Model, Olympic gold-medalist, wife, and mother Amanda Beard has had her share of success and happiness through her career and her family, but as well as many hardships.
"In The Water They Can’t See You Cry", a memoir written by Beard with Rebecca Paley, is an honest and raw account of her life in the spotlight as a swimmer and her battle with clinical depression.
In three Olympic games, Beard won a total of seven medals. Her first Olympic appearance was in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games when she was only 14, tightly holding her teddy bear, Harold. She was a student at Irvine High School in Irvine, Calif. at the time and managed to take home two silver medals and one gold medal.
She also competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. On top of her swimming career, Beard also got into modeling, gaining status as a sex-symbol.
With all this success came an immense amount of pressure. She found herself feeling unhappy and unworthy of all that she had in her life, unaware she was suffering from clinical depression.
Her memoir, a Touchstone book published by Simon & Schuster in 2012, opens with an account of Beard cutting herself, this time too deep. As she frantically attempts to gain control and stop the bleeding, her husband (then boyfriend), finds her suffering on the bathroom floor.
I was able to speak with Beard about her battle with depression, her book, and her recovery through the help of her husband, photographer Sacha Brown, and the birth of her son, Blaise.
When and how did you decide you wanted to write a book about your life?
It kind of just slowly came on. I was talking to one of my friends that was a writer and we just started talking about it and it was one of those things where she was like you know, ‘this could be a really great story for other young women to read and you could change a lot of lives.’ So I just started really thinking about it in that way and then it just slowly started to materialize and turn into writing a book.
What has been the best part about being able to express your life through your book?
I think it just helped kind of strip away all the fakeness. You know, you go around and you talk to a lot of young athletes and you want to be able to be realistic with them and honest with them instead of being like, ‘hey yeah, all of this great stuff happened to me, I went to the Olympics and won these medals and everything is great,’ that’s not reality and that’s not really what they should be hearing. They should be hearing how you had ups and downs and how you went through them and how these are normal people dealing with the same situations that a lot of them are going through.
How difficult was it for you to write about some of the things that you went through?
It was really difficult. It’s emotional and it’s very draining and exhausting and at points you’re like I don’t know if I want to share this much information or these details. But then its like, I wanted to be as honest and raw as possible...This is the reality of my life, this is what happened, and if I’m going to do this I don’t really want to hold back. So I had to really let me guard down and just put it all out there.
What was it like going through something like this under the public eye due to your Olympic success?
It kind of magnifies everything and then you even have to put, I felt like being in the public eye and things like that made you almost have to feel like you had put on this persona and you had to have this smile on your face and this certain kind of attitude when you would do interviews and things like that. Instead of being like that sucked, let me tell you how it really happened.
How did your success contribute to your life outside of the sport, both positively and negatively?
Swimming for me was always like, my outlet, my stress release, but it was also a source of a lot of my stress. So, you know at times I really had a love-hate relationship with it. But I think, if I didn’t have swimming and I didn’t have that kind of outlet and that place to go to, I think, you know, things could have been worse for me. I would have not been able to have that expression. Going into the pool and swimming and just getting physically all of that kind of stress out really helped me throughout my years.
How has your life changed by publishing the book?
It hasn’t changed very much, which is a good thing. But it’s been cool to be able to really connect with people on a whole different level and to hear other people’s stories and they’ve gone through the same things. I’ve met other top elite athletes and coaches that confide in me saying, ‘thank you so much, I went through a lot of the exact same things and I’m recommending this to my athletes’ or things like that. So that kind of is a great way that I have never been able to connect with people on that level.
What has been the greatest happiness in your life, both in your career and in your personal life?
In my career, well obviously all the fun in the career…all the Olympic medals and Olympics, I mean its hard to choose just one of them. It’s been kind of a blast; you know, a great, fun career. And my personal life, it’s my son and I’m actually pregnant with my second child. So we’ll have two exciting things outside of swimming.
What are you looking forward to about the book signing in Tucson?
I live in Tucson and I’ve been training in Tucson but I don’t really get to do a lot of media things in Tucson or community things in Tucson. So for me, this is fun to just get to do something kind of in my hometown. I have lived here for 13 years so it’s fun to be around my people that we all live in the same hood, so it’s just cool.
Beard, who currently resides in Tucson, will be doing a book signing on Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble on Broadway.
In The Water They Can’t See You Cry, Amanda Beard with Rebecca Paley, 245 pages, Touchstone, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.