The effusive, outgoing jokester said he has made mistakes, suffered from others' actions and beaten himself up a lot about anything he viewed as a failure. In the end, it was the death of a friend and his own suicide attempts that forced him to take a break from aerials and focus on fixing his broken heart.
"Depression is an interesting beast," Peterson said. "It's something that is very misunderstood, and it creeps up on you slowly. It's not like you snap, instantly break your arm. It's like one day, you're like, 'Holy Cow! I'm depressed.' Figuring it out, how it works, has been difficult; figuring out how to fix it has been very difficult."
He doesn't presume to know what everyone struggling with depression should do, but he does know what has worked for him.
"I can't really tell everybody to do one thing," he said. "For me personally, I went to a specific doctor, and I got put on a bunch of multivitamins, as well as medicine, as well as counseling. It's been really helpful for me."
Those who know him best were as emotional as he was about his victory Thursday night.
"To be honest, his training was not going quite as good as we were hoping," said U.S. freestyle head coach Jeff Wintersteen, who choked back emotion and wiped away tears. "He was spinning awfully slow. It was just apropos. He was in the exact same position he was in Torino, and not many people get a second chance. I'm just so happy for him."
Peterson said he wasn't sure what course his life will take from here, but he was cherishing this moment he has been dreaming about for nearly a decade.
"I'm so stoked with how everything has gone," he said. "It's really hard to see anything when you're doing five rotations in three seconds. It's something that takes a lot of repetition, and I've put a lot of effort into it."
The medal feels all the more satisfying because he landed the jump that will forever be linked to his career.
"It shows people I can do things that they say I can't," he said. "To me, it's dumping a lot of things from my past. It allows me to tell myself that it's OK."
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