By Brandon Penny | April 06, 2012, 2 p.m. (ET)
Amanda Beard

At age 14, Amanda Beard was asked to write her autobiography.

"There’s nothing exciting to write about. I get up in the morning, work out, go to school, work out some more, and sleep. The book would be, like, one page."

That was Beard’s response at the time, as documented in her memoir, "In The Water They Can’t See You Cry," which was released this month.

Clearly, 16 years after winning that first Olympic gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Beard has experienced more than enough to fill 248 pages. 

"I haven’t been asked at all since I was 14 and it came to the point where nobody thought much was going on in my life to actually have a book or a memoir put out, just because I kept so many things secret," Beard explained to TeamUSA.org in a phone interview from her New York City hotel room as she was preparing to launch a two-week book tour.

Beard first revealed some of her secrets in a New York Times article almost two years ago, which is when publishers came knocking. She had started working on a memoir in December 2008, but once a book deal was in place early last year she spent several hours a day on the phone with co-author Rebecca Paley, who helped capture Beard’s voice and compile her memories into a clear, honest and revealing book. Beard is quick to admit that if she had written it solo it would not flow very well and would be no more than 10 pages.

It was difficult, at times, for the swimmer to relive some of the darker periods of her life, but she remained dedicated to being completely candid and putting it all out in the open.

"I felt somewhat empowered that I’ve been through all of these crazy, hectic things but I am where I am today in such a better spot," she said. "The rule from the beginning that I had for myself is that I didn’t want to put out a book that wasn’t honest and real, no matter how personal or deep or emotional it was for me."

The bold stories Beard tells in her memoir include drinking alcohol for the first time as a 14-year-old at the Atlanta Games, details of her toxic relationships with gold medalist swimmer Ryk Neethling and NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, cutting herself as a means to cope with depression, and her struggles with anorexia, bulimia and drug abuse.

Beard was willing to be so candid if it meant her book might help others who have dealt with, or are currently experiencing, similar issues -- especially athletes.

"I think a lot of athletes have probably had to deal with anorexia, bulimia, depression, all of these different things. It’s just that we feel we need to be so proud and so strong that it’s hard for us to break down that wall and share real things that are going on.
 
"You’re taking all the normal pressures that you have being a teenager or a high school student and you’re magnifying them because you’re an athlete, so you have to have a certain body type and you’re gonna be in front of people and performing and trying to live up to expectations."

Beard’s depression and anxiety began in high school, stemming from her parents’ sudden divorce and the unwanted attention that came with being a teenaged Olympic champion while trying to simply blend in. The introduction of harmful relationships, a modeling career and drugs caused her issues to escalate in college and continue to build from there.

In 2007, then-boyfriend Sacha Brown walked into the bathroom to find Beard gushing blood after she had pushed the razor too far while cutting her arm.

"My husband was one of the people that woke me up to the reality of you’re not living a healthy lifestyle here and you cannot continue down this road because this is going to end up very bad for yourself.

"And he stood by my side and was very loving and very supportive and helped me figure out what was the best for me and I found that therapy and really working on myself and concentrating on who I am was the right step for me."

Brown convinced Beard to see a therapist and take medication. Together the two walked the road to recovery.

"Know that you’re not alone, there are millions of people across the nation and the world who are experiencing the same things that you are," Beard said of her advice for anyone going through issues similar to hers. "You need to take those steps in the right direction to find that happy, healthier you and just to know that’s possible ... Just go out there and find someone to confide in."

Today, Beard is the happiest she has ever been. She and Brown are now married with a two-and-half-year-old son, Blaise.

A four-time Olympian with seven Olympic medals under her belt, Beard still loves swimming and is trying to qualify for the London 2012 Games in the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events.  Olympic Trials are in less than three months and she will have to finish in the top two in order to make the team. Her competition is tough, but nabbing one of those spots is certainly possible -- Beard won silver in the 200 at nationals in December and silver in the 100 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in early March.

"I’m trying to go into it feeling like I can get first place in anything I do," she said about her chances of qualifying. "All I can do is try to stay as positive as possible leading up to Olympic Trials and try to stay healthy and fit and prepare myself as best as possible. Then it’s just up to those two minutes that we swim in the pool."

If she does make the 2012 team, Beard will be only the second U.S. swimmer to make five Olympic teams -- but she does not plan to stop there. Ideally she and Brown would like to have another child after London and then she wants to get back in shape and see if she can compete in Rio in 2016.

Now 30 years old, training is very different on Beard’s body compared to when she was 14, but she still trains 10 times a week, eight in the pool and two sessions in the weight room with a personal trainer, and gets a whole new kind of workout from Blaise.

"I have a son that is an awful sleeper, it’s very rare if he sleeps through the night so I’m up at least twice through the night with him. And if I’m not working out or training, I’m running around with him, teaching him how to skateboard or ride bikes or throwing the football or shooting basketball.  

"So I’m constantly on the go and I love it because I’m that person who literally can’t sit on a couch for more than five seconds. So it fits my lifestyle -- I don’t need as many training sessions. My son is my training session!"