well said!

      April 5, 2012 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • Riptide

      How is cutting cheating?

      April 5, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • MsB

      You obviously do not know what "cutting" means.

      April 5, 2012 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • Carole Clarke

      How is cutting cheating? This is usually only done by females and involves a sharp blade and skin of arms and legs. Athletes who do it find ways to cover the scars. It does not make her faster in the pool. This caliber athlete lives 100% for their sport, their whole life is consumed by the sports needs and that's just not normal. Kids want to be normal but don't always have the confidence to do the right thing. They cut to feel the pain, it affirms they are alive and have some kind of life, that they are not mannequins in a Speedo. Its sad and usually there is an adult who knows whats going on but won't interfere. Coaches get big money for producing such phenoms and they resent some kid who jeopardizes their bottom line. It comes back to the parents who must decide what is more important – letting the kid excel or letting them have a normal childhood. But parents can make big bucks off the kid's endorsements so they too look the other way. No one is there for the child and the lonliness often sparks these dreadful practices.

      April 5, 2012 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • fishface

      hilarious! why don't they get it?

      April 5, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      Cutting is using a sharp object, usually a razor blade, to slice one's arm or leg. This self-mutilation is performed in a ritual manner by females more often than males in response to emotional stress.

      It has nothing to do with cheating or winning Olympic medals. Ignorance runs deep in some families, and yours practically gallops.

      April 5, 2012 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      what a pack of morons, you believe that "cutting" is a form of cheating? Its not for 'cutting in line you idiots, its self mutilation. You guys must have all done "cutting" on your brain matter! No wonder America is failing.

      April 6, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • spud

      I'm with fishface on this one.

      April 7, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
    • oldguy

      Thank you, Johnny Dollar.

      April 7, 2012 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  9. Marion Haste

    A better name for thebook would be “In the Water They Can’t See Me Pee”

    April 5, 2012 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. HLT

    Of course she's trying to sell her book, but I also believe she truly wants to inspire and encourage other people , especially those who have had similar problems. There is something seriously warped about mocking cutting disorders.

    April 5, 2012 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bill

    Johnny. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about, but you wanted to see your name in print. Cutting is taking a knife or scissor and cutting yourself until you bleed. You call that cheating? Research a subject before you make a fool of yourself.

    April 5, 2012 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charlie

      Johnny Dollar is just making a silly joke. As if he didn't understand what the word "cutting" means here he is responding as if it is like cutting in line at the grocery store. So "cutting in line" in a swim race (if you could figure out how to do it) would be cheating.

      April 5, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny Dollar

      @ Charlie–

      Well done! You recognize when a chain has been yanked!

      Yours Truly,
      Johnny Dollar

      April 5, 2012 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • Kato

      I can't believe no one got Johnny's joke... Much too subtle for this crowd I guess

      April 6, 2012 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  12. porttland Tony

    The most important point here is that she survived her psychological issues. You mentally inerts who find this story irrelevant should stick to the breaking news segment.

    April 5, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Michelle

    Yes, she is trying to get people to buy her book. And, CNN is trying to get people to click on the link. The article doesn't even touch on the subject raised in the overly sensational headline. Shame on you CNN.

    April 5, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Neptune

    I thought cutting referred to cutting a lap short – that would be cheating and you could win medals if no one caught you cutting! Fortunately that is not what Amanda means. She is an inspiration to so many in and out of the swim world!

    April 5, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. M.E.

    She's just trying to peddle her book. Cutting isn't all that special or interesting, trust me. She did it just like a bazillion and one other people, big deal. There's no real lasting harm in it.

    April 5, 2012 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. M.K.

    Soledad O'Brien referring to a Olympian as a MESS in her life outside of swimming. Wow, I hope your children never have problems.

    April 5, 2012 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. AR

    Did no one actually watch the video?? Boring article, no doubt. But many of the statements being made are based on the article alone and not the video where she refers to herself as a MESS, not a journalist. And she talks about the cutting openly. Oy.

    April 6, 2012 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • M.K.

      Yes, I watched the video. Yesterday on CNN new's Soledad O'Brien referred to her as a MESS. O'Brien is a graduate of Harvard. I would hope she would have a wider vocabulary in describing ones hardship's and emotional struggle's in their life. Unprofessional !!

      April 6, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
  18. Steve

    I think she tried to jump ahead of someone in line.

    April 6, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sher

    Poor little rich girl!
    She's an attention hog, that's probably why she started doing alcohol, drugs and cutting and is now touting her book!

    April 6, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Les

      There were no "instructions" to watch the video and then read the story. Based on the story alone I would have thought she was cutting practices and training sessions. Unfortunately, the writer who is NOT a child but an adult parent, has the writing abilities of a high school junior. If the article is any indication of what is in her book, it will be a waste to time to read it.

      "Cutting" is an attention seeking behavior as is this juvenile article to push her book. I agree that it is usually rich kids or spoiled brats that engage in these behaviors more often than others. I have no sympathy for her. She was gi9ven the world on a platter and can only moan "Poor, poor me!" Disgusting.

      April 6, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
  20. Caiha

    I actually kinda miss cutting. I can't do it any more though cos it bothers my friends and family too much, and wearing long sleeves and long pants all the time to hide it started to be too much of a hassle. There were and are reasons, but no one cares about my sob stories, so why should I care about yours? Heh, too bad we all gotta grow up, huh?

    April 7, 2012 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Empathy

    People who are not sensitive or empathetic to those who self-mutilate clearly have not had a tough enough life to understand why those who do, do this. It's not something that anyone is proud of, or do for attention, as the majority of those who do hide their wounds & scars. Like one of the posters mentioned, a vast majority have been sexually or somehow abused in the past. Imagine for once not having control over something of this nature, and try to understand how emotionally harmful and tolling that can be on a person. Cutting is certainly not the right option, but at least try to understand why they do it. If people had more empathy the world would be a much better place...

    April 7, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Fiona

    Plugging her book immediately...she lost me right there.

    April 7, 2012 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. donna

    What a courageous young woman to be so bold as to sell her book this way.

    April 7, 2012 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. SatelliteSteve

    While we all love attention I assume overachievers go the the max, or so they think. Maybe I should have a degree in medicine since if these people really wanted attention, they would their arms over and hit some good arteries and veins insteal of tendons. There are too many people waking up with leukemia or pancratic cancers that truly have a problem to struggle with.
    No offense but some people just don't understand most of us try to aviod injuries just to get to work; not write books.

    April 7, 2012 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lars Babaganoosh

    I'm glad you got better, now b1tch get over here and cut my lawn.

    April 8, 2012 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Katie

    I agree, poorly edited article tagged with a sensational headline. Someone at CNN was asleep at their desk for this cut and paste job. They don't even explain what cutting is and how many young people (girls, mainly) do it.

    April 8, 2012 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. lookingforhislove

    The comments on this story are for the most part very childish and also disturbing. I think a few of you need to do some research on the topic of cutting, self harm, self mutilation or self injury; they will all lead you to the same results.
    This is NOT an action just done by "Poor little rich girl"'s or "rich kids or spoiled brats", anyone no matter if their parents are in poverty, whether they have a disability, or if they grow up in the nicest home in the world. Everyone can feel hurt and not know how to express themselves. Many people can have emotional problems or mental health disorders and many other people just have really screwed up lives and cannot figure out any other way to cope than by cutting themself. (Such as abuse victums.)
    While I do not feel the article explained cutting enough and that there could have been some elaboration on cutting instead of the swimmer's new life and book, what has been written has been written and we can't change it so complaining will get us nowhere.
    I really commend and am glad that this olympic swimmer is trying to send a positive message of encouragement and proof that teens and others struggling with this can get help and end this distructive cycle.
    From experience, I know that cutting isn't something you can do repeatedly for a while and then one day go "Oh, hmmm, maybe this is bad for me; I should probably stop." No, if it were that easy, many people wouldn't have accidental suicides, end up in the hospital or continue to hurt their families because they cannot stop.
    Cutting is like a drug, once you start it and get hooked, it is addictive and hard to quit.
    I'll admit, I've been there, am still there but a lot better than where I was at one point...
    I hope this educates some of you and that next time you go to post you think before doing so.

    April 8, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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