David Boudia poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the men's 10-meter platform at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 11, 2012 in London.
David Boudia is one of America’s most prolific divers with five world championship and four Olympic medals to his name. The Indiana native made his Olympic debut at age 19 at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. Four years later he earned individual gold and synchro bronze at the London 2012 Games before claiming individual bronze and synchro silver at Rio 2016. Having earned all his hardware on the 10-meter platform, he has now switched to 3-meter springboard in his campaign for Tokyo 2020. Boudia is also a husband and father of three. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Boudia shares his struggles with depression and tips for coping with mental health issues.
Anxiety. Depression. Suicide.
Three words that are terrifying and three words that characterize my past. However, my life – though once described by these haunting words – can now be characterized with three different, life-changing words:
Freedom. Hope. Purpose.
Shortly after my first Olympic Games in 2008, my life and career in elite athletics took a grim turn. Since 1996, my goal in life was to compete and win the Olympic Games. I did everything I could to put myself in the position to do that.
On the surface, the goal was noble, filled with thoughts of representing my country, representing something bigger than myself – but in actuality I had a singular focus that never wavered. I pursued this dream of Olympic glory not for some noble purpose but because of what I thought it could deliver.
My only desire in life was to please myself and do everything I could to make my life better, and I believed a gold medal would achieve that. A gold medal would mean fame and adoration. A gold medal would mean success. It would mean acceptance. It would mean happiness and joy. Or so I thought.
So, relentlessly, that’s what I chased. And the harder I pressed and the closer I got to that goal, the more miserable life became. Every time I thought I had almost achieved the goal, suddenly a new one took its place. No matter what I accomplished and no matter how happy I should have been, fulfillment always seemed just beyond my grasp.
It was unrelenting mirage of a promise that happiness is just around the next corner. Once you get there, you find a mouthful of sand instead.
The days that followed that first Olympic experience marked a downward spiral of hopelessness and despair. My failed pursuit of Olympic glory had left me feeling abandoned and alone. I felt betrayed, rejected and defeated by the “god” that I had sacrificed everything to appease. I left with a huge void of something missing and that’s when those three haunting words dominated and consumed my life.
I know what you’re thinking: How could someone struggle with something like this when, on the outside, everything seemed so perfect. I seemed to have had everything the “American dream” said would bring me happiness. That wasn’t the case. I knew I needed help and that was when I took a step to be vulnerable and admit that I was struggling.
I needed help understanding what my purpose was in life because for most of my life what I thought would bring me purpose proved to be hollow-filled with empty promises and lies that I believed.
David Boudia and wife Sonnie pose with daughters Mila and Dakoda, and newborn son Knox, in April 2019.
I began to see that my purpose in life needed to be redirected and redeemed. For me, I began to understand a higher calling and purpose that wasn’t all about David but more about my Creator. As I investigated this more and I began to see more and more that my life was only about myself and my dreams rather than about how I could love and glorify my Maker and love and encourage those around me. That is what turned my anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts into freedom, hope and purpose. I had found a new purpose that I believe we were made for.
For anyone right now that is reading this and is struggling with the same thing I did (and still do at times), I would encourage you to take action.
1. Know that your struggle doesn’t have to be fought alone and shouldn’t be. Ask for help! Seek answers for the important things in life. If you don’t know who to ask, I am here. Please email me.
2. The lies that we believe in our thoughts can be filtered with truth and most of the time they are just that, lies. Find a source of truth.
3. Develop meaningful relationships with those around you and treat others how you would like to be treated.
4. Find a purpose in your life.