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Michael Phelps’ faith saved him from suicide

As a child, I was an absolute failure when it came to sports that involved kicking, throwing or hitting a ball. My mother’s hand surely grew weary from all the excuse notes she penned to my physical education teachers.

But when it came to swimming — which I thoroughly enjoyed — she didn’t have to invent some bizarre malady I had suddenly contracted overnight.

My love for swimming partly explains my fascination with Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time — whose passion for the pool started at age 7.

It would be tempting to say Phelps has it all: worldwide acclaim, a cache of gold medals — and don’t forget that adorable baby boy.

And watching Phelps basking in the limelight of the Olympic Games in Rio, it’s hard to believe he was once so desperate, he considered suicide.

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It seems he struggled with depression for many years, evidently tied to a broken relationship with his father following his parents’ divorce when he was 9.

After his decision in 2012 to retire from swimming, his life headed on a downward cycle of partying and drinking — and two years later, he was charged with DUI.

“I was a train wreck,” Phelps said in “The Evolution of Michael Phelps,” a videotaped interview.

He retreated into a dark room at home where he didn’t eat or sleep for five days. “I just figured the best thing to do was end my life.”

He had a conversion experience after entering a rehab center and reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Christian pastor Rick Warren — which helped him emerge from his pit of darkness.

As he put it, he believed there was a “higher power” — and his life was not an accident.

I’m guessing many readers who have struggled with their own inner demons can relate to his experience. When we believe our lives are just a random jumble of events, then it seems immaterial whether we live or die.

As for me, it’s hard to scramble around trying to redefine who I am now that I’m no longer a wife. Every decision has to be examined— where to live, what to do — and at times I grapple with the biggest question of all.

Is it truly worth going on?

Yes, a thousand times yes, according to Scripture: “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

We are told we are precious in God’s eyes — and maybe that’s why the streets in heaven are paved in gold.

“I have called you by name — you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you,” the prophet Isaiah reminds us.

Phelps has navigated the deep and often treacherous waters of life. He’s going for the gold in more ways than one. And he reminds us that no matter how dark things get, we should never give up.

Lorraine Murray has written three cozy, church mysteries, most recently “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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