‘Unmasked’ highlights mental-health struggles

Olympian Missy Franklin shares story of highs and lows

Thelma Grimes
tgrimes@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/13/22

Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin talked about her road to recovering from mental-health struggles during a special event held in Castle Pines on Sept. 10. The event, titled “Unmasked,” was …

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‘Unmasked’ highlights mental-health struggles

Olympian Missy Franklin shares story of highs and lows

Posted

Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin talked about her road to recovering from mental-health struggles during a special event held in Castle Pines on Sept. 10. The event, titled “Unmasked,” was hosted by the City of Castle Pines and Mental Health Colorado.

The unmasked theme for the night was aimed at removing the stigma of mental health, encouraging more people to come out and get help when they are struggling. Throughout the evening, three women took turns on the microphone to talk about their struggles with mental health and declare that they are officially “unmasked.”

One speaker talked about the shame she has suffered after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Another, who called herself Lexie, said in her teens she started feeling depressed and was struggling by the age of 13. However, she did not want to admit it — she did not want to burden her family.

By the age of 17, Lexie said, she attempted suicide. Now, as an adult, Lexie said she is unmasking and hopes to help fight against the stigma that comes with mental health.

Denver resident, Nancy Alterman, said she and family members have suffered from depression and mental-health struggles for decades. In her official “unmasking,” Alterman said through family support, medication and finding other treatments, she continues to fight and work to get healthy. She said she has going from suffering from the three Es – exhaustion, expensive and embarrassing – to believing in the three Ps – purpose, passion and positivity.

Franklin finished the evening by taking questions and talking about the struggles she had after entering the spotlight on the world’s largest sports stage at age 17.

Franklin, with five gold medals in swimming, became famous in the 2012 Olympics when she was mostly unknown. She competed hard and became a U.S. legend.

Because of the early success, Franklin said she returned to the Rio Olympics in 2016 well known, with sponsors in place and a lot more pressure. That pressure turned into struggles, she explained. While her body was in great shape, Franklin said her spirit and mind were not cooperating.

Franklin described a “devastating” finish in the 2016 games. She described tough moments as the media followed her asking what was wrong.

“I went from being this 17-year-old that no one expected anything from to four years later having all these high expectations,” she said. “Then, I was this 21-year-old woman with 2 million people watching and trying to make them happy. But I was struggling.”

Following the Olympics, Franklin said she was diagnosed with a stress and anxiety disorder, an eating disorder and depression. Over the next few years, Franklin said she worked to address the issues, seeing a therapist regularly.  

Now, Franklin said, strong family support and the community have helped her realize she is not alone.

“As hard as it was to talk about it, it was worth it,” she said. “Going through my mental health journey has been about figuring out who I am and not who everyone thinks I should be.”

As part of the annual event, Castle Pines Mayor Tracy Engerman also gave a special award to the Douglas County Community Foundation.

Engerman said the foundation has committed to donating 80% of all 2022 grant funding to programs that prioritize mental health.

missy franklin, mental health colorado, douglas county community foundation, unmasked, nancy alterman, castle pines news

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